The four-cylinder engine gains a new balancer shaft to reduce vibration, while additional sound insulation has been added to help reduce road and engine noise. Base ES models get a new audio system, while the SE trim gains a new 6.1-inch touchscreen radio with a rearview camera and HD Radio. A new SE Premium package also throws in a nine-speaker Rockford Fosgate surround-sound system...
We don't blame Mitsubishi for stretching the Outlander into a larger, mid-size crossover, especially after discontinuing the Endeavor SUV in 2011. But as the Outlander grew, it left behind a sizable gap in Mitsubishi's portfolio. The Outlander Sport, which debuted that same year, fills that hole, giving Mitsubishi a toehold in the compact-crossover segment. Although it shares a name with the larger Outlander, the Outlander Sport is more than a foot shorter and seats only five. It also looks and feels much like a Lancer Sportback on stilts -- fitting, considering that the Outlander Sport shares its platform, powertrains, and some interior bits with Mitsubishi's compact-car range. The Outlander Sport was mildly refreshed in 2013 to incorporate a slight face-lift and new interior materials, while production was shifted from Japan to Mitsubishi's assembly plant in Normal, Illinois.
It's too bad that Mitsubishi couldn't name its compact crossover the Outlander Short, as it's a little more appropriate than calling it the Outlander Sport. Sure, the 2014 Outlander Sport might look taut and racy -- and perhaps even evoke some images of the rally-bred Lancer Evolution -- but from behind the wheel, the 2014 Outlander Sport doesn't necessarily feel all that sporty.
Front- and all-wheel-drive 2014 Outlander Sport models are equipped with a 148-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Despite the compact crossover tipping the scales at a fairly slender 3200 pounds or so, we've found that acceleration is best described as adequate, especially when paired with the optional continuously variable automatic transmission. A five-speed manual gearbox, available on the base ES trim level, allows the Outlander Sport to feel a little zippier, but the stick isn't available in conjunction with all-wheel drive. Interestingly, the all-wheel-drive system allows drivers to manually lock the driveline into four-wheel drive, a feature few small crossovers offer today.
The 2014 Outlander Sport behaves well on-road and returns decent fuel economy. Front-wheel-drive models with the CVT are rated at 24 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway; add all-wheel drive and the highway figure falls to 29 mpg. Tick the right boxes and the 2014 Outlander Sport can be equipped with some rather impressive equipment. Eighteen-inch aluminum wheels are standard, as is cruise control, keyless entry, and a USB audio input. Upscale SE models add HID headlamps, keyless entry and ignition, and satellite radio, and they can even be equipped with a panoramic glass roof and navigation.
Sadly, the 2014 Outlander Sport comes up short in terms of refinement. Despite reworking some interior materials for the 2013 model year, many of the interior plastics are hard and cheap looking. We also aren't fans of the available touchscreen audio and navigation systems, whose clunky interfaces remind us of aftermarket radios from a decade prior.
Given that Mitsubishi helped blaze the SUV trail in the late 1980s and early 1990s with its Montero, it's somewhat surprising that the company has been rather slow to belly up to the compact-crossover bar. The 2014 Outlander Sport may be a competent offering, but as a slew of competitors continue to launch increasingly sophisticated rivals in the same price range, Mitsubishi may find itself outpaced in a segment it once helped popularize.
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