Review: 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SEL

Sometime ago I reviewed the Mitsubishi Mirage. I didn’t like it. In fact I called it a turkey. Needless to say, the people at Mitsubishi were not happy about that. A phone call was made and words were said. They could have told me stay away from their vehicles and stick to writing about Ladas.
But they didn’t. In fact, they decided to lend me the 2017 Outlander Sport and told me to give it a look. 
I respect that. I respect it because they don’t pick and choose who reviews their cars. They don’t hedge against those who write honestly and the shills who will abandon their integrity in hopes of receiving a box of chocolates for Christmas.

The Outlander Sport has been around for a few years now. Sales have been pretty good, sitting around 25,000 annual units, and now there’s a slight update for 2017. Is this enough to make the Outlander Sport a strong contender in the crowded CUV market?
The powertrain is carried over from the prior model year. This is Mitsubishi’s own 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine, which makes 168 horsepower and 167 of the torques. It is connected to a continuously variable transmission, which sends the power to the front wheels. Interestingly, there’s optional AWD engaged with the press of a button on the dash. Also, it can become part-time or full-time. This is something that feels rather old-school in a world that has gone all automatic all of the time. 
The Outlander Sport drives just fine as long as you’re driving it in a manner consistent with that of a typical buyer of such a vehicle; somewhat slowly and carefully through curves. Push it and it will return driving dynamics far below that of what we’d consider “sporty”. It does, however, do a good job of pothole absorption. 
Put simply, it’s not fast. None of the cars in this class are though really, and no one cares at the end of the day. Still, the throttle is surprisingly responsive. That’s because it’s got an engine with more displacement than a large soda bottle, it doesn’t have an 11-speed transmission, auto start-stop, nor a third-rate hair dryer attached to the exhaust manifold. Nope, none of that. 

Inside, new upgrades consist of a infotainment unit fitted with Apple CarPlay and a screen size a tick over six inches. The small soft keys make the unit tricky to use at times but the upgraded Rockford Fosgate speakers sound better than any base stereo system you’ll run across. Above your head is a new Range Rover-like fixed glass roof with lights along the cover tracks. That supposed to give the Sport a hint of luxury but it seems slightly tacky, akin to the Ford mood lighting. 
Mitsubishi opted for three interior trims: wood, aluminum, and piano black. Automakers like Audi and BMW also have such trims. Where they differ is that the Germans don’t install all three throughout one car at the same time. It’s not appealing to my interior taste level on this one. 
Other premium features on the SE model include self-folding mirrors, keyless entry, heated seats and steering wheel, and leather covered seats. That leather could be softer and the seats could use more support, especially in the lumbar area. 

One would need to closely examine the exteriors to see the differences from the previous model years. One thing that really bothered me was the stick-on Pep-Boys-like side went on the front fender. I couldn’t understand why it was there. It’s so random and pointless. Then I parked next to a slightly older Outlander Sport and I noticed it. The older model had a side-marker light in that place. That side-marker became part of the mirror this year. Instead of modifying the tooling for the fender to remove the hole, Mitsubishi choose to slap that fake vent on there. Not a great design move.

It’s really unlikely that Outlander Sport buyer will care about the engine and suspension details. They’re also likely to overlook the interior trims, and instead focus on the bottomline. That would be the price to buy one and the fuel economy it will return. The very base, smaller engine, manual transmission, front wheel drive Outlander Sport starts at $$19,795. This loaded SEL model was $26,635 with $940 destination charge. A quick glance at TrueCar tells of much lower actual selling prices to be found. EPA rates the fuel economy at 23MPG in the city and 28 on the highway.
With a market full of CUVs, it would be easy to point out the inferiorities of the Outlander Sport. While it’s not perfect, it’s not really bad in any one way, at least not when looking at it from the perspective of a budget buyer searching for a brand new vehicle with a 5-year, 60k-mile basic warranty and 10-year, 100k-mile powertrain warranty. The Outlander Sport actually surpassed my rather low expectations that I had for it. It isn’t a turkey and it becomes a contender when actual sales prices are considered.

