Mitsubishi has given the 2014 Outlander a redesign from the ground up. The gaping trapezoidal grille, which still adorns the Outlander Sport five-seater, is gone. More important: The Outlander has earned a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and it's clear that Mitsubishi — in both its marketing and in the SUV's available options — is making safety the big selling point. Best of all, this seven-seater's starting price is a modest $22,995.
2014 Mitsubishi Outlander SE
Price: $22,995 base start, $30,720 as tested
Powertrain: 2.4-liter MIVEC four-cylinder, continuously variable transmission, FWD
Horsepower: 166 at 6,000 rpm
Torque: 162 pound-feet at 4,200 rpm
Curb weight: 3,296 pounds
Fuel economy: 25 miles per gallon city, 31 mpg highway
Fuel type: regular unleaded
Safety features: airbags, ABS, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist, traction control, adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation, lane-departure warning, rear-view camera
Appearance: The front end is a big improvement, giving the Outlander a more sophisticated look even if the silver-toned grille recalls the Transformers logo. Either way, it no longer looks as angry. Mitsubishi has rounded off some of the vehicle's harder edges, resulting in what it says is improved aerodynamics. Likewise, the headlights and taillights are more sculpted, and there is an attractive character line that runs the length of the Outlander. Still, Lyra finds the overall look a bit bland when compared to the competition; Peter thinks it now looks more like a wagon than an SUV. Our tester's SE trim brings 18-inch alloy wheels.
Performance: The 2.4-liter four-cylinder produces 166 horsepower, which, combined with the new Outlander's 200-pound weight loss, makes for adequate pickup in both city and highway driving. (A 3.0-liter V-6 with 224 horsepower is available in the GT trim.) The transmission, a CVT, can sound raucous under hard acceleration and contributes to a noisy cabin, but it helps the Outlander achieve an estimated mpg of 25 city and 31 highway. Steering is electronically assisted and has a light feel. The Outlander doesn't handle like a top-heavy SUV and is relatively nimble. Our tester was front-wheel drive, but a Super All-Wheel Control is available.
Interior: Mitsubishi's efforts to improve interior quality are noticeable. Our tester had the SE Touring Package ($6,100), which covers much of the interior in leather (seats, door panels and armrests). Still, the dark gray-black cabin, even with wood-grain trim, is too dark. The perforated leather seats are on the firm side. The second-row 60/40 seats fold for a flat cargo area, but headrests get in the way, so you'll have to move the front seats forward. The third-row seat also folds flat. Yes, there's a third row, but realistically it's practical only for small kids. First, you have to climb into the back row, which isn't easy, and seats have minimal legroom. There's a little storage bin under the cargo deck. Unfortunately, you need that space to store the third-row headrests, which you must remove to fold that row down. The Touring Package also includes safety electronics such as adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation and lane-departure warning. Other features include a power liftgate, navigation with 7-inch touch screen, Rockford Fosgate premium sound system, Bluetooth and Mitsubishi's FUSE voice command system.
The bottom line: Mitsubishi is playing some major catchup in the compact crossover segment, and the Outlander has improved enough now to make your list when shopping for a family hauler.