Published April 9, 2011|Updated April 11, 2011

The new Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is a slightly smaller crossover than the Outlander that we reviewed last year. It's priced attractively, starting at $18,495, and packs a lot of features for the money. But that "Sport" label? It's more for looks than performance.

Appearance: The crossover is shorter than the regular Outlander by about 14 1/2 inches, which gives it a more sporty look. Up front, there's the aggressive front end with the sharklike Mitsu scowl trimmed in chrome and upswept headlights. The LED taillights are angled to complement the body's lines. The slightly flared fenders and door creases add to the stern look.

Performance: The 2.0-liter 4-cylinder (also in Mitsubishi's Lancer) produces 148 horsepower, which is enough to get around, but we wish the front-wheel drive crossover had a bit more power for the interstate. What we didn't like is the continuous variable transmission (CVT), which we found lagged slightly, especially under hard acceleration. Overall, the gearbox is steady, but not impressive, even in manual mode. The CVT is loud. It does have elongated magnesium paddle shifters, which are large and easy to grasp, but Peter didn't think they added anything to the performance. Our tester was the two-wheel-drive model; four-wheel drive is optional. What we did like: The estimated mpg is 25 in the city and 31 on the highway, which is good for a crossover. (There's an Eco Drive light to help you monitor how efficiently you're driving.) The electronic power steering was responsive and not too light, but we found the ride a bit stiff.

Interior: It won't wow you, but our tester - the middle SE trim - had lots of other little things you don't expect in this price range, such as keyless entry, push-button start, rain-sensing wipers and telescopic steering wheel. We found the controls on the center console basic and easy to use. For techies, there are all the required ports for USB, auxiliary and power, and Mitsubishi's FUSE hands-free voice-activated control system. The multi-color information display nestled between the driver's gauges is sharp and easy to read. Peter had adequate headroom in the small crossover. The seats, which have some unique bumpy textures, had plenty of support in the front, but were a little too firm in the rear. Because of the CVT, the cabin can be noisy.

* * *

Our 3 favorites

Peter Couture: 51, city driver, 6 feet tall, married with a teenager and a middle-schooler.

Wheels: Our SE trim comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, which add to the sporty appearance.

Color:Our bright Laguna Blue tester stood out.

Steering wheel: Tilt and telescopic are standard in all models.

Lyra Solochek: 45, highway commuter, 5 feet 1, married with a 7-year-old and a teenager.

Price: You get a lot of interior features for the money.

Mileage: The estimated mileage makes it a commuter option.

Lights:The HID headlights are wider and brighter than typical lamps.

* * *

2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE

Price: $18,495 base, $22,475 as tested

Powertrain: 2.0-liter DOHC MIVEC I-4, continuous variable transmission, 2WD

Horsepower: 148 at 6,000 rpm

Torque: 145 pound-feet at 4,200 rpm

Curb weight: 3,120 pounds

Dimensionsin inches: Wheelbase, 105.1Length, 169.1Width, 69.7

Fuel economy: 25 miles per gallon city, 31 mpg highway

Fuel type: Regular unleaded

Safety features: 7 air bags, active stability control, hill start assist, ABS, electronic brakeforce distribution, super wide-range HID head lamps

Other trim levels: ES, SE AWC

Options worth considering: All Wheel Control, panoramic sunroof


The bottom line: The Outlander Sport comes with a nice base price; a step up to the next trim line brings lots of features. But to compete against established crossovers like the RAV4 and CR-V, it needs performance refinements.