The 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander is a compact SUV that distinguishes itself with a small third-row seat, which boosts seating capacity to seven in a pinch.
In the compact SUV segment, the 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander tries to compete with class leaders in terms of fuel economy, technology, safety and handling. The Outlander doesn’t stand out in any areas other than safety and seating capacity, offering a small third-row seat that’s unusual for the class. If you transport small kids, the third row might mean that you won’t have to consider buying a minivan or a larger SUV.
The Outlander is offered in ES, SE and GT trims. It gains small exterior styling updates and standard Bluetooth for the 2015 model year. The base Outlander ES is front-wheel drive only and powered by a four-cylinder engine that’s paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). All-wheel drive is available in the SE trim. The Outlander GT comes with a 3.0-liter V6 engine, a six-speed automatic and all-wheel drive.
The 2015 Outlander has a long front end with an understated grille and rectangular headlights, which give it a wagon-like appearance. The base trim provides auto-off halogen headlights, 16-inch steel wheels and heated side-view mirrors.
Our test vehicle was a red Outlander SE with an upgrade package that included a power sunroof, roof rails and a power liftgate. The SE adds 18-inch alloy wheels, chrome trim around the door handles, and turn signal indicators on the sideview mirrors. The GT has xenon headlights, LED taillights and fog lights that lend a sportier appearance.
The Outlander’s front passenger compartment is roomy enough but feels spartan. Textured surfaces and a monochrome color scheme can’t hide the fact most surfaces are plastic except the arm rests, and the top of the dash is a flat expanse that’s barren of visual interest.
After adjusting the tilt and telescoping steering wheel and moving my seat around, I still felt like I was perched on a bench seat, and the left arm rest on the door was too low to comfortably rest my elbow. Cloth seats are standard on the ES, while a combination of perforated leatherette and cloth are standard on the SE and GT.
Our SE had the optional leather seating surfaces, but they looked and felt like vinyl. Second-row seats are equally basic, too upright and light on padding. The fold down arm rest for the second row includes a couple of cup holders, but feels lightweight and flimsy.
The third-row seats are strictly for toddlers, or kids who aren’t tall enough to meet the height requirements to ride a roller coaster. Knee room is non-existent for that third row, and the seats are little more than jump seats with high-backed headrests that obstruct a driver’s rear view. They fold down with a 50/50 split to create a useable cargo area. The second row can also fold down and recline independently with a 60/40 split. With that third row in place, you’ll have only about 10.3 cubic feet of cargo space, or just enough floor space to fit three bags of groceries. With the second and third rows folded, the Outlander offers a maximum of 63.3 cubic feet of cargo space. Competitors like the Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester offer more room overall.
The 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander ES and SE come with a 166-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that is noticeably underpowered. You will experience a bothersome lag when stepping on the accelerator, especially in Eco mode. The CVT whines like a lawn mower when you try accelerate up a grade, but if you are gentle on the accelerator, you may not care because the base Outlander gets an EPA-estimated 25/31 mpg city/highway.
The Outlander feels heavy in turns and the steering seems somewhat disconnected from the road, which makes it feel like you are driving a larger SUV. Still, the suspension does a good job of smoothing out bumps in the road.
For better performance, the Outlander GT comes with a 224-horsepower, 3.0-liter V6 engine that is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is lower, however, at 20/28 mpg city/highway. All-wheel drive models have a dedicated control to switch between Normal, Eco, Lock