2020 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport red driving

2020 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport Road Test and Review

Mitsubishi has promised that every single one of its cars and crossovers will be “either all-new or significantly refreshed” in the next 18 months. And the extensive updating of the Japanese brand’s lineup has begun with the 2020 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, the brand’s least expensive SUV. This year the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport isn’t all-new, but it does receive a significant refresh. Changes include a new exterior design, an updated interior, more in-cabin and safety technology, and — unfortunately — a higher base price. Its engines are unchanged, as are its suspension and available all-wheel drive system. Built in Japan, the 2020 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport isn’t as sporty as its name applies, but its performance is on par with many of its rivals. It competes in the fast-growing subcompact SUV class against a long list of stylish, fun-to-drive, and fuel-efficient crossovers, including the Chevrolet Trax, Ford EcoSport, Honda HR-V, Toyota C-HR, Nissan Rogue Sport, Kia Soul, Hyundai Kona, and Mazda CX-3.

  1. Five Trim Levels and Two Engines to Choose From
  2. New, More Modern Styling
  3. Comfortable Interior
  4. Solid Space and In-Cabin Tech
  5. Plenty of Storage and Cargo Space
  6. Sporty Driving Dynamics
  7. Good Fuel Economy
  8. Advanced Safety Technology
  9. Final Thoughts
Five Trim Levels and Two Engines to Choose From

Five Trim Levels and Two Engines to Choose From

Four trim levels are available on the 2020 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport: ES, SP, SE, and GT. Prices start at $23,690, including a $1,095 destination charge, for the Outlander Sport ES with front-wheel drive. That’s just $400 less than the similarly sized and sportier Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross. The better-equipped SP and SE trim levels, cost about $1,000 more, while a GT, like our test vehicle, has a base price just over $26,500. Each is available with standard front-wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive for an additional $1,500. Most Outlander Sport models are powered by a smooth and fuel-efficient 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 148 horsepower. The GT, however, is the muscle car of the pack. Under its hood is a 168-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder. Neither of these engines is turbocharged, which is getting more and more common in this class. Even Mitsu’s own Eclipse Cross has a turbocharged 1.5-liter engine, but its 152 hp isn’t much of an advantage over the Outlander Sport’s base engine. Every Outlander Sport gets a continuously variable automatic transmission, or CVT.

New, More Modern Styling

New, More Modern Styling

Mitsubishi has given the 2020 Outlander Sport a new more modern look, and it’s a huge improvement over the previous design. The company says this new design direction will soon be shared across all of its products. All trim levels get a completely new front end with LED headlight and a clamshell hood that is contemporary and ruggedly upscale. The new rear bumper and T-shaped taillights also look better. Although the vehicle's dimensions, doors, roof, and rear fenders are unchanged, Mitsubishi has been able to give the Outlander Sport a visual freshness and more appeal. All of the previous frumpiness is gone, and its new front fender vents are better integrated into the design. They no longer look like a glue-on accessory from Pep Boys. At the same time, the little SUV's flanks haven’t lost their muscularity. The fender bulges are still there, and they give the crossover a youthful, alert stance on its standard 18-inch wheels and tires.

Comfortable Interior

Comfortable Interior

Inside the changes aren’t as radical, but the interior of our all-wheel drive Outlander Sport GT test vehicle was comfortable, well laid out, and attractive. Its heated front seats were firm and supportive, and its driver’s seat was height adjustable, which can be especially important for shorter drivers. Our test car also featured a tilt and telescopic steering wheel, which made it easy to find the perfect driving position. All the controls are well placed and function well. The chrome trim on many controls, including the SUV’s engine start/stop button, added an upscale feel, and the piano black trim looked rich, although it scratches easily. The gauges are clean and attractive and feature cool blue lighting at night. The gated shifter for the transmission is also a cool, sporty touch, and there are paddle shifters for additional control. We also appreciated the simple three-knob climate controls and its large knobs for the volume and tuning of its audio system. Too many cars today are eliminating these knobs, and it’s an ergonomic mistake. The Outlander Sport’s overall outward visibility is also excellent and its side mirrors are large and well-placed.

