What's New for 2013
For 2013, the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport gets updated exterior styling, improved sound insulation and higher-quality speakers for the sound system. All-wheel drive becomes available for the Outlander Sport's base ES trim and there are minor chassis and steering improvements.
Think of the Outlander Sport as the little brother of Mitsubishi's Outlander, a model that is larger and offers a tiny third row of seating to handle up to seven passengers. "Sportiness" often encompasses compact dimensions and light weight, and that must be what Mitsubishi had in mind when naming the five-passenger Outlander Sport, because its actual performance doesn't really qualify as sporty.
For those whose chief concern is affordability, however, the 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport delivers, with pricing that undercuts almost every competitor, as well as fuel economy -- up to 31 miles per gallon on the highway -- that's at the top of the class. The Outlander Sport is visibly much smaller than the Outlander and can be some 700 pounds lighter. Lightness is always a good thing.
The Outlander Sport's lightness and smaller size could be expected to translate into a certain agility, but the Sport's suspension tuning is too soft to make handling entertaining and the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, borrowed from the Lancer compact car, lacks power, particularly when matched with the Sport's continuously variable transmission. The CVT automatic is a boon to economy, but does no favors for the Sport's already meager engine power, making for lackadaisical acceleration.
The 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is fine for an urban runabout, but those who want more athletic handling will find the Kia Sportage and Nissan Juke more satisfying. If cost is less of an issue and if you'll usually need more cargo capacity than the Sport provides, larger, more mainstream crossovers such as the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape and Honda CR-V are likely to be better all-around choices.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is a compact crossover SUV that is offered in two trim levels: the base ES and uplevel SE.
Standard features for the ES include 16-inch steel wheels, heated mirrors, cruise control, keyless entry, air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cloth upholstery, 60/40-split-folding rear seats, Mitsubishi's Fuse voice-activated electronics interface and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and an a USB/iPod interface.
The SE adds 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic xenon headlights, foglights, automatic wipers, automatic climate control, heated front seats, keyless ignition/entry, a sliding armrest between the front seats, a second-row armrest with center pass-through, upgraded upholstery and a six-speaker sound system with satellite radio.
Most options are grouped together into packages that are available on either Outlander Sport trim level. The Navigation package includes a navigation system, a rearview camera and an RCA-style audio/video jack. The Exterior Sport package adds several cosmetic and aerodynamic elements, while the Interior package (available on models with automatic transmissions only) adds piano-black interior trim and an aluminum shift knob. Stand-alone options include 16-inch alloy wheels for the ES, the hard-drive-based navigation system, keyless ignition/entry and a six-CD changer.
Available on the SE AWD is a Premium package that includes a panoramic sunroof, roof rails, a rearview camera (with display integrated into the rearview mirror) and a nine-speaker Rockford Fosgate sound system with a six-CD changer and satellite radio.
Powertrains and Performance
Powering the 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is a 2.0-liter inline-4 engine that produces 148 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. The standard transmission offered in the ES is a five-speed manual. A CVT is available as an option and is standard on the SE. For 2013, Mitsubishi says it revised the CVT to improve performance and refinement. Front-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive available for either of the Sport's trim levels. As with the regular Outlander, AWD models feature three driver-selectable modes to optimize traction.
In Edmunds testing, a front-wheel-drive Outlander Sport with a manual transmission accelerated from a standstill to 60 mph in a respectable 8.8 seconds. We've yet to test an Outlander Sport with the updated CVT, but prior to this it turned in a sleepy 10.3-second time. The payoff comes at the gas pump: The EPA estimates fuel economy at 25 city/31 highway mpg and 27 mpg combined for a CVT front-wheel-drive model. The manual earns 24/30/26 mpg, while automatic AWD Outlander Sports come in at 24/29/26 mpg.
Standard safety features on the 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport include front side airbags, side curtain airbags, a driver-side knee airbag, antilock disc brakes, hill start assist, traction control and stability control.
In government crash testing, the Outlander Sport received four out of five stars for overall crash protection, with four stars for overall frontal-impact protection and four stars for overall side-impact protection. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash testing, the Outlander Sport scored "Good" (the highest possible rating) in the agency's frontal-offset and side-impact tests.
In Edmunds brake testing, an AWD Outlander Sport came to a stop from 60 mph in 123 feet, an average distance for this segment.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport's interior offers little in the way of visual excitement or impressive materials. Fortunately, front passengers of average size will likely find a comfortable seating position thanks to well-shaped seats, plenty of head- and legroom and a tilt-and-telescoping steering column for the driver. Taller drivers may be a bit squished. The rear seats have slightly less room, but an average-sized adult should be comfortable enough.
The controls are within easy reach and simple to use, while Mitsubishi's well-executed Fuse voice activation system makes some audio and navigation functions a hands-free affair. Even more surprising is that the Fuse system is standard on all Outlander Sports. The Sport's limited cargo capacity -- which stands at 49.5 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down -- is well short of compact crossovers such as the Honda CR-V and is even less than the like-sized Nissan Juke.
It looks sharp enough, but we wish the 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport's tidy dimensions and light weight translated to driving dynamics that equate with the name. Actual acceleration is acceptable, but you'll often wish there was at least the feeling of more power available -- particularly with the CVT. There's also too much body roll to make the driver feel confident in fast corners or while running quickly on back roads. The Sport's strong points -- affordable pricing, a lot of content and excellent fuel economy -- mostly involve the pocketbook, but its calm and quiet ride also makes it surprisingly good for highway commuting and longer road trips.