2019 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport Review

Ron Sessions | Apr 16, 2019
2019 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport GT photo
Photo: Ron Sessions

Introduction

Scan the parking lot outside any shopping center today and it’s easy to see just how dominant a category small and midsize SUVs and crossovers have become. Most major car brands offer multiple choices in this segment and Mitsubishi is no different. While its presence in the United States has diminished over the last decade or two and it no longer challenges Mazda and Subaru for second-tier Japanese brand sales honors, Mitsubishi attracts a steady stream of buyers for its crossover SUVs.

Mitsubishi now offers three SUV models: the midsize 7-passenger Outlander, compact 5-passenger Outlander Sport, and the new-for-2019 sporty compact 5-passenger Eclipse Cross. The Outlander Sport is the smallest and least expensive of the three. First introduced in 2011 and with a mild front-end freshening in 2016, the Outlander Sport is also the oldest offering in Mitsubishi’s lineup.

For this review, we evaluated a 2019 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport GT equipped with the up-level 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine and All-Wheel Control 4WD, and accessorized with a cargo-area tonneau cover and carpeted floor mats. The total price came to $27,865, including the $995 destination charge.

2019 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport GT photo
Photo: Ron Sessions

What Owners Say

Prior to getting into the details of our evaluation of the 2019 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, following are some insights into the buyer profile for this small SUV and what their most and least favorite aspects of the vehicle are.

Compared with the Small SUV segment in total, Outlander Sport buyers are younger (49.5 years old vs. 53) and have significantly less annual household income ($56,250 vs. $81,709). Additionally, more Outlander Sport buyers are men (49%) vs. 43% for the Small SUV segment as a whole.

Outlander Sport buyers are less likely to agree that they prefer to buy a vehicle from a domestic brand (44 vs. 52%). They are also not as likely to agree that they will pay extra for a vehicle equipped with the latest safety features (69 vs. 77%).

Outlander Sport buyers, on the other hand, are more likely to agree that their first consideration in choosing a vehicle is fuel economy (78 vs. 72%) and that they like a vehicle that stands out from the crowd (75 vs. 69%).

Additionally, compared with the Small SUV segment in total, buyers of the Outlander Sport are more likely to characterize themselves as practical or working utilitarians (41% vs. 33%).

Buyers say their favorite things about Outlander Sport are (in descending order) the exterior styling, interior design, driving dynamics, visibility and safety, and storage and space. Conversely, Outlander Sport buyers indicate their least favorite things are (in descending order) the fuel economy, engine/transmission, climate system, infotainment system, and seats.

2019 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport GT left front exterior photo
Photo: Ron Sessions

What Our Expert Says

In the sections that follow, our expert provides his own assessment of how the 2019 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport performs in each of the 10 categories that comprise the J.D. Power 2018 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study.SM

Exterior

Even though the basic exterior design is nine years old, I’d say that it’s wearing well. Standard 18-in. alloy wheels and short overhangs give the Outlander Sport a trim and snazzy presence. Lengthwise, the Outlander Sport is closer in size to a Ford Focus hatchback or subcompact Honda HR-V, so it fits in parking spaces that a considerably longer Honda CR-V or Ford Escape won’t.

Mitsubishi has announced that the 2020 Outlander Sport will get a front-end facelift with a more SUV-like raised hood and a more aggressive front fascia along the lines of the Eclipse Cross.

2019 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport GT interior photo
Photo: Ron Sessions

Interior

As with the exterior, the Outlander Sport’s cabin is a no-nonsense design that’s clean-looking and functional. Switchgear is easy to reach and operate, and plastic trim, while not lux, is serviceable for a vehicle in this size and price class. Soft-touch surfaces on the dash and doors and padded armrests on the console and doors add a degree of comfort.

The top-of-the-line GT trim level adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, rain-sensing wipers, HomeLink, auto-dimming rearview mirror, and passive entry with push-button start.