Solid Space and In-Cabin Tech

Solid Space and In-Cabin Tech

Up on the dash of most models is an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen, which is easy to use. The infotainment system is simple to operate with large, clean graphics and clear prompts, and there are two front USB ports. Its navigation system is easy to program and the screen is easily reached. The system is compatible with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto compatible, though Wi-Fi and wireless phone charging are not offered. The sound quality from the six-speaker audio system was also disappointing.  Although the larger Mitsubishi Outlander has three rows of seats, the Outlander Sport only has two. Two adults fit comfortably in the rear, but it can fit three if the ride is short. Headroom is abundant, but legroom is a bit tight.

Plenty of Storage and Cargo Space

Plenty of Storage and Cargo Space

Despite its small size, the 2020 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport offers an impressive amount of cargo space. The SUV has 21.7 cubic feet of space behind its back seat. That’s about average for this class. Every Outlander Sport comes standard with a 60/40 split-folding second row, which easily folds flat to expand that space again to 49.5 cubic feet. Surprisingly, however, a power liftgate isn’t available. There’s also sufficient storage inside the Outlander Sport’s passenger area. Its console bin isn’t huge, but it’s deep and its door pockets are sizable and have slots for water bottles. The two front cupholders are large, but they’re behind the shifter, so very tall drinks can interfere with your elbow. The two rear cupholders are smaller and housed in a center fold-down armrest.

Sporty Driving Dynamics

Sporty Driving Dynamics

Mitsubishi may be best known for turbocharged high-performance models like the Eclipse and Evo — sport compact cars that appeared in the "Fast and Furious" movies with Paul Walker behind the wheel. The 2020 Outlander Sport can’t keep up with those hot rods, but it’s sporty enough for most buyers and its overall performance is about average for this class. The Outlander’s ride is comfortable, and its handling is sporty with quick steering, good balance, and ample grip. With 168 horsepower, the Outlander Sport GT is also lively enough, but it isn’t going to thrill you. The SUV accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in about 7.9 seconds, making it one of the quickest SUVs its size. It easily outruns many rivals, including the Mazda CX-3, Ford EcoSport, and Toyota C-HR. The Mitsubishi's CVT automatic transmission is a bit lazy, but it’s well geared and it’s fun to choose your own gears manually with its paddle shifters. For normal dry everyday driving, the all-wheel drive system offers a setting that allows the Outlander Sport to operate as a front-wheel drive vehicle to maximize fuel economy. There’s also a Lock setting, which distributes 60 percent of the available power to the rear wheels for sportier handling.

Good Fuel Economy

Good Fuel Economy

Most buying a small SUV prioritize good fuel economy over neck-snapping acceleration. With the 2.4-liter engine, the Outlander Sport GT is rated at 23 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. We averaged 25 mpg during a week of mixed driving around Los Angeles, and 28 mpg on a 250-mile all-highway road trip.  The less powerful models are more fuel-efficient. With front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive and the 2.0-liter engine, the Outlander Sport is rated at 24 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. For comparison, the Honda HR-V, which has 141 hp, is rated 28 mpg city and 34 mpg highway with front-wheel drive, though it doesn’t accelerate as quickly as the Mitsubishi.

Advanced Safety Technology

Advanced Safety Technology

Both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have crash-tested the 2020 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport and its scores are good, but not great. NHTSA awarded it four out of five stars, but most vehicles in this class have been awarded the top rating. The SUV also scored the best possible Good in most crash tests performed by the IIHS, with the exception of its challenging small-overlap frontal-impact test, in which it scored the second-highest Acceptable. Most Outlander Sport models come with standard forward collision mitigation with pedestrian detection, a lane-departure warning, automatic high beams, and blind-spot monitoring with lane-change assistance and a rear cross-traffic alert. An adaptive cruise control system that can automatically keep a safe distance behind other vehicles isn’t offered.

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

Although the 2020 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport costs $1,550 more than it did last year, its price increase isn’t radically out of line. The little SUV’s new look is a huge improvement and it comes with one of the longest warranties in the class: a 5-year/60,000-mile limited vehicle warranty and a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. Since the bulk of the Mitsubishi’s chassis dates back to 2011, its refinement lags behind some more modern competitors, but the Outlander Sport is comfortable and quite versatile, plus it’s quicker than many of its rivals. The Outlander Sport ES may be the cheapest, but we recommend stepping up to the SE model for another $1,000. You’ll appreciate the additional features over time, including the additional safety systems, a larger 8-inch touchscreen, heated front seats, push-button start, and leather-wrapped steering wheel.