SUVs are keeping the Mitsubishi brand alive in the U.S. these days and this week I’m behind one of its top-sellers, the 2017 Outlander Sport.
It’s a model that, despite being long overdue for a complete overhaul, still attracts buyers looking for a roomy, compact, and most of all affordable crossover SUV.
The two-row five-seater is available in four trims: ES, SE, SEL, and GT. My tester is the SEL and did not come with any optional equipment.
The Outlander Sport’s exterior, while not being ultra-modern, isn’t bad on the eyes. A dose of sportiness gives it just enough personality.
A shark fin antenna, that now comes standards on all 2017 models, helps spice things up. As, too, does my SEL trim’s black roof rails, single chrome tip exhaust, chrome beltline molding and 18-inch two-tone Alloy wheels.
The power-folding side mirrors may be the largest I’ve ever seen, so talk about some great visibility. Headlights are old school halogen but the rear gets LED combo tail lights. The Outlander Sport also offers 8-inch ground clearance and easy step-in height if riding high is important to you.
Interior Needs an Update
It’s when you open the door of the Outlander SEL, expectations fall short. It’s in a word, outdated. Especially when you compare it to modern interior and technology offered by competitors like the 2017 Honda Fit.
The Outlander Sport’s all-black leather interior is okay, but not exciting. The 8-way power adjustable seat was comfortable enough but not cushy. The SEL trim does give you a soft-touch dash and some chrome trim along with a leather-wrapped steering wheel, gear knob, armrest and old school parking brake. Piano black trim on the steering wheel adds some style as well. The aluminum Sportronic steering wheel paddle shifters and pedals were admittedly a nice surprise.
The front console offers single zone climate control. The SEL also comes with push-button start, heated front seats, and tilted and telescopic steering wheel. You don’t get a moonroof on this trim, but you do get rain-sensing wipers.
It’s fairly roomy inside both in front and back. Legroom is generous for an SUV its size. But that’s about the only amenity offered in the back seats. You don’t get air vents or power hookups. It comes with a 60/40 split fold-down rear seat.
Technology Is Behind the Times
The Outlander’s hardest-selling point is the outdated technology and lack of safety offerings. The infotainment system lags behind the competition and the 6.1-inch touchscreen is very small by today’s standards (it increases to a standard 7-inches, the same as the 2017 Honda Fit EX-L with Nav, for 2018.) Graphics and rearview camera quality also need an update, but I will say the touchscreen is easy to operate.
I won’t go far as to say they remind me of Atari, but the LED driver’s information display graphics are a hair behind flashier competitors. No Android or Apple Carplay, either, the 2018 model adds those.
The bigger point to be made is the surprising lack of available safety technology. Mitsubishi isn’t offering any advanced driver’s assistance technology on this model, like lane change assist, rear-cross traffic alert or blind spot monitoring.
Performance and Handling
Ride quality is better than I expected. It’s actually a pleasant car to drive and Mitsubishi’s smallest SUV handles nicely with its electric power steering. My tester’s 2.4-liter four-cylinder is delivering 168-horses. Quite a bit more than the base ES models 2.0-liter’s 148-horses.
While there’s not a lot a road noise, the engine isn’t what you’d call refined and roars when you floor it thanks to a Continuously Variable Transmission. While it’s responsive, it’s also loud.
My tester features two-wheel drive but an AWD system is optional on all trims. Fuel economy isn’t horrible, but it’s not great either. You’re getting a combined 25 for highway/city driving.
2018 vs 2017 Models
If you’re trying to decide between a 2017 or new 2018 Outlander Sport, here’s a recap as you consider the differences.
- The 2018 refresh gives you a larger 7-inch touchscreen, plus new Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
- There is also more optional safety tech in 2018, but new advanced safety features still aren’t available across the lineup. Only the SEL trim offers a new optional Touring package that gets you Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Warning and Automatic High Beam.
- Looks don’t change drastically for 2018, but you do get new front and rear bumpers, LED running lights and a new gear shifter.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, you expect more technology and safety features from a $25,000, higher level trim. For that reason, I can’t justify the Outlander Sport SEL over competitors like the Honda Fit EX-L which comes with Honda’s LaneWatch blind spot monitoring system for several thousand dollars less.
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