2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport lacks engine power, cargo room

The 2013 Outlander Sport's looks straddle the line The 2013 Outlander Sport's looks straddle the line between rugged and sleek. Its styling is leaps and bounds ahead of its bigger seven-passenger Outlander sibling. Photo Credit: Cars.com / Mitsubishi

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First introduced for the 2011 model year, the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport has yet to measure up to its competition -- Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and Hyundai Tucson.

Although the 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport looks good and has a low starting price, it failed to win me over because of its underpowered engine and small cargo area.

During my test drive I couldn't get over how noisy the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine seemed and how cheap it felt when driving it. It was underpowered, and even though my test car had a five-speed manual transmission, I never could find any pep in it. It did handle well, but I would've preferred more power.

My test car was a base model Mitsubishi Outlander Sport ES with front-wheel drive and sticker price of $19,995, including an $825 destination charge. The SE trim has a starting price of $23,120, and the top-level LE trim begins at $24,320.

EXTERIOR

The Outlander Sport's looks straddle the line between rugged and sleek. Its styling is leaps and bounds ahead of its bigger seven-passenger Outlander sibling.

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With its low step-in height, it's not troublesome to get in and out of this five-seater. Of course, toddlers will need a boost to get in, but most kids and adults will have no problems. Its height makes loading kids into their child-safety seats easy, and the roofline was high enough to keep me from worrying about hitting my head as I got my daughter strapped in to her car seat.

The biggest disappointment was the Outlander Sport's small cargo area. With the second row in use, the Outlander Sport's cargo area is 21.7 cubic feet; it grows to 49.5 cubic feet with the second row folded. That size is on par with hatchbacks, not compact crossovers. The Ford Escape has a 37.2-cubic-foot cargo area with the rear seats up and 67.8 cubic feet with the second-row seats folded. Its compact hatchback sibling, the Ford Focus, has cargo area numbers that are closer to the Outlander Sport's dimensions at 23.8 and 44.8 cubic feet. The Hyundai Tucson, a crossover, has a cargo area that measures 25.7 with the second row up and 55.8 with the seats folded. The Hyundai Elantra GT hatch has 23.0 cubic feet of space behind the second row and 51.0 with the backseat folded.

When I had my stroller in the cargo area, there wasn't room for anything else. It's safe to say that a double-stroller is out of the question. I managed a grocery store trip just fine in the Outlander Sport, but I don't consider that a major feat for a vehicle in this segment.

The Outlander Sport has a standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine making 148 horsepower and paired to a five-speed manual transmission or continuously variable automatic transmission. The Outlander Sport with front-wheel drive and a manual transmission gets an EPA-estimated 24/30 mpg city/highway. Highway mileage increases to 31 mpg with the CVT. I averaged closer to 21 mpg with my week of city driving. The Outlander Sport requires regular unleaded gasoline.

SENSE AND STYLE

Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): More than Fair/Less than Great

Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Some

INTERIOR

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Though my test car was a base model, it didn't look cheap on the inside. It had a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob as well as a soft-touch, low-gloss dash that looked expensive, which was a surprise considering the 2013 Outlander Sport's price point.

I was happy to find Bluetooth streaming audio on my base model, but in practice it was dodgy and unreliable. I was also disappointed to find that Mitsubishi's Fuse multimedia system wasn't compatible with my iPhone 4S; I couldn't browse my music library to select songs or albums during my drive. When you've got an impatient toddler screaming for more Johnny Cash during rush hour, it puts a damper on the commute.

With an average number of cupholders -- two in front, two in back -- and a small center console, there wasn't nearly enough storage in this crossover. I especially missed rear door pockets; I stash my daughter's books and toys in them all the time and rely on them to keep the backseat clean and orderly (yes, I'm one of those moms).

The Outlander Sport can seat five passengers, but it'd be a tight squeeze. The backseat is really meant for two passengers or two child-safety seats. My husband, sitting in the front passenger seat, had plenty of legroom even with my daughter's forward-facing convertible installed behind him.

IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT

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Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair

Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair

SAFETY

The 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport has been named a Top Safety Pick, the second highest designation, by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It received the top score of Good in front, side, rear and roof-strength crash tests. To receive the highest designation of Top Safety Pick+, it must earn a score of Good in the small overlap front crash test. The Outlander Sport hasn't undergone this test yet. It also received an overall safety score of four stars of five from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Car seat installation went smoothly in the Outlander Sport. The two sets of lower Latch anchors are easily accessible because they jut out from the seat bight, where the back and bottom cushions meet. My daughter's convertible car seat fit easily in the Outlander Sport. Find out how this crossover performed in Cars.com's Car Seat Check.

The 2013 Outlander Sport has standard front-wheel drive, four-wheel-disc antilock brakes with brake assist, hill start assist, an electronic stability system with traction control, active head restraints and seven airbags, including side curtains and a driver knee airbag. Optional features are all-wheel drive, high-intensity-discharge headlights, a backup camera, and front and rear parking sensors.

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