2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport Road Test and Review: Introduction
There are two ways to approach the 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, a compact crossover suv sharing a platform with the standard Outlander but equipped with a powertrain supplied by the Lancer sedan. One way is to measure it against its competitors, which might prove a disappointing exercise, especially following a test drive. The second way is to look at its sticker price, and that’s before factoring in rebates and incentives. Value is definitely the name of the game when it comes to the Outlander Sport.
Value, however, isn’t the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport’s only strength. This is a safe vehicle, a fuel-efficient vehicle, one covered by a long powertrain warranty that is also surprisingly comfortable for four adult passengers. The 2013 Outlander Sport does, however, compete in one of the broadest and most popular segments of the marketplace. Are these appealing characteristics, wrapped in rakish good looks, enough to inspire crossover buyers to visit a Mitsubishi dealership? That’s what we’re here to determine.
2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport Road Test and Review: Models and Prices
Mitsubishi sells the 2013 Outlander Sport in ES, SE, and LE trim levels, each equipped with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The ES model with front-wheel drive is the only one to offer a manual transmission; all other Outlander Sports get a standard continuously variable transmission (CVT).
The least expensive Outlander Sport is the ES, starting at $19,995 including the $825 destination charge. That’s the model I test drove, the vehicle shown in the photos. It had a 5-speed manual transmission, and no options. If you can’t operate a clutch pedal, a CVT is $1,200 extra. Want Mitsubishi’s All Wheel Control (AWC) all-wheel drive system? First buy the CVT, and then add another $1,400 for AWC.
Next up is the Outlander Sport SE ($23,120). It adds high-intensity discharge headlights, a passive keyless entry system with push-button starting, automatic climate control, upgraded seat fabric, heated front seats, a better sound system, and satellite radio. The Outlander Sport LE ($24,320) is new for 2013, adding chrome wheels, blacked-out trim, a power driver’s seat, aluminum pedal covers, and Limited Edition badges. Strangely, this model also gets an engine balancer shaft “for smoother power delivery.”
Each version can be optioned with front and rear park assist sensors, remote engine starting, a hard-drive navigation system with a music server, LED interior illumination, LED running lights, upgraded interior trim, cargo nets and mats, mudguards, and more. The SE and LE can be further outfitted with a reversing camera, a panoramic glass sunroof, and a premium audio system. Leather is exclusively offered for the Outlander Sport Limited Edition.
Add every option, and the Outlander Sport LE AWC rolls off the showroom floor for $31,750. Believe it or not, that still represents value.
2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport Road Test and Review: Design
- Restyled front and rear
- Standard 18-inch aluminum wheels
- Revised exterior and interior trim
- Updated interior materials
- Two new paint colors
For 2013, Mitsubishi says it has redesigned the Outlander Sport, but that’s just marketing hyperbole. The SUV has been restyled, and if you don’t look closely, it’s hard to tell. The most significant change is that every Outlander Sport is now equipped with a good-looking set of 18-inch aluminum wheels, a clear differentiator compared to other entry-level crossover SUVs. Also note that the least expensive model is equipped with dark tinted rear privacy glass, a feature usually requiring an expensive trim level upgrade on the competition.
Inside, the Outlander Sport offers clean, contemporary, uncluttered design, if not top-quality materials. Don’t look at the headliner or the pillar covers. Everywhere else, the Outlander Sport delivers matte-finish plastics and soft-touch padding with graining that mimics leather. This is an appealing cabin in most respects, especially given the SUV’s price point.
2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport Road Test and Review: Comfort and Cargo
- Improved noise suppression materials
- Leather is optional for LE model
The Outlander Sport’s front seats are comfortable and covered in a durable-feeling cloth, but lateral support is utterly lacking. That requires the driver to use the steering wheel as an anchor when taking turns with enthusiasm, which this SUV encourages. Drivers with longer legs will find that the Outlander Sport is a tight squeeze, but padded upper front door panels aid comfort while reducing gloss and glare. The dashboard is also faced with a soft material, while the door armrests and center armrests are padded for elbows.
The front passenger’s seat sits relatively high off of the floor, as does the rear bench seat, and passengers enjoy generous thigh support as a result. Rear seat occupants might be surprised by the amount of leg and foot space, and will appreciate that the Outlander Sport’s front seatbacks are softly padded rather than covered in hard plastic.
Entry and exit take some acclimation, only because the Outlander Sport’s doorsills are high while the interior floor is low. Occupants must lift their legs and feet up and over them, lest they trip getting out of the vehicle.
The Outlander Sport’s cargo area is small, measuring 21.7 cu.-ft. behind the rear seat and 49.5 cu.-ft with the rear seat folded. Order the optional premium sound system or the optional panoramic sunroof, and those figures drop. Folding the rear seats flat is a simple affair, and Mitsubishi makes sure to place a permanent warning on the back of the front passenger’s seatback that says the front passenger airbag system may not work properly if the seatback is touching a folded rear seat.
Notably, the cargo area has bins located on either side of the load floor for storage of smaller items. My family made good use of these, storing water bottles for a trip to the beach.
