Review: 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE FWD

 

The 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE has a bit of a complex; it thinks it’s a sports car, yet tries to dabble in the SUV market…

The Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is a bit of a conundrum for me. Firstly, I like its styling; I think it’s fresh and sporty. I don’t mind its bland interior, because for what it doesn’t offer in style, it makes up for with enough comfort. Unfortunately the suspension can feel a little rough at times, but it’s not overbearing, I didn’t think.

In Cosmic Blue with black cloth interior, the Outlander Sport is certainly a handsome vehicle that blends the current want for tougher, more capable looking crossovers and small SUVs, with the frugality of a car. It’s hard to find an angle that doesn’t look good on this vehicle, in my opinion. I like the large grill that appears to want to suck in tons of air, but also looks to be angrily yelling at cars in front of it to move out of the way. Sad, then, that the 2.0-liter Mivec 4-cylinder doesn’t go along with that.

At 148 hp and 145 lb-ft of torque, there’s enough power to cope with the roughly 3,200 lbs the Outlander Sport weighs, but the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) isn’t. I can’t put it any other way but to say the CVT just doesn’t work in this car. While the car tries to remain sporty and peppy, and for the most part lives up to that lifestyle, the CVT allows for no fun to be had. For instance, many times in our daily driving we’d like to get in front of a slower car, either on the highway or a two-lane boulevard. We’re not being rude, we’ve just got things to do. Well, in the Outlander Sport that wouldn’t seem like a difficult task, and it isn’t when trying to add a little extra speed -I would have enjoyed a little more grunt at highway speeds- but once you try to settle in at your new speed, or a slower speed, the CVT just keeps the motor revved.

At no time does the transmission actually go back to a relaxed pace. And I know that sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. A couple of times I left the transmission to try and shift (a CVT doesn’t actually shift, but it’s much easier to say that than to define what it actually does) for as long as a minute or two. It didn’t budge. The rpm were still super high, as if I had just kicked it down a couple gears and left it there. So annoying. For the crowd that’ll be buying the Outlander Sport, that’s uncalled for.

For the harsh feelings I have for the CVT, I absolutely love the paddles that the Outlander Sport comes equipped with. They’re sturdy, sexy, and perfectly placed. For the shortcomings of the transmission, I kind of reveled in them so I could play with the paddles as often as possible. I mean, look at that picture above. How good does that look? They’re still plastic, but you could barely tell. In fact, I’d say that they’re as good, if not better, than ones offered in a BMW, Mercedes-Benz or an Audi. They’d fit well in a German or Japanese sports car. In fact, most “sporty” cars don’t even have paddles as nice as these. I won’t name any names here, but they all come from America, and a couple from Germany.

I also enjoyed the interior layout, which, like I said before, wouldn’t win any styling awards, it was still a nice place to be. Everything was easy to see, use and touch. There are a multitude of cup holders in the car, which always excites me. Typically because I’m the one driving to go get everyone’s lunch or dinner. However, oddly, there are two round holes just in front of the shifter that have a sign that shows to not allow cups/drinks in them. I used them for my iPhone and sunglasses, but was very confused that I wasn’t allowed to put drinks in a cup holder looking thing…

Another great thing about the interior was the large panoramic roof that allowed tons of sunlight to get into the Outlander Sport. It’s wonderful on a spring day, or early summer, which is when I had this car.

The gas mileage is also a treat for a car of this flavor. At 25 mpg city and 31 highway, you’ll like that you can go farther on less wallet crunching gas. I saw between 27-29 mpg on my daily driving.

Sadly, it’s that time again: time to get negative about the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport. While the interior is a nice place to be in the front, the rear is rather crunched for passengers. If you have children, it’ll be no problem. But if you plan to let anyone taller than 5’9″ back there, they won’t be too happy. That’s how tall I am, and I felt like I could get cramped on a longer drive. The back seat is also harsher of a ride than the front. The seats do fold down flat, but if you’re not doing that, there’s sufficient space in the rear hatch, but not as much as rivals from Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, etc. for about the same money.

At $26,855, my Outlander Sport SE was very well optioned, only lacking all-wheel drive and rear parking sensors. Although it did have the $2,050 Premium Package and the navigation system with backup camera at $2,000. In the premium pack comes the 710 Rockford Fosgate sound system. At first glance you’ll get excited for a 10″ sub in the rear hatch area. At low volumes the sound is pretty clear and nice. However turn up the system and you’ll get nothing but ear numbing bass that you cannot turn down. Yes, there’s absolutely no way to control the levels of the sound; Can’t turn the bass, treble, mids, or anything up or down. The only control you have is the volume. Rockford Fosgate’s motto is, “Car Audio for Fanatics”. HA! Those fanatics must be only able to hear by the sound of bass kicking, like Beethoven. Otherwise, no thank you. Unfortunately, you have to get it if you want the premium package.

To go along with that sound system is the absolute worst iPod adapter I’ve ever played with in a car. Firstly, let me say that I have about 10,000 songs on my iPod, so some cars take a little longer to recognize and tend to steam a little when reading my music. I understand that. The Outlander Sport, however, decided to take 11 whole minutes to read my iPod. Okay, I guess I can forgive it of that if it works properly. Nope, it then took anywhere from 30 seconds to almost 2 minutes to actually change the track. Now when I had it on shuffle it did fine switching within a few seconds. But if I were to change from Eric Clapton to Buddy Guy, oh God, that was terrible. If I saw a song on the screen that I wanted played instead of the current track I was listening to, forget it. I got used to just listening to SiriusXM.

