Why I like the 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport ES
Mitsubishi builds some great vehicles that are essentially invisible to so many people – because they really don’t know these good vehicles exist. With shrinking showroom availability in the United States, Mitsubishi as a brand is having a tough time making a go of it, even with such outstanding cars as the Outlander Sport ES FWD, the entry level model.
The Outlander Sport is a shrunken version of the larger Outlander Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV). Its dimensions help the Outlander Sport fit into garages and into most peoples’ daily lives – if they can find it. The gaping mouth front end of the Mitsu is its best and worst feature but surely one of the few physical attributes that announces the brand – and that’a necessary item… announcing the brand. I like the fact that a large horizontal bar breaks up the large opening.
I really like the size of the Outlander Sport at 169.1 inches long, 69.7 inches wide, 64.2 inches tall (just a bit more than me) with a 105.1-inch wheelbase. It’s about the largest size I think should be available on an SUV as the interior volume of 119.2 cubic feet is extremely well arranged.
This package is more than a foot shorter, a couple of inches lower and at least 500 pounds lighter than the Outlander, increasing agility and performance of the Outlander Sport.
Weight is a doable 3032 pounds, which makes it easier to use the 2-liter double overhead cam inline four-cylinder engine of 148 horsepower at 6000 rpm and redline of 6500 rpm to its best capabilities. You’ve really got to work this mill hard, but at least the test vehicle came equipped with a very nicely geared five-speed manual, not Mitsubishi’s CVT automatic, which saps power and efficiency (CVT’s are intended to give better mileage than standard automatic transmissions but they’re sloppy and vague, not a great trade-off). Torque of 145 lb-ft comes in at 4200 rpm.
Mitsubishi fits fully independent suspension bits with MaPherson struts up front and multi-links at the rear, both aided by stabilizer bars. There’s all-wheel antilock disc brakes to bring he enterprise to a quick and steady stop. Wheels are steel with Yokohama 215/70R 16-inch rubber keeping the Outlander Sport well planted. For those concerned about passive safety, there are side and head airbags, along with active safety stability and traction controls.
The silver Outlander Sport ES that I drove from Chicago to Indianapolis had black cloth interior – perfect for any sort of weather. It had only one option that increased the price from an initial $19,605 including destination to $21,900. That was the very easily usable navigation system that has real time traffic alerts for $2295. The only thing missing – in my opinion – was satellite radio, so I listened to local radio on the drive and that worked out just fine.
You learn a lot about a car on the open road and I discovered I didn’t really mind the light feel to the clutch and the shifter, meant to entice those that aren’t quite as accustomed to manual transmissions and therefore making shifting easier to do. While the ride is compliant you still feel the road imperfections, something I prefer so I know what’s happening under the vehicle.
From a driver standpoint, I’m always happy to see a single pass for the wipers and a light dip for signals, allowing lane changes to be made in a civil fashion. I liked the multi-function leather-wrapped steering wheel with its audio controls on the left, phone on the lower left (never used it – prefer not to be bothered on longer trips) and a really nice cruise control that held well and returned via resume in a seamless fashion. There was good storage in the central closed area with a 12-volt plug and USB to charge the phone, and even a lighter at the base of the center stack.
I made very few notes about the heating, air conditioning and ventilation controls because they were self-explanatory and easy to use – not to mention their excellent function; recirculated air works best on max a/c. I did note that there were cupholders in the front doors only and, while there was a 60/40 fold for the rear seat and good space under the hatch, there was no cargo cover for that 21.7-cubic-foot space (with seats in place) that has a maximum cargo capacity with seats folded of 49.5 cubic feet. Maybe not the best in class; certainly not the worst and usable. There are tie-down hooks under the hatch and a full-size spare under the floor.
The rear seat passengers have a single pocket for storage – that’s kinda chintzy, don’t you think? I did, but at least there’s sufficient space for two or three rear passengers to coexist for a few hours.
During my four-hour drive, I barely used half a tank from the 16.6-gallon tank – regular gasoline is just fine. The 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is rated at 24/31 mpg but I’m thinking, with a broken-in vehicle it’s capable of better – I’m betting 500 miles over the road would be an easy achievement.
I really enjoyed the 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport ES – and didn’t expect to because I’m not a fan of SUVs and I’d had a less-than-happy drive in a CVT-equipped and totally tarted-up version earlier in the year. I like the visual appearance of this car, I like the driving experience of this car, the pricing isn’t going to break the bank and it’s got just about everything I like to have in a road-going ride.
Sure some things are missing but every car is going to be an exercise in compromise. With this one, it’s not about “settling” for what’s available; it’s an easy vehicle to like.
By Anne Proffit