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Just in: 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander faces tough SUV competition

Consumer Reports News
Just in: 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander faces tough SUV competition

Sometimes it's easy to think that the entire Mitsubishi lineup has been covered by a cloaking device. The invisible product range barely makes a ripple when it comes to sales numbers and none come close to topping our Ratings. Can the Mitsubishi Outlander standout in its competitive class? We're about to find out.

Mitsubishi has struggled in recent years with mediocre product and weak sales. Our test results tell the tale:

  • The Lancer compact sedan delivers only 25 mpg overall and is a decidedly lackluster performer.
  • The Lancer Evo, wicked quick and agile, but almost too noisy and uncomfortable to be livable
  • The Outlander Sport isn't that sporty at all, has only adequate acceleration and a choppy ride.
  • The small i-MiEV electric car is slow, clumsy, and only goes about 56 miles on a charge. Plus, it costs about $30,000 before tax credits.

Translation: This stealthy company is so close to disappearing, you could blink your eye and it could be gone.

Which leads us to the Outlander.

The pressure is on for this redesigned SUV to deliver. On paper, it has a few notable sales points, such as a class-exclusive standard third-row seat and promised improved fuel economy. Perhaps the big news for the new Outlander is the availability of a lane-departure warning system, adaptive cruise control, and forward-collision warning. These features are often available on high-end trim levels, typically push the price north of $30,000. But the question remains, is the Outlander ready to compete with the best of the small SUVs, such as the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Subaru Forester, and Toyota RAV4?

To keep within the popular price range, we bought a mid-level AWD SE model and added the Towing and Cargo Packages. Grand total: $27,180. Standard equipment includes a 166-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, CVT, rear-view camera, and heated front seats.

The last Outlander we tested had agile handling, a decent ride and generous rear-seat and cargo room. The four-cylinder engine returned 22 mpg—about on-par for the class.

But the aforementioned small SUV group is a competitive bunch that continues to evolve; it will take a heady performance to knock the best off their perch.

So will this Outlander breathe some new life into Mitsubishi's seemingly dormant product line? Testing is underway, and we will soon see if the improvements for 2014 help raise the bar.

—Mike Quincy

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