There are some vehicles on the market that offer bargain pricing without punishing their buyers.
The Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2.4 SEL AWC isnâ€™t one of those.
Mitsubishi has seemingly been in “barely getting by mode” for years now, and the Outlander gives a clue as to why.
Hereâ€™s a hint: Quality matters. On paper, the Outlander Sport 2.4 SEL AWC looks like it may actually offer a value proposition over other small crossovers, but that old clichÃ© about getting what you pay for applies here. Arguably, you end up paying too much, anyway.
I loathe to be overly critical of fit and finish issues on any press loaner since the sample size is obviously a number of one, but when the driverâ€™s seat rocks back and forth as you shift positions, as mine did the entire time I had it, well, thatâ€™s worth remarking upon.
So, too, is the fact that the radio just up and quit and required a re-fire of the engine while stopped at a light to work again.
These quality gremlins are too bad, because the Outlander isnâ€™t as terrible in other regards as one might expect. Vehicles built by a struggling brand often become the victims of much side-eye, but the Outlander actually could be something worth driving if you werenâ€™t worried about things breaking.
Itâ€™s not fast â€“ the 2.4-liter four-cylinder only offers up 168 horsepower and 167 lb-ft of torque, saddled with all-wheel drive. But Mitsubishi has dialed a bit of personality into the steering and handling, and the ride was compliant enough around town. It may feel a bit low-rent, but the Outlander is pleasant enough to drive.
So, thereâ€™s a little bit of â€œsport.â€� Thatâ€™s not enough to overcome concerns about build quality. What about the feature list?
Standard features include heated front seats, leather seats, fog lights, tilt/telescope steering wheel, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, satellite radion, 7-inch infotainment screen, Bluetooth, and dual USBs, automatic climate control, and cruise control. A $2,000 Touring Package adds forward-collision mitigation, lane-departure warning, automatic high beams, premium audio, and a panoramic glass roof.
It all adds up to just a tick under $30K. The features list is pretty on par for the class, and so is the pricing â€“ you arenâ€™t saving a huge chunk of change over most of the competition. You are saving some money, though â€“ enough that it might make a difference for stretched budgets. However, if the build quality leads to repair costs down the line, after the warranty is up, is it worth it?
Maybe itâ€™s a risk worth taking if the interior design wasnâ€™t so darn unremarkable. Mitsubishi offers up big â€œtiledâ€� app buttons in its touch screen, but unlike similar designs (such as whatâ€™s seen with Honda), it looks a little cheap and cheesy. The rest of the inside offers up old-fashioned buttons and knobs that are easy to use but look a bit outdated. Perhaps the biggest drawback is that the interior shapes are a little too simplistic â€“ the center stack and other areas lack character. Itâ€™s nice to have simple buttons and knobs, but there are ways to keep them and still give the design pizzazz. The Outlander Sport doesnâ€™t have that balance.
The exterior remains an odd exercise in angles, with a truncated front end and unimaginative styling aft of the A-pillar. Itâ€™s not the ugliest ride on the road and, stump snout aside, the side profile is perfectly pleasant. The weird mashup of taillight/turn signal/back-up light does mar the view of the rear.
Value often requires compromise, and the Outlander is not an exception. Except the compromise here isnâ€™t in features or even performance. Itâ€™s in materials, design, and build quality.
Like I said above, I donâ€™t like to harp too much on the build quality of a press loan because a sample size of one is statistically useless. But a rocking seat and disappearing radio are cause for concern, especially when weâ€™re discussing a brand thatâ€™s fighting for survival. Context matters.
Maybe the Outlander you buy will be gremlin-free. But youâ€™re still left with an underpowered four-banger and low-rent materials and design.
You really do get what you pay for.
[Images Â© 2018 Tim Healey/TTAC]