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2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport (Review)

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This week at the Detroit Auto Show Honda took the wraps off its Urban SUV Concept, which previews a new small Fit-based crossover that will be smaller than the current Honda CR-V. The new small Honda crossover is one entry in a growing segment that also includes models like the Nissan Juke, Buick Encore and Mitsubishi Outlander Sport. These new small crossovers are perfect for an urban environment, but does their smaller footprint kill one of the reasons why people love crossovers: versatility? We took the keys to a 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport in Manhattan to find out just how usable a small crossover actually is.

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The Outlander Sport has been on sale in the US since the 2011 model year and is currently one of two crossovers in Mitsubishi's lineup. For the 2013 model year Mitsubishi gave the Outlander Sport a redesigned front fascia, a two-tone rear bumper design, standard 18-inch alloy wheels, new interior accents and fabric, a revised rear suspension and a recalibrated CVT. It's powered by a 2.0L four-cylinder engine with 148 horsepower and 145 lb-ft. of torque. The base ES front-wheel-drive Outlander Sport can be equipped with a five-speed manual, but all the other trim levels come standard with the CVT. The five-speed manual ES is rated at 24/30 mpg, while the all-wheel-drive SE is rated at 24/29 mpg.

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The 2013 Outlander Sport starts at $19,170 and is offered in ES and SE trims. Our Outlander Sport was the all-wheel-drive SE model with the navigation and premium packages. That means out the door our Outlander Sport SE had a sticker price of $28,570, but came with cool stuff like a 40 GB navigation system, rear view camera, panoramic sunroof and a 710-Watt, Rockford Fosgate audio system. Our first complaint was that a small crossover that costs $29k should have leather seats. Unfortunately leather seats are a $950 option.

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Mitsubishi offers two crossovers in its lineup, the Outlander and the smaller Outlander Sport. Compared to the larger Outlander, the Outlander Sport is about 14-inches shorter, but rides on an identical wheelbase. So although the space between the wheels is identical for both crossovers, the 14-inch cut largely comes from the cargo area. The Outlander Sport has up to 21.7 cu. ft. of space behind its rear seat, which compares to up to 39.5 cu. ft. behind the 2nd row seat (the Outlander is available with a 3rd row) in the larger Outlander. The Outlander Sport's cargo space does align with other models in its class, like the Nissan Juke with its 26.6 cu. ft.

Given the Outlander Sport's smaller size we were skeptical that it would be an SUV that would actually be usable. Luckily for our sake we were wrong. During the few days that we had the Outlander Sport we also scheduled a move to a new headquarters in Manhattan. The Outlander Sport wasn't supposed to help with the move, but when our scheduled movers decided to do a "no show" the Outlander Sport came to the rescue.

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The Outlander Sport was able to swallow all of our large boxes and even some furniture and computer equipment. Of course it took two trips to move everything, but its small exterior also came in handy when trying to navigate the narrow streets in Manhattan and even better when it came time to parallel park it.

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Ok we managed to prove that the Outlander Sport is the perfect size for the city with its usable cargo area and room to fit up to five passengers comfortably. But how does it drive? The Outlander Sport's size is one of its major selling points, but is a bit let down by its powertrain. The 2.0L four-cylinder is merely adequate. It packed enough power to get around town and to accelerate on the FDR, but its sounds were far from refined and even though the CVT has been "recalibrated" it's still not going to convert you into a CVT fan. It's steering was also a little vague and the Outlander Sport's suspension was far from sporty.

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Even though the Outlander Sport's driving impressions were merely acceptable, where the Outlander Sport shines is its low starting price ($19,120), which is $1k lower than the Nissan Juke and its available features and tidy dimensions, which make it a great alternative to a less off-road friendly hatchback.

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