The 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is very affordable, but that's about the only thing going for it; it's small, slow, loud and lacks overall refinement.
It's not a good sign when someone hands over car keys and simultaneously apologizes to you. Such was the case with the 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport. I know what you're thinking: It's a weekend driving a brand new car; how bad could it be? Well, it's probably a lot like the Jennifer Lopez dud, Gigli: It takes more than a pretty face to disguise flaws this big.
Mitsubishi's smallest crossover, the Outlander Sport is not to be confused with the larger Outlander. The Sport was updated for 2013. Changes for 2014 are minor and include a new audio interface on uplevel SE trims, as well as a larger optional touch-screen multimedia system with navigation and voice command functionality. Compare the 2013 and 2014 models here.
The Outlander Sport is at the smaller end of the compact crossover class, competing against models like the Fiat 500L, Mini Countryman and Volkswagen Tiguan. Compare them here.
How It Drives
Slow and loud are two Outlander Sport hallmarks. The 148-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine's power off the line is weak, and things don't improve much at midrange speeds. The continuously variable automatic transmission takes its time spooling up for additional passing and merging power, then struggles to maintain it; plan time to ramp up enough speed.
The Sport has a lot less power than its competitors but doesn't lead the segment in fuel economy. Two-wheel-drive models equipped with the CVT are EPA-rated at 24/31/27 mpg city/highway/combined, similar to automatic versions of the 500L (24/33/27 mpg) and Countryman (25/30/27); the Tiguan trails the pack (21/26/23).
Mitsubishi said the Outlander Sport has better sound insulation for 2014, but the company couldn't have done much. The engine and CVT combo emit a harsh, gravelly note and a grouchy, near-constant groan; a five-speed manual is the base transmission. The CVT is one of the more poorly executed ones we've tested; other automakers' CVTs sound less obtrusive and are more adept at power delivery.
Also adding to the chaos are high levels of wind and road noise, due to poor isolation from the elements. What you hear is also keenly felt. Road imperfections transmit uncomfortable vibrations through the steering wheel. Take a turn on a bumpy stretch of road, and the steering wheel's loose, jiggly feeling is very disconcerting. Ride composure is similarly lacking; practically all bumps unseat the vehicle.
On the bright side, the Outlander Sport has natural-feeling steering and is overall pretty nimble. Its diminutive size means around-town maneuverability is good and parking is easy.
Inside, the cabin's design is bland and its materials feel like a dollar-store special. The textured plastic paneling that lines the touch-points on the dash and doors looks like it's padded, but a few pokes prove otherwise. The console area armrest, which offers a bit more padding than other places, is set a bit too far back to be comfortable, and it does not slide.
The seats are also deceptive; they look cozily bolstered, but that's only true if you spend less than 15 minutes in them. After that, they left me squirming uncomfortably; more padding would help.
Since the Outlander Sport is on the smaller side of the compact-crossover class, it's no surprise that passenger space is in short supply. Although it's a bit larger than the Fiat 500L, it offers less headroom in the front and back seats. The Sport trumps competitors in terms of rear legroom, however, with 36.3 inches of space compared with the 500L's 30.7, the Countryman's 33.8 and the Tiguan's 35.8 inches. The 500L's sliding backseat adds a measure of flexibility to the cabin.
Ergonomics & Electronics
My test SE model was equipped with the 6.1-inch touch-screen audio system but not the optional navigation system. There was no learning curve; the system worked well and without delay. The audio presets were easy to find and change, but I had a lot of trouble with the standard Bluetooth streaming audio system. After several attempts, my phone just wouldn't pair. Full disclosure: it's a three-year-old Android phone, but it hadn't failed me in a car until now. After trying to connect several times, I looked up Mitsubishi's list of compatible devices and was unable to find my phone.
The large, clear climate dials below the screen were easy to use, but the placement of the audio system's only knob — for volume — struck me as awkward. It's on the passenger side, requiring a stretch to control, though this is solved by the standard steering-wheel controls. Also awkwardly placed are the buttons for the heated seats; they're set low next to the cushion on the inboard side of each front seat. Last on the awkward controls list are the buttons on the door: There's no illumination on the door panel, so adjusting the mirrors or doing anything with the windows and doors requires some fumbling around in the dark. Though ergonomically annoying, all three of these issues are of course things owners will get used to over time.
Cargo & Storage
Small-item storage in the cabin is just OK; there's a tiny center console and two cupholders in front, as well as a small circular bin that looks like a third cupholder, but take heed before nesting your coffee there — there's an odd icon warning that it's not in fact a cupholder. A fold-down center armrest in back provides passengers with two more cupholders.
The backseat folds in a 60/40 split, and as with passenger space, the tiny Outlander Sport doesn't offer much in terms of cargo room. It does at least hold its own against the tiny Countryman in terms of room behind the second row, as well as available space when the second row is folded.
|2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport||2014 Fiat 500L||2014 Mini Countryman||2014 Volkswagen Tiguan|
|cargo space, seats up
|cargo space, seats folded (cubic feet)||49.5||68.0||41.3||56.1|
The 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport received an overall score of four stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It's also an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick, earning top scores of good in moderate-overlap front, side and roof-strength tests, as well as a rating of acceptable in the difficult small-overlap test. It's one of only a handful of compact crossovers to pass this test. The 2013 model earned the agency's highest distinction, Top Safety Pick Plus, but IIHS has since updated its criteria. Because it doesn't offer a front crash warning or prevention system, the Outlander Sport is no longer eligible for the Plus designation for 2014.
Aside from offering the usual suite of airbags, a driver's knee airbag is also standard — unexpected at this price. A backup camera is unavailable on base ES models but standard on the SE trim. Click here for a full list of safety features.
It was difficult to install forward-facing child-safety seats in the Outlander Sport because of an awkward top tether anchor on the seatback. Read more in the Car Seat Check.
Value in Its Class
With bargain-basement pricing, the 2014 Outlander Sport is likely to appeal to frugal shoppers because it starts at $20,295. All-wheel-drive models are also affordable, starting at $22,895. The Fiat 500L ($19,995) undercuts it slightly but doesn't offer all-wheel drive. The Countryman ($22,895) and Tiguan ($24,170) start significantly higher, and adding all-wheel drive adds several thousands more to their cost (all prices include destination charges).
Not only is the Sport's price low, but Mitsubishi offers a decent mix of affordable comfort and convenience features that make the crossover seem less cut-rate, including heated seats, leather seats, navigation, high-intensity-discharge headlights and a premium nine-speaker Rockford Fosgate sound system.
The fact remains, however, that other than its low price and commendable safety ratings, the Outlander Sport is just plain unimpressive in almost every other way.