2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2.4 SEL AWC Review - Cheap and Value Aren't the Same Thing

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
Fast Facts

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SEL S-AWC

2.4-liter four-cylinder (168 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 167 lb-ft @ 4,100 rpm)
CVT, all-wheel drive
23 city / 28 highway / 25 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
10.3 city, 8.3 highway, 9.4 combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price
$25,895 (U.S) / $30,598 (Canada)
As Tested
$28,170 (U.S.) / $32,798 (Canada)
Prices include $940 destination charge in the United States and $1,800 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can't be directly compared.

There are some vehicles on the market that offer bargain pricing without punishing their buyers.

The Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2.4 SEL AWC isn’t one of those.

Mitsubishi has seemingly been in “barely getting by mode” for years now, and the Outlander gives a clue as to why.

Here’s a hint: Quality matters. On paper, the Outlander Sport 2.4 SEL AWC looks like it may actually offer a value proposition over other small crossovers, but that old cliché about getting what you pay for applies here. Arguably, you end up paying too much, anyway.

I loathe to be overly critical of fit and finish issues on any press loaner since the sample size is obviously a number of one, but when the driver’s seat rocks back and forth as you shift positions, as mine did the entire time I had it, well, that’s worth remarking upon.

[Get new and used Mitsubishi Outlander pricing here!]

So, too, is the fact that the radio just up and quit and required a re-fire of the engine while stopped at a light to work again.

These quality gremlins are too bad, because the Outlander isn’t as terrible in other regards as one might expect. Vehicles built by a struggling brand often become the victims of much side-eye, but the Outlander actually could be something worth driving if you weren’t worried about things breaking.

It’s not fast – the 2.4-liter four-cylinder only offers up 168 horsepower and 167 lb-ft of torque, saddled with all-wheel drive. But Mitsubishi has dialed a bit of personality into the steering and handling, and the ride was compliant enough around town. It may feel a bit low-rent, but the Outlander is pleasant enough to drive.

So, there’s a little bit of “sport.” That’s not enough to overcome concerns about build quality. What about the feature list?

Standard features include heated front seats, leather seats, fog lights, tilt/telescope steering wheel, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, satellite radion, 7-inch infotainment screen, Bluetooth, and dual USBs, automatic climate control, and cruise control. A $2,000 Touring Package adds forward-collision mitigation, lane-departure warning, automatic high beams, premium audio, and a panoramic glass roof.

It all adds up to just a tick under $30K. The features list is pretty on par for the class, and so is the pricing – you aren’t saving a huge chunk of change over most of the competition. You are saving some money, though – enough that it might make a difference for stretched budgets. However, if the build quality leads to repair costs down the line, after the warranty is up, is it worth it?

Maybe it’s a risk worth taking if the interior design wasn’t so darn unremarkable. Mitsubishi offers up big “tiled” app buttons in its touch screen, but unlike similar designs (such as what’s seen with Honda), it looks a little cheap and cheesy. The rest of the inside offers up old-fashioned buttons and knobs that are easy to use but look a bit outdated. Perhaps the biggest drawback is that the interior shapes are a little too simplistic – the center stack and other areas lack character. It’s nice to have simple buttons and knobs, but there are ways to keep them and still give the design pizzazz. The Outlander Sport doesn’t have that balance.

The exterior remains an odd exercise in angles, with a truncated front end and unimaginative styling aft of the A-pillar. It’s not the ugliest ride on the road and, stump snout aside, the side profile is perfectly pleasant. The weird mashup of taillight/turn signal/back-up light does mar the view of the rear.

Value often requires compromise, and the Outlander is not an exception. Except the compromise here isn’t in features or even performance. It’s in materials, design, and build quality.

Like I said above, I don’t like to harp too much on the build quality of a press loan because a sample size of one is statistically useless. But a rocking seat and disappearing radio are cause for concern, especially when we’re discussing a brand that’s fighting for survival. Context matters.

Maybe the Outlander you buy will be gremlin-free. But you’re still left with an underpowered four-banger and low-rent materials and design.

You really do get what you pay for.

[Images © 2018 Tim Healey/TTAC]

Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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2 of 53 comments
  • Akear Akear on Apr 25, 2018

    Here is yet another CUV that is better than the Ford Edge. The Edge scored last in a recent crash test. Soon Ford will cancel their decent passenger cars for unsafe and poorly designed SUVs. Even Mitsubishi will be better than Ford. What a disgrace!!!!!

  • Ponchoman49 Ponchoman49 on May 02, 2018

    My co-worker has this exact vehicle in orange but of 2017 model year. It has been far from trouble free and has required numerous visits to the service department to fix SEL lights, malfunctioning bluetooth, a quirky radio, a failed wheel bearing at only 40K miles and now he says it has a bad clunk in the rear end. I have ridden it in several times and can agree it is very cheap inside and it's ride/handling and NVH feel almost last century. I'm not even going to talk about the steering....

  • 28-Cars-Later "Here's why" edition_cnn_com/2018/06/13/health/falling-iq-scores-study-intl/index.html
  • 28-Cars-Later Seriously, $85. GM Delta I is burning hot garbage to the point where the 1990 Saturn Z-body is leagues better. My mother inherited an '07 Ion with 30Kish otc which was destroyed in 2014 by a tipsy driver with a suspended license (driver's license enforcement is a joke in Pennsyltucky). Insurance paid out $6,400 when it was only worth about $5,800 IIRC, but sure 10 year later the "hipo" Delta I can fetch how much?
  • Buickman styling does not overcome powertrain, follow the money. labor/materials.
  • VoGhost It's funny, until CDK raises their prices to cover the cost. And then the stealerships do even more stealing because they're certainly not taking the hit - why do you think they make all those political donations? So who pays in the end?
  • VoGhost I was talking today to a guy who pulled up in an '86 Camry. Said it ran like a top, got 30 mpg, the AC was ice cold and everywhere he goes, people ask to buy it. He seemed happy.