A veteran by today's standards, the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport was one of the first compact crossovers when it debuted in 2011. Since then it has carried on with little change, until now. For 2020, the Outlander Sport gets a freshened exterior, revised interior featuring a larger touchscreen and additional standard features. Outlander Sport is available only as a 5-passenger, 4-door wagon and comes with front- or all-wheel drive. Competitors include the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Honda CV-4, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue Sport, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV-4, Volkswagen Tiguan and Mitsubishi's own Eclipse Cross, which shares under-the-skin components with Outlander Sport.
Outlander Sport is available in five trim levels: ES, SP, SE, BE and GT. All but the GT get a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 148-horsepower. The GT gets a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder that makes 168 horsepower. Regardless of engine, sole transmission is a continuously variable automatic (CVT). Front-drive is standard across the board with all-wheel drive available line wide. Towing capacity ranges from 1,500 to 3,500 pounds, depending on engine and equipment level.
Prices start at a $22,595 and climb to more than $26,895. Forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, automatic high beams and blind-spot warning with lane-change assist and rear cross-traffic alert are standard on SE and above, but not offered on ES or SP. Interior changes for 2020 include a larger available touchscreen on ES and above and Android Auto and Apple Car Play support. Also included on all models is Mitsubishi's impressive 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty.
On paper, Outlander Sport's base 2.0-liter engine is woefully underpowered when compared to others in the segment. In reality, the engine provides adequate acceleration for most purposes. It's a bit slow off the line as the CVT automatic gets the engine into its powerband. Add a few passengers and you'll be wishing you had upgraded to the GT model and its larger engine. Still no powerhouse, the GT does provide more oomph without much of a fuel-economy penalty. It's a solid reason to consider only the GT if you are shopping for Outlander Sport.
Speaking of fuel economy, front-drive models with the 2.0-liter engine are EPA rated at 24 MPG city, 30 MPG highway. All-wheel-drive GT models with the larger engine net 23/28 MPG ratings. As you can see there isn't much difference. In typical suburban commuting expect to average about 25 MPG overall, if you throw in some gentle highway cruising perhaps as high as 28 MPG. Both engines run fine on regular-grade gasoline. Note that front-drive models get a 16.6-gallon fuel tank, while all-wheel-drive models get a 15.8-gallon tank.
Outlander Sport's all-wheel-drive system does not have a low range and is not intended for extreme off-road use. It does have an activation switch though, allowing all-wheel drive models to operate in front-drive mode when the pavement is clear to improve fuel economy.
On the road, Outlander Sport offers a comfortable, if somewhat uncontrolled ride. There's good bump absorption on all models, but, unless you opt for the GT, the ride wallows on broken roads and pitches severely in quick maneuvers. Sloppy steering response and spongy brakes don't help the situation either. Again, the GT is your best bet as it provides a comfortable ride and reasonable road manners.
All models groan in hard acceleration, but settle down once up to speed. Wind and road noise are minimal, making the Outlander Sport one of the quieter compact crossover cruisers.
Though the interior gets a much-needed freshening for 2020, there's still a bargain-basement feel to all but the GT, which adds the larger infotainment screen, some brightwork and red stitching on the cloth seats. The dash layout is refreshingly simple with large and easy-to-read gauges, simple dials for the radio and climate control and well-placed switchgear.
The infotainment system supports Android Auto and Apple Car Play on all but base ES trim and the 8-0-inch touchscreen on SP and higher trims is a nice touch. Front seats are actually quite comfortable, if a bit on the narrow side. Head and leg room are good as well and the standard tilt/telescope steering wheel makes it easy for most drivers to get comfortable. Outward visibility is good as well, thanks to thin roof pillars, a tall greenhouse and large rear window.
The back seat is adequate for two adults as long as the front seats aren't pushed all the way back. In this case, the Outlander Sport, which is really compact in size falls short of even some subcompact crossovers. There's decent width for three, but the center console intrudes on leg room, making two the practical limit.
With just 21.7 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, the Outlander Sport can't match compact competitors, but offers a bit more space than most subcompacts. Fold the 60/40-split rear seats and cargo capacity grows to a reasonable 50 cubic feet. A relatively deep center console highlights otherwise lackluster interior storage. Unfortunately, there are no door pockets for rear-seat passengers.
Bottom Line - Despite significant improvements for 2020, Outlander Sport still lags behind competitors in driving dynamics and overall refinement. Still, Outlander Sport succeeds because of its low point of entry and fairly comprehensive standard equipment list. It is unfortunate that most safety equipment is only offered on top trim levels. However, the GT really makes the most sense because of the larger engine and additional interior upgrades.