The Bluetooth phone wasn’t really great, either. People complained of never being able to hear me, but instead everything outside of the car at highway speeds. So that didn’t go over so well. At higher speeds I had to keep turning up the volume, only to hear nothing but bass on my end, which just hurt my ears.

Excuse me while I have a drink to calm myself down. I don’t mean to be so down on Mitsubishi and their Outlander Sport, but in my week long ownership of this car, I didn’t enjoy it. I tried to, I really did. Unfortunately I’d tell anyone looking at buying it to look elsewhere, which I’ve already done a couple of times. To give you an understanding of how poor my time in the Outlander Sport was, I should tell you that I had it in June. It’s taken me this long to review it…

[Photos by Corey Privette]

2012 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE FWD

Horsepower: 148 @ 6000 rpm

Torque (lb-ft.): 145 @ 4200 rpm

Base MSRP: $21,995

Destination fee: $810

Price as-tested: $26,855

Standard features:

Exterior

Chrome grille surround

Body-colored outer door handles

Heated power side view mirrors

Side fender turn-signal indicators

Rear wiper with intermittent feature

Electric rear window defroster with timer

Rear privacy glass

Rear LED combination tail lights

Roof-mounted radio antenna

Flat-type wiper blades

Roof carrier plug-in accommodation

Comfort and Convenience

Rear heater floor ducts

Tilt and telescopic steering wheel

Cruise control with steering-wheel mounted controls

Power windows with driver one-touch down/up feature

Power door locks with two-stage unlocking

Height-adjustable front shoulder-belt anchors

12-volt accessory outlet (x2)

Front map lights

Rear cargo light

Retractable assist grips (x4)

Manual day/night rearview mirror

Storage

Glove box with pen holder

Front-door storage pockets with bottle holders

Cargo tie-down utility hooks (x4)

Center console box with cup holders(x2)

Instrument panel lower compartment

Pocket tissue holder

Seatback pocket (driver’s side)

Seating and Trim

5-passenger seating

6-way manually adjustable driver’s seat

4-way manually adjustable passenger’s seat

Leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob

Soft-touch upper insrument panel and door trim

Chrome interior door levers

Rear seat adjustable head restraints (x3)

Rear armrest with dual cup holders

Door scuff plate (front & rear)

60/40 split fold-down rear seatback

Adjustable return seatback

Carpeted floor mats

Audio

FUSE Hands-free Link System™ with USB port

Steering-wheel-mounted audio controls

140-watt AM/FM/CD/MP3-compatible audio system

Instrumentation

Steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters (CVT only)

High-contrast meter

Color LCD multi-information display, including trip computer, maintenance reminder and ambient temperature

Rheostat

Dual trip odometers

Safety and Security

Advanced front airbags with seatbelt-use, passenger-weight and driver’s seat-position sensors

Front side-impact airbags and side-impact curtain airbags with rollover protection

Driver’s knee airbag¹

Active Stability Control (ASC)²

Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)² with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist

Hill Start Assist

Traction Control Logic (TCL)

Tire pressure monitoring system

3-point seatbelts for all 5 seating positions

Engine immobilizer and anti-theft alarm system

Child-safety rear door locks

LATCH child-safety-seat anchors & upper tethers

Remote fuel lid opener

Front seatbelt pretensioners with force limiters

Collapsible steering column and foldaway brake pedal assembly

Side-impact door beams

ECO Friendly Features

ECO driver indicator light (CVT only)

Brake energy regeneration system

Recyclable plastic bumpers, instrument panel, door trim and radiator grille

Plastic polymer front fender panels

Electric Power Steering (EPS)

Options:

Premium Package: $2,050

  • Panoramic glass roof with adjustable LED mood lighting
  • 710-watt Rockford Fosgate® audio system with in-dash 6-CD/MP3 changer, Digital Signal Processor (DSP), 3-band equalization, speed-compensated volume and 9 speakers, including a 10-inch dual-voice coil subwoofer with Punch® control
  • Roof rails
  • Auto-dimming rearview mirror
  • Rearview camera system

Navigation with Rearview Camera Package: $2,000

  • 40GB HDD Navigation System with Music Server and Real-Time Traffic (replaces audio head unit)
  • Rearview camera system
The Good: A sleek and sporty design; Awesome looking and feeling paddle shifters; Cosmic Blue is a great color on this car; Sporty intentions.
The Bad: CVT makes this car worse than it should be; iPod adapter takes as long as 10 minutes or more to recognize all music; iPod adapter takes between 30 seconds and nearly 2 minutes to change to your selection; Rockford Fosgate isn’t good quality in this car; Leather can’t be optioned on any Outlander Sport; Bluetooth sound quality is terrible.
The Ugly: An attractive vehicle that’s a total letdown once you get behind the wheel and see for yourself.
The Truth: Mitsubishi, if they’re going to survive in this market against Hyundai, Kia, Mazda and Ford, need to step it up. At $26,855 the Outlander Sport SE FWD should be a hell of a bargain, but because of a silly transmission, cramped spaces, poor sound quality and iPod adapter, I’d recommend you look elsewhere. Spend a little extra and get something worth owning.

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I'm a car, music, and Howard Stern aficionado. I also love planes, trains, anything to do with science and engineering, as well as politics. I'm working on my screenplays, TV shows, and a book or two. Stay tuned to when I'm really famous and even more awesome.

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