[Disclaimer:  Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc. provided the vehicle for the purpose of this review.]
All images copyright Kamil Kaluski/Hooniverse 2017

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18 responses to “Review: 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SEL”

  1. Mister Sterling Avatar
    Mister Sterling

    Oh now I want them to send you the Eclipse Cross. I think you will like it, compared to the Mirage and Outlander Sport / ASX. The touchpad to control the infotainment system is sure to be terrible. But the 1.5L motor and Pontiac Aztek rear end make the car very interesting.

  2. Alff Avatar

    Feeling much better about my limited mechanical abilities after reading this…

    1. Fred Avatar

      You should of made a screen shot as that listing is now deleted.

  3. mdharrell Avatar

    “They could have told me stay away from their vehicles and stick to writing about Ladas.”
    If that ever happens, be sure to tell them you’ll write not just about Ladas but about whatever VAZ products you feel like covering. That’ll show ’em.

  4. Sjalabais Avatar

    I think this car is sold as the ASX in Norway, and just as the Outlander, it is a huge sales success. What I always miss a bit with single car reviews is the comparison with the competition. There’s a good attempt here at saying that the Outlander Sport seems to hold its own based on price.
    But from what I’ve read, Mitsubishi has basically no advertisement in the US, an aging lineup in a model year obsessed culture, few dealers, and still “survivable” sales – despite [redacted] declaring the brand dead every third Wednesday of the month. By the end of october, Mitsubishi has sold about 80k vehicles in 2017, almost double the amount Volvo pushes into the marked. So I am a bit baffled. Do they have a core following? Is this all moved by good prices?

    1. Kamil K Avatar

      They sell better in Europe because they’re priced lower than direct competition and everything in Europe is a lot more expensive. I think.

      1. Sjalabais Avatar

        The numbers above were for the US, but I guess you’re right about prices in Europe, too. In 2012, the ASX/Outlander Sport was the most sold 4×4 in Norway, and this reviewer harshly ridicules its buyers for being vanilla, even though he considers the ASX a good purchase. But that’s five years ago. The ASX starts at 33800$ which is exactly the same price as the cheapest Golf with a 1.0 litre engine…wow.

        1. Kamil K Avatar

          So yea, I was right. 🙂

    2. Maymar Avatar

      Decent value, and dealers that cater to customers with bad credit and limited options if they want a new car (basically Mitsubishi and Nissan).

      1. Sjalabais Avatar

        On the manufacturer end, that doesn’t sound like a strategy to make lots of money?

  5. outback_ute Avatar

    The side vent issue shows that it still costs real money to modify stamping tools.
    This recent facelift really is change for change’s sake, I think it is far uglier than the original version with the chrome wandering around randomly. I had a couple of the non-sport as rental cars, and would describe them as basically adequate. The CVT was slightly annoying to drive though because it would stay at ultra-low rpm for too long as you increased throttle input such as when coming to a hill to the point your speed would drop a bit, then suddenly increase rpm from 1500 or less to 3-4000 and take off. There was no in-between. The Subaru and Toyota cvts I’ve driven have worked better in that regard.

    1. Kamil K Avatar

      Was the rental a 2.0 or a 2.4?

      1. outback_ute Avatar

        It was the 2.4. I don’t think it was an issue of power or torque, just how it was being used (or not). Not the only disappointed/annoying transmission I have experienced, but one of them.

  6. kogashiwa Avatar

    This is what they call “damning with faint praise” yes?
    They do sell very well here in Canada. But it’s a very price sensitive market.

  7. MattC Avatar

    The contrary position is that this sells well enough and is good enough for most of the perspective buyers. The engine/trans design is over 10 years old and Mitsubishi had improved and worked out any kinks with the powertrain. They are reliable and have enough options to please the thrifty buyer. Mitsubishi’s crime is selling perfectly adequate cars in a hyper competitive market. To some , the value position of having a new car and warranty outweighs a more competitive used car option.

    1. Kamil K Avatar

      I think I have made that point, too.

  8. robbydegraff Avatar

    Had one of these in Utah for ten days exploring all the National Parks, was very surprised at how capable off-road it was. Truthfully.

  9. Hatchtopia Avatar

    Good grief that stupid add-on vent thing is stupid. Instead of going with the generic Pep Boys part as mentioned, why not design a quirky little badge that extols the 2.4/CVT/AWD/whatever? Ugh. Creativity is dead.