2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport Road Test and Review: Features and Controls
- Upgraded Rockford Fosgate premium audio system
The 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is a simple vehicle, especially in ES format like the version I test drove. Everything is located where the driver expects to find it, except the button controlling the trip computer, which is tucked out of sight behind the steering wheel and turn signal stalk. The Outlander Sport’s large rotary manual climate controls are mounted low on the dashboard, leaving the radio and its display to take up much of the center stack real estate.
2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport Road Test and Review: Safety and Ratings
- No changes for 2013
Outside of the expected safety features, the 2013 Outlander Sport is equipped with a driver’s knee airbag. A reversing camera system and parking assist sensors for the front and rear bumpers are optional for the SE and LE models.
2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport Crash-Test Ratings:
In crash tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the 2013 Outlander Sport earns a 4-star overall rating, garnering 4-star or 5-star results in each individual test. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) call the Outlander Sport a “Top Safety Pick.”
2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport Road Test and Review: Engines and Fuel Economy
- Engine balancer shaft added for LE model
Every 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is equipped with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine carrying a “4B11” designation, which means this is the powerplant upon which the mighty Lancer Evolution’s engine is based. Given that it is engineered for severe duty, it comes as no surprise that Mitsubishi warrants the engine against defect for 10 years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first.
Too bad the Outlander Sport’s engine doesn’t offer some of the Evo’s turbocharged oomph. Instead, it delivers 148 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 145 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,200 rpm, which is merely adequate for this surprisingly light 3,087-pound SUV. The 5-speed manual gearbox in my test vehicle comes only with ES trim, and only with front-wheel drive. A CVT is included for every other version of the Outlander Sport.
Fuel economy ratings range from a low of 24 mpg in the city with AWD to a high of 31 mpg with the CVT and front-wheel drive. My test sample was rated to return 24 mpg in the city, 30 mpg on the highway, and 26 mpg in combined driving. I averaged 25.7 mpg.
2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport Road Test and Review: Driving Impressions
In the places where most people drive most of the time, the 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport proves dull to drive, almost a chore. This vehicle drones along in the city and the highway, feeling like it can barely accelerate out of its own way.
Horsepower and torque outputs are meager, and each peaks relatively high in the engine’s rev range, which requires the driver to really mash the gas pedal to make this SUV feel like its gathering speed. My recollection from previous test drives is that the CVT is the way to go, calibrated to better harness what little the engine has to offer than is the 5-speed manual that came in my test car.
Still, even with a CVT, this thing is just begging for a light-pressure turbo, and Mitsubishi is no stranger to turbocharging. First, that would help it to make more torque down low in as well as across the rev range, which it desperately needs. Second, a turbocharger would make the Outlander Sport a more compelling choice in regions where altitude strangles a normally aspirated engine, such as Denver. Why Mitsubishi hasn’t applied its turbo trickery to the Outlander Sport yet is truly a mystery.
My test sample’s manual transmission was reasonably precise and refined, though it’s been a long time since I drove a vehicle with a gear lever this tall. I also found that the left edge of my left shoe sometimes got hung up on the plastic dead pedal material when releasing the clutch. Keep in mind, however, that I have big size-12 feet.
Mitsubishi tunes its electric steering to feel heavy and leaden at lower speeds, with a vague on-center feel on the highway. Out on a twisty mountain road, the steering lightens up and feels more accurate and communicative. Plus, braking is not a problem, with the pedal proving responsive and easy to modulate. As a result, the little SUV is genuinely athletic, in terms of handling, anyway.
Suspension tuning provides a nice blend of ride compliance and road communication, and because the Outlander Sport rides on the same size wheelbase as the longer and larger Outlander, it’s not as choppy as might be expected given its stubby dimensions. Standard for 2013, the sizable 18-inch aluminum wheels encourage the driver to dive into corners.
Those same big tires contribute to a significant amount of road noise, and wind noise is also prevalent. On one stretch of grooved concrete Southern California freeway, the level of road and wind noise made me feel like I was sitting at the foot of the runways at LAX. So yeah, not a quiet vehicle.
2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport Road Test and Review: Final Thoughts
The 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is not without its merits. Affordable, protected by a long powertrain warranty, and able to return decent gas mileage, the safe and stylish Outlander Sport appeals with a low price tag and crossover SUV styling. Unfortunately, the company installs an underpowered engine in this vehicle, one designed to maximize fuel economy at the expense of anything resembling driving enjoyment.
There is an easy fix for this problem, and it’s called a turbocharger. Mitsubishi doesn’t need to convert the Outlander Sport into some kind of Lancer Evo wannabe, but it definitely needs to find a way to make this SUV quicker than it is today.
2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport Road Test and Review: Pros and Cons
- Low price
- Long warranty
- Good gas mileage
- Entertaining handling
- “Top Safety Pick” rating
- Small cargo area
- Limited dealer network
Mitsubishi supplied the vehicle for this review
2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport photos by Christian Wardlaw
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