Updated Outlander Sport still roomy and efficient

Next month the completely redesigned 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander compact crossover arrives at dealerships. Meanwhile, there’s the 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport to consider.

Now in its third year of production, for 2013 the Outlander Sport’s exterior has been modestly updated, including a new grille and redesigned front fascia, new rear bumper, and black side sills (to match the lower sections of the new front and rear bumpers). Inside, new seat fabric has been employed, front doors include chrome accents, there’s a center console push-button for the all-wheel-drive control, cabin noise is reduced by improved insulation material, and the premium audio system benefits from new speakers that are more powerful.

The rear multi-link suspension has been tweaked to improve ride and handling, and drivers should notice better feel in the electric power steering system thanks to some tweaking there, too. The continuously variable transmission (CVT) has been recalibrated for better acceleration and smoother shifting.

The Outlander Sport is a foot shorter than the regular Outlander, and has five seats instead of the Outlander’s seven. Rear-seat riders in the Sport are given ample legroom, and even with rear seats in the upright position, the rear cargo area is surprisingly large.

Three trim levels are offered: ES, SE, and LE, all available with front-wheel-drive or all-wheel drive. Base pricing ranges from $19,170 to $24,895.

Propulsion for all models is provided by a 148-horsepower inline four-cylinder engine, paired with a five-speed manual transmission on the ES with 2WD, and a CVT Sportronic on all other versions. Acceleration can’t be called outstanding, but it’s far from pathetic. Outlander Sport’s performance will likely be less of a buyer attractant than its frugal use of fuel: 25 mpg city and 31 mpg highway with 2WD, and 24/29 with AWD.

All models come standard with paddle shifters, auxiliary audio controls on the steering wheel, and Mitsubishi’s FUSE Handsfree Link system with a USB port that allows voice operation of the audio system, a cellphone or iPod.

Additional standard features on my tester, an SE with AWD, include heated front seats, heated outside mirrors, rain-sensing windshield wipers, satellite radio and a slide-adjustable center armrest.

Also standard on the SE and worthy of separate mention are super-wide-range HID headlights and halogen foglights, much appreciated by me and anyone else who regularly drives the rural and mountain back roads of the Puget Sound region.

An optional Premium Package ($2,050) on the tester included a rear camera system, black roof rails, and a panoramic sunroof whose only weakness was a fixed (“unopenable”) glass panel. The package also substituted an epic-level 710-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system with nine speakers (including a 10-inch subwoofer) for the standard 140-watt, six-speaker system.

The tester’s other optional item ($2,000) was an uncomplicated, user-considerate navigation system that includes a rear camera system.

2013 MITSUBISHI OUTLANDER SPORT SE AWD

Base price, including destination charge: $24,520

Price as driven: $28,570

Mary Lowry is a free-lance automotive writer who has been reviewing cars for more than 20 years. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild and a board member of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturers as a one-week loan for review purposes only. In no way do the manufacturers control the content of the reviews.

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