Dropped from the top Outlander Sport trim level this year is the Touring package with optional LED-illuminated panoramic sunroof.

2019 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport GT front seats photo
Photo: Ron Sessions

Seats

The Outlander Sport cabin is cozy at best. Mitsubishi puts five sets of seat belts in the Outlander Sport, but the rear seat is tight on legroom and only suitable for adult habitation with the front seats moved forward. Headroom, both front and rear, is decent for a vehicle in this class and can handle six-footers.

The front bucket seats are both comfortable and supportive with no hot spots. Last year’s power driver’s seat feature on the up-level trim has been discontinued, replaced with manual fore-aft and recline functions and a barber chair-like pump lever to adjust seat height.

Front-seat ingress and egress is a breeze thanks to the modest increase in chair height, but more difficult in the rear as navigating one’s shoes between the bottom seat cushion and the door jamb takes some practice as the rear foot wells are tight.

The Outlander Sport GT’s seats were covered in a pleasant, soft-touch faux leather/suede mix highlighted with contrasting red stitching. Other cabin niceties in the Outlander Sport GT include heated front seats.

2019 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport GT climate control photo
Photo: Ron Sessions

Climate Control System

All 2019 Outlander Sports feature automatic, set-and-forget, climate control, a nicety in this price class. It’s just a single-zone system but three meaty knobs—one each for mode, temperature, and fan speed—get the job done, even when the operator is wearing gloves.

2019 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport GT infotainment system photo
Photo: Ron Sessions

Infotainment system

Standard fare on all 2019 Outlander Sport SUVs is a 6-speaker, 7-in. touch-panel AM/FM audio system with digital HD Radio. Volume adjustment is easy enough with a physical rotary knob, but tuning requires repeated taps of small icons at the bottom of the screen, not optimal in a moving car. Steering wheel controls for volume and tuning make this easy for the driver but not so the front passenger.

Move up to the midlevel SE or range-topping GT and satellite radio is added. Unfortunately, the 3-month SiriusXM free trial had expired in the test vehicle, leaving me to do a lot of searching for FM stations with decent music and signal strength. SE and GT trims also add Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, which brings navigation and other apps via your cellphone. A pair of handy USB jacks reside just under the climate control dials.

Last year’s optional 9-speaker, 710-watt Rockford Fosgate premium audio system is dropped for 2019.
Mitsubishi is upgrading the Outlander Sport’s base audio system to a larger 8-in. touch screen and adding a physical rotary tuning knob for 2020.

2019 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport GT cargo area photo
Photo: Ron Sessions

Storage and Space

Outlander Sport buyers indicate that they like the interior storage features. They give thumbs up for the usefulness of the front cupholders (a second pair reside in the fold-down center armrest of the 60/40 split rear seat) and covered center console bin. There’s also a small shelf ahead of the console shifter for resting a cellphone or iPod and deep map pockets and large bottle holders in the front doors (but none in the rear doors). The glovebox is pretty large too, but half-filled with a large owner’s manual sleeve.

A big reason people buy SUVs is cargo space, and although the Outlander Sport is on the small side, its cargo volume numbers of 21.7 cu. ft. with the rear seat up and 49.5 with it down are largely on par for the segment.

2019 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport GT reversing camera photo
Photo: Ron Sessions

Visibility and Safety

The Outlander Sport’s stance is lower than that of many other SUVs, so the roof slopes down at the back resulting in a smallish liftgate window. The view out the back is further hampered by rear-seat headrests, but a standard reversing camera (without trajectory lines) saves the day. Unlike some newer SUV designs that incorporate door-mounted side mirrors and a small front-quarter window to aid cross-car visibility, the Outlander Sport uses old-style side mirrors that create a blind spot at the junction of the front door window and windshield pillar. One cool feature, however, are standard European side mirrors that fold in when the doors are locked with the engine off to lessen the pedestrian hazard.

