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2012 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport was new.


Performance: 7.5

The 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport’s name gives the impression that it’s one of the most fun-to-drive SUVs in the class, but that’s not that case. With significant body roll, a loud continuously variable transmission and imprecise steering, reviewers say the Outlander Sport is far from fast and refined. Although the press gripes about the Outlander Sport’s underpowered engine, they do love its high fuel economy ratings.

  • "The engine is always heard, and it sounds somewhat coarse during full-throttle acceleration. The CVT doesn't help here as it can allow engine speed to race ahead of road speed." -- Consumer Guide
  • “On the road, this engine is buzzy. And for all that noise there isn't much punch from this 2.0-liter four-cylinder, but it seems to do well on fuel." -- AutoWeek
  • "Even with the Sport’s lower curb weight, 148 hp is not enough to generate anything approximating face-distorting acceleration." -- Car and Driver

Acceleration and Power

Test drivers hoped the Outlander Sport’s small frame would make this compact SUV more fun to drive than its competitors, but that isn’t the case. They found the Outlander Sport’s 2.0-liter, 148-horsepower inline four-cylinder engine to be sluggish, especially when passing and merging. The standard five-speed manual transmission does make the Outlander Sport a little sportier than the optional continuously variable transmission.

One reason why reviewers dislike the Outlander Sport’s performance so much is because the CVT is loud and unrefined. Although its performance is poor, the CVT does help the Outlander Sport achieve some of the highest fuel economy ratings in the class. According to the EPA, the Outlander Sport gets up to 25/31 mpg city/highway with the CVT. Those numbers drop to 24/31mpg with the five-speed manual transmission. Four-wheel drive is also available, and with it, the Outlander Sport gets 23/28 mpg.   

  • "With either transmission, the engine tends to run out of steam at high speeds prompting a deep stab of the accelerator pedal or a downshift to summon the meager passing reserves. CVT-equipped models can be shifted manually via steering-wheel paddles or console lever, and this helps somewhat.” -- Consumer Guide
  • "A five-speed manual transmission is standard on base models and with its good clutch feel and decent throws it makes the Outlander Sport more fun to drive." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "Even with the Sport’s lower curb weight, 148 hp is not enough to generate anything approximating face-distorting acceleration." -- Car and Driver
  • "We floored it as we attempted to pass other cars on the highway, which only resulted in moderate acceleration and a horrible straining sound from the engine compartment." -- CNET

Handling and Braking

Opinions of the Outlander Sport’s handling and braking capabilities vary widely. A few reviewers say the Sport’s steering is firm and that its ability to hug corners makes it great for the city, but other test drivers think steering is numb and complain that there’s too much body roll. As for its braking abilities, some reviewers say the Outlander Sport’s brakes are strong, while others think the brakes react slowly to driver inputs. 

  • "Steering is a tad numb with little on-center feel at low speed, but it firms up impressively at higher speeds. Sharp turns can induce some body lean, but this SUV is well composed otherwise. Brakes are strong with good pedal feel. During a simulated panic stop, editors noticed some rear-wheel lock-up over choppy pavement despite the presence of ABS." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Body roll is definitely apparent, but the steering is decent." -- Automobile Magazine 
  • "The brakes are also not as responsive as I would have thought. I found myself having to really push on them to get an instant reaction in rush-hour traffic when a gradual approach wasn't cutting it." -- AutoWeek 
  • "The Mitsu's tight turning circle also pays off on its promise of performing as a handy urban runabout." -- Edmunds

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