2012 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SUV - FROM $18,795
Though it's an agreeable urban runabout, the 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is outclassed by other small crossovers that are either more practical or more fun to drive.
What's New for 2012
For 2012, the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport sees a handful of minor improvements. Highlights include an available rearview camera for the base SE trim, additional sound insulation for models with a continuously variable transmission and a recalibration of said CVT to improve response and acceleration.
At first glance, the naming of the 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport seems to make sense. This compact SUV looks the part of an automotive athlete with its aggressive, Lancer Evolution-inspired front-end styling and semi-crouching stance. But sadly, there's really not enough under the buff body to justify the "Sport" portion of this model's moniker.
On paper the Outlander Sport looks promising, as it is loosely based on the Mitsubishi Outlander, a crossover SUV we've praised in the past for its agile handling. Baby brother Sport is 14 inches shorter, 2 inches lower and as much as 700 pounds lighter, all favorable factors that should add up to increased agility and performance. But in the real world we've discovered that these would-be advantages yield nothing particularly beneficial.
The Sport's lighter weight would be an advantage if it could be had with the bigger Outlander's more powerful engine choices, but the Sport only comes with the 148-horsepower inline-4 borrowed from the Lancer sedan. And when it's coupled to the CVT, the end result is lackluster acceleration. The Sport's handling will likely be fine for most folks, but those looking for performance that matches the Sport's name and looks will wish for less body roll and more grip during spirited cornering.
If you forget about the "Sport" part, this Mitsubishi is pretty agreeable. It provides a smooth, quiet freeway ride and comes with a fair number of features for relatively short money. But pitted against other compact crossovers, the Outlander Sport doesn't really make the cut. Other similarly sized runabouts, such as the Kia Sportage, Mini Cooper Countryman and Nissan Juke are more enjoyable to drive thanks to superior performance and handling. And if you'll be frequently hauling luggage or cargo, more mainstream models like the Chevrolet Equinox, Honda CR-V and even the regular Outlander are going to be more practical and useful overall.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is a compact crossover SUV that is offered in two trim levels: the base ES and SE.
Standard features for the ES include 16-inch steel wheels, heated mirrors, cruise control, keyless entry, air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cloth upholstery, 60/40-split-folding rear seats, Mitsubishi's Fuse voice-activated electronics interface and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and an a USB/iPod interface.
The SE adds 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic xenon headlights, foglights, automatic wipers, automatic climate control, keyless ignition/entry, a sliding armrest between the front seats, a second-row armrest with center pass-through, upgraded upholstery and a six-speaker stereo. All-wheel drive is only offered on the SE model, and it comes along with heated front seats.
Most options are grouped together into packages that are available on any Outlander Sport trim level. The Navigation package includes a navigation system, a rearview camera and an RCA-style audio/video jack. The Exterior Sport package adds several cosmetic and aerodynamic elements, while the Interior package (available on models with automatic transmissions only) adds piano-black interior trim and an aluminum shift knob. Stand-alone options include 16-inch alloy wheels for the ES, a hard-drive-based navigation system, remote ignition and the six-CD changer.
Available on the SE AWD is a Premium package that includes a panoramic sunroof, roof rails, a rearview camera (with display integrated into the rearview mirror) and a nine-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio system with a six-CD changer and satellite radio.
Powertrains and Performance
Powering the 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is a 2.0-liter inline-4 engine that produces 148 hp and 145 pound-feet of torque. The standard transmission offered in the ES is a five-speed manual. A CVT is available as an option and is standard on the SE models. Front-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive available on the SE. As with the regular Outlander, AWD models feature three driver-selectable modes to optimize traction.
In Edmunds testing, a front-wheel-drive Outlander Sport with a manual transmission accelerated from a standstill to 60 mph in 8.8 seconds. We've yet to test this year's Outlander Sport with the updated CVT, but prior to this it turned in a pretty mediocre performance with a 10.3-second time. The EPA estimates fuel economy at 25 city/31 highway mpg and 27 mpg combined for a CVT front-wheel-drive model. The manual earns 24/31/26 mpg, while the AWD comes in at 23/28/25 mpg.
Standard safety features on the 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport include front side airbags, side curtain airbags, driver-side knee airbag, four-wheel antilock disc brakes, hill start assist, traction control and stability control.
In government crash testing, the Outlander Sport received four out of five stars for overall crash protection, with four stars for frontal-impact protection and four stars for side-impact protection. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash testing, the Outlander Sport scored "Good" (the highest possible rating) in the agency's frontal-offset and side-impact tests.
In Edmunds brake testing, an AWD Outlander Sport came to a stop from 60 mph in 123 feet, a good number for this segment.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport's interior offers little in the way of visual excitement or impressive materials. Fortunately, front passengers of average size will likely find a comfortable seating position thanks to well-shaped seats, plenty of head- and legroom and a tilt-and-telescoping steering column for the driver. Taller drivers may be a bit squished. The rear seats have slightly less room, but an average-sized adult should be comfortable enough.
The controls are within easy reach and simple in operation, and the Fuse voice activation system makes some audio and navigation functions a hands-free affair. Even more surprising is that the Fuse system is standard on all Outlander Sports. Less impressive is the Sport's limited cargo capacity -- maximum cargo capacity is just 49.5 cubic feet.
Despite its name, the 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport offers little in the way of sportiness. Acceleration is passable, but often you'll find yourself wishing for more power when entering highways and passing. Handling is similarly disappointing, with noticeable body roll that does little to instill driver confidence or fun. To its credit, the Sport does have a smooth and quiet ride, making it an acceptable companion on long road trips.