It's no secret that underfunded Mitsubishi is struggling to bring new models to the market. So they deserve credit for updated their Outlander crossover just two years after redesigning it. The 2016 version features standard alloy wheels, new front and rear end styling, a revised navigation interface, an easier folding second row of seats, and a new midgrade SEL trim level that should boost sales.
Mitsubishi considers the Outlander a compact, although it is a little bigger than some. But it is one of the few compact or midsize crossovers that comes standard with a third row of seats, which is why making the second ones easier to fold forward is a big deal. As expected, the third seating row is cramped, but at least it's easier to reach now.
The Outlander is also one of the few compact crossovers that still offers a choice of a four or six cylinder engines. The base 2.4-liter inline four provides reasonable acceleration and decent mileage. The 3.0-liter V6, which is only available in the GT version, increases performance at the expensive of mileage. It comes with paddle shifters for more fun.
Both engines are available with excellent Mitsubishi's excellent Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC) system, which offers four all-wheel-drive modes: Eco, Normal, Sport and Lock, which is when the center differential is locked for maximum traction.
The new front end includes a spindle-style grill that resembles those on current Lexus models and a rear end with more sharp angles than before. They fit the lines on the body well, giving the new Outlander a more contemporary look than the 2015 model, even though the changes are relatively modest.
Our test Outlander was the new SEL version, which came with a wealth of desirable features at a reasonable price. The 2.4-liter engine was surprisingly responsive in the Eco mode and fairly aggressive in the Sport mode, even though it was mated to a Continuously Variable Transmission. The S-AWC system gave confidence in the rain that dominated our weekly test drive, and the SEL's standard leather interior was attractive and comfortable. A Touring package added an upgraded navigation system and 9-speaker Rockford Fosgate stereo system that made commuting more enjoyable.
Given all that, the $33,095 list price seems a good deal, certainly in line with similarly-equipped competitors. That's especially true, considering Mitsubishi's 10-year, 100,000-mile power train limited warranty.
On the road, the 2016 Outlander SEL felt nimble yet assured, with about the same amount of road noise of most other compact crossovers. The CVT was responsive but growled a little under heavy acceleration, which is typical of them.
While the Outlander may not be the most refined compact crossover on the market, it was fairly entertaining to drive and returned close to the EPA estimated average 26 miles per gallon on trips with any amount of freeway driving.
Compact crossovers are among the most popular vehicles these days, and the competition is stiff, with companies introducing new and revised models every year. Mitsubishi was smart to update the Outlander for 2016, and buyers should not overlook it when doing their research, taking test drives and deciding what to buy. The small but scrappy Japanese company might surprise you.
2016 Mitsubishi Outlander
Base price: $22,995
Price as tested: $33,095
Type: Compact crossover
Engine: 2.4-liter 4 (166 hp, 162 lbs-ft); 3.0-liter V6 (224 hp, 215 lbs-ft)
Transmissions: 6-speed automatic; Continuously Variable Transmission
EPA estimated mileage: 24/29 (as tested)
Overall length: 184.8 inches
Curb weight: 3,318 to 3,593 pounds
Final assembly: Okazaki, Japan