As many mainstream automakers have done in the last year or two, Mitsubishi has added considerable safety content to the 2019 Outlander Sport. Lane-change assist, and blind-spot and rear cross-traffic monitoring have been added to midlevel SE and top-of-the-line GT trims. The blind-spot system gives both a visible alert in the side mirror and sounds an alert beep should the driver not heed its warnings. Also part of GT content are forward-collision mitigation, auto high-beam control, and lane-departure warning systems.

Not available on the 2019 Outlander Sport is adaptive cruise control.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the 2019 Outlander Sport “Good” marks for moderate-overlap front impacts, side impacts, roof strength, and seat and head restraint design, but only an “Acceptable” rating for small-overlap driver-side front impacts and a “Marginal” one for small-overlap passenger-side front impacts. The small-overlap IIHS test was instituted after the Outlander Sport’s 2011 introduction and its less-than-stellar ratings in this category will likely be addressed when the vehicle gets a complete overhaul in the future.

In federal government crash testing, the Outlander Sport netted 5 stars (out of 5) for side impacts and 4 for frontal impacts and rollover resistance (on both front- and all-wheel-drive versions).

2019 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport GT engine photo
Photo: Ron Sessions

Engine/Transmission

The 2019 Outlander Sport is available with either of two engines: a 148-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder in base and midlevel trims that’s competitive with that powering most subcompact SUVs, and a 168-horsepower 2.4-liter 4-cylinder in the GT that’s more in line with what’s under the hood of many compact SUVs.

J.D. Power research has noted some buyer displeasure with engine responsiveness and engine sound quality in the Outlander Sport, but did not assign those issues to a particular power plant. The GT model I tested had the larger engine and had no issues keeping up with the ebb and flow of traffic, merging onto freeways or passing slower vehicles on two-lane roads.

A 5-speed manual transmission is available but only in the base ES model. The rest of the Outlander Sport trims and overwhelming majority of sales are with the Sportronic continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Within its ratio spread, the CVT gives a near infinite number of gear ratios to maximize fuel efficiency at any given engine speed, road load, and throttle position. It also has a number of programmed “steps” under many operating conditions to avoid annoying engine “droning” sounds under conditions such as steady acceleration.

2019 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport GT fuel economy photo
Photo: Ron Sessions

Fuel Economy

Conversely to comments about engine responsiveness and sound quality, Outlander Sport buyers indicate their approval of the vehicle’s fuel economy and driving range. Ironically, EPA fuel-economy ratings for all-wheel-drive (AWD) versions with the CVT are nearly identical at 23 mpg city/29 mpg highway/26 mpg combined for the 2.0-liter and 23/28/25 for the 2.4. In a week of suburban slogging on local roads and 70 miles of heavily enforced 55-mph rural highway driving, I managed to coax an indicated 29.5 mpg from the Mitsubishi’s onboard trip computer.

2019 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport GT front wheel photo
Photo: Ron Sessions

Driving Dynamics

It’s easy to see why small crossover SUVs such as the Outlander Sport have gained so much popularity. From a driving dynamics standpoint, the behind-the-wheel experience is nearly identical to that of a small sedan or hatchback, albeit one with a slightly higher driving position, more cargo capacity and versatility, and the option of AWD—all of which the Outlander Sport offers.

Starting at just over 3100 lbs., the Outlander Sport doesn’t have the heavier feel of larger SUVs. Steering effort is light but precise in action, body movements are well damped, and brake response reassuringly spot-on. Despite the relatively short wheelbase, the Outlander Sport’s ride motions are not choppy, and impact harshness over potholes or pavement strips is never jarring, even with the standard 18-in. tires.

2019 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport GT left rear exterior photo
Photo: Ron Sessions

Final Impressions

What’s really impressive about the Outlander Sport is its high level of maneuverability, ease of parking, available AWD traction, and low cost.

Based on J.D. Power research it’s evident that buyers—many of them first-time or younger customers—of this small SUV are making a value play, stretching their considerably lower-than-average household income. A generous 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty and fully transferable 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty are some of the best in the industry.

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