Coming up with an unused name for your new vehicle can be hard, and without brand name recognition, selling it can be even harder. That’s why Mitsubishi can’t be faulted for reusing its Outlander moniker on its new CUV, and adding “Sport” to a smaller version of a vehicle is a time-honored tradition. But unlike most, the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport earns its name by ditching almost all the faux off-roader gingerbread that’s fashionable in the segment these days in favor of a taut, sports-car look more befitting the brand that built the beatified Evo line.
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2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport Overview
What's New for 2018
There are many changes afoot for Mitsubishi’s 2018 Outlander Sport. Styling-related changes include a revised grille, paint color changes, a new rear fascia with chrome trim on the tailgate, and a new center console design. There's also a new generation continuously variable transmission (CVT) for the 2.4-liter engine. Various standard equipment is different across the range, while SEL models get a new Touring Package. Prices have risen by $700 over 2017 Outlander Sports, and the GT trim level is gone while a new Limited Edition trim debuts.
Choosing Your Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
The first step in picking an Outlander Sport trim is choosing which engine suits best. As their names suggest, the first two trim levels – ES 2.0 and LE 2.0 – come equipped with a 2.0-liter inline-four that produces 148 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. SE 2.4 and SEL 2.4 trims get a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 168 hp and 167 lb-ft.
EPA ratings on the 2.0 are 24 miles per gallon city, 30 mpg highway, and 27 mpg combined, while the 2.4 isn’t far behind at 23 mpg city, 29 highway, and 25 combined. All-wheel drive – called All-Wheel Control or AWC by Mitsubishi – adds $1,500 to all trim levels equipped with the CVT, which is all of them save the base ES 2.0 that gets a five-speed manual (adding the CVT to it runs $1,200). Fuel economy drops one mpg on the highway on any model with AWD.
The 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport has four available trims:
Of all the Outlander Sport trims, only the LE sets itself apart with unique trim and badging. If you're happy with the 2.0-liter engine and want your Outlander Sport to have some “personality,” it’s the way to go regardless of its number of driven wheels. Those looking to get the 2.4-liter motor have a choice: either get an SE and save $1,500 or go all-in for the SEL’s leather, panoramic glass roof, and access to the Touring Package.
2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport Review
Once upon a time, Mitsubishi was a force to be reckoned with. Tuners salivated at the thought of Evos and 3000GTs, and even the old Galants and Diamantes had a level of sophistication that surpassed competitors. Unfortunately, the aughts haven't been kind to the scrappy Japanese brand. The under-powered engines and depressing interior of the 2018 Outlander Sport pointedly illustrate how tarnished the brand's diamond-star logo has become.
Of the four different trim levels on the menu, we'd steer buyers to the range-topping SEL. The reason is simple: It's the trim that best disguises this car's eight-year-old roots. Springing for it costs $25,815, but that price includes niceties like navigation, leather seats and HID headlights, and the larger 2.4-liter engine. That's not bad for 26 grand, and moreover, because this is a Mitsubishi and not a Ferrari, there's ample opportunity to haggle that number down further. It's also the only trim in which the available active safety features are, well, available; lower trims cannot be optioned up with additional life-saving gadgetry. Here's the breakdown on our ideal Outlander Sport:
- Model: 2018 Mitsubishi Outback Sport SEL
- Engine: 2.4-liter four-cylinder
- Output: 168 hp / 168 lb-ft
- Transmission: Continuously variable transmission (CVT)
- Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
- MPG: 23 City / 29 Hwy
- Options: Touring Package ($2,000, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, automatic high beams, Panoramic roof, nine-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio system)
- Base Price:$25,815 (includes the $995 destination charge)
- Best Value Price:$27,815
Don't let the "Sport" moniker fool you into thinking about the performance Mitsubishis of yore, because this crossover is anything but. The base ES and next-step-up LE are powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 148 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque, and that output simply isn't enough to move this 3,100-pound vehicle with any confidence. Highway merging and passing are both made more exciting than they should be thanks to the dearth of power and cacophony of noise – and that's not a compliment.
Not helping matters is the transmission, which is a five-speed manual on the ES and a CVT on all other trims (which is also optional on the ES). The CVT is no doubt the volume seller here, but the nature of such a gearbox means that it only exacerbates the the loud and unrefined characteristics of the engines, especially with the 2.0-liter.
The 2.4-liter in the SE and SEL trims brings a much-welcomed bump of power (168 hp and 168 lb-ft of torque), and gives the Outlander Sport performance that's on par for the segment. Opting for the bigger motor brings just a negligible difference in fuel economy. It's rated for 23 miles per gallon city, 29 highway, and 25 combined, versus 24/30/27 mpg for the 2.0-liter.
There's nothing particularly offensive about the exterior styling, and there's definitely more unattractive vehicles available in the segment (we're looking at you, Toyota C-HR). Sheetmetal updates, including a refresh of the front fascia last year, have helped belie the car's age and keep it looking fresh.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the interior, which puts the basement in bargain-basement. Expanses of hard black plastic dominate the dash, and the controls feel cheap and unsubstantial. The SEL attempts to mask this with bits of brightwork around the infotainment screen and contrasting white stitching on the leather seats, but the overall aura of the cabin is still that of a decade-old economy car.
If it's any consolation, the Outlander Sport does come with technology buyers will appreciate. All trims come standard with a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment unit with Bluetooth and HD radio capability, automatic climate control, keyless entry, a USB port, and two 12-volt outlets. All models but the ES include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, a leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel, and heated front seats.
The Best and Worst Things
The best asset of Mitsubishi's small crossover is the value it offers. For not a lot of money, buyers get nearly all the features that matter, and the top SEL manages to deliver creature comforts at a price point that most competitors don't match.
However, to make the Outlander Sport the bargain it is, corners had to be cut. The most noticeable are the powertrains, which are chitty-chitty-bang-bang affairs whose tepid performance and excessive noise constantly remind you of why this trucklet goes out the door for so little cash.
Right For? Wrong For?
Mitsubishi's small crossover is a good choice for those who have bad credit or meager finances but insist on buying a new car. It's wrong for anyone who wants a refined, quality automobile.
The Bottom Line
The Outlander Sport makes you wonder what happened to old Mitsubishi. It's lipstick on a pig; an eight-year-old car buoyed by modern amenities and infotainment technology but let down by its powertrains and interior, both of which trumpet the geriatric truth. While it does offer a great value when looked at from a features-to-price ratio, that's all the 2018 Mitsubishi Outback Sport offers, and it's numerous inadequacies make it too unpleasant to recommend. Let's hope that the innovative, forward-thinking Mitsubishi of years past will emerge from the history books to rectify the company's current mediocrity.
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