Indifferent engine power; handling is far from sporty; longer braking distances; limited cargo capacity.
When you see a badge on the bodywork that says "Sport," the assumption is that the vehicle in question will offer some sort of performance enhancement — either power or handling, or maybe both. Unfortunately the 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport takes some liberties with your expectations, since it has no performance advantage over any small crossover utility vehicles in its class. Here the affordable price is sporty, but the performance is not.
The 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport shares much of its mechanical underpinnings with the regular Mitsubishi Outlander, but is 14.6 inches shorter in length and 2 inches shorter in height. (Perhaps they should've called it the Outlander Short instead.) As a result, the Outlander Sport loses the third-row seats of the Outlander along with about 33 percent of its larger sibling's cargo capacity. The Outlander Sport's price tag has shrunk by about 33 percent as well, but we're not impressed by its average performance and bare-bones utility.
But if it's all about price where you're concerned, you'll be interested to know that the 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport undercuts the price of the stalwart Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 by $3,000, and the Chevrolet Equinox by another $1,000. Of course, it's fair to say that the added cost of the competition will get you a better overall vehicle with more space and refinement. The Outlander's aggressive Evo styling could be a selling point, but the new Kia Sportage is also sharply styled, is priced right there with the Mitsubishi and has a much sportier feel to it besides.
In the end, the 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport comes up short (not sport), and we recommend checking out the competition first.
Powering this 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport test vehicle is a 2.0-liter inline-4 engine that produces 148 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. Oddly enough, it features a five-speed manual transmission — a rarity among crossovers — though a continuously variable transmission (CVT) is available. This is a useful amount of power as variable valve timing produces a wide power band, but this engine's output is overwhelmed by the Outlander Sport's 3,009 pounds.
In instrumented testing, our Outlander Sport accelerated from a standstill to 60 mph in 8.8 seconds, which is only slightly quicker than other crossovers in this segment. Coming to a stop from this speed requires 141 feet, which is about 15 feet longer than its rivals and could represent the difference between an elevated heart rate and a fender bender. Despite the "Sport" moniker, this Outlander trails its competition when it comes to handling, weaving through the slalom at 59 mph and pulling 0.74g on the skid pad.
Though we appreciate the fact that the Outlander Sport's fuel-efficiency is estimated by the EPA to be 25 city and 31 highway mpg, the inline-4 engine feels as though it's struggling to bring the Outlander Sport up to speed. Passing slower cars requires an aggressive downshift with a hearty stomp on the accelerator, a sequence that is accompanied by a cowlike groan from beneath the hood. When you go around corners, this tall crossover also rolls a lot and does little to instill confidence, much less inspire lively driving.
Thankfully the 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport at least provides a decent amount of comfort for extended drives. Wind and road noise are pleasantly silenced and moderate road imperfections are abated for a smooth overall ride.
The front seats are well shaped, with plenty of head- and legroom for taller adults. A tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel (a first for Mitsubishi) ensures a comfortable driving position for the short and tall alike.
The rear seat has slightly less space than you'd expect, while the flat bottom cushions are meant to help deliver a flat load floor once you fold down the seatbacks. The average adult should find those quarters comfortable enough.
The 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport will satisfy the demands of the typical crossover owner, but we doubt it will exceed expectations. Front and rear outward visibility is adequate, although the A-pillars are thick thanks to ever-more-stringent standards of crash safety as well as the installation of curtain-type airbags. The gauges are placed well within the driver's sight lines and are legible with only a quick glance.
The layout for the air-conditioning and audio controls is logical and everything is within easy reach. We're pleased to find that even this base model of the Outlander Sport comes complete with Mitsubishi's Fuse voice-activation system to control audio and phone functions. The audio system's sound quality is not impressive at all, but at least a USB jack is included to allow you to connect an iPod or other mobile device. Finding a place to stash said iPod is not too much of an issue, because there is a decent number of interior storage bins and pockets, plus cupholders.
A rear-facing child seat is accommodated easily, with little impact on front-seat comfort, but in terms of cargo capacity the Outlander Sport once again comes up short. With only 21.7 cubic feet of luggage space behind the rear seats and 49.5 cubes with them folded flat, the Sport holds less than any of its competition. Golf bags can easily fit, but we suspect that the audio system's optional subwoofer will force you to place them diagonally across the cargo bay.
Design/Fit and Finish
If there's one area in which the 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport sets itself apart from the staid crossover establishment, it's exterior styling. Like the larger Outlander model, the Sport adopts the same aggressive face as the high-performance Lancer Evolution. Depending on your tastes, this treatment might be more appealing than on the "full-size" Outlander, since the Sport's shorter overhangs and raked rear window lend it a more cohesive and compact appearance.
On the inside, the design is much less exciting, with dark-toned surfaces and minimal accent trim. Materials quality is about what you'd expect at this price range, featuring plenty of hard plastics, but the dash itself is at least soft to the touch. Interior elements throughout the cabin appear to be tightly fitted and well assembled, but we did notice a few creaks from time to time.
Who should consider this vehicle
Taking into account the 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport's lack of sportiness and utility, we find it hard to recommend it over most crossovers in this segment. The more expensive Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 remain popular for their all-around benefits, where the Outlander Sport tends to stumble. The new Kia Sportage presents a more intriguing alternative with an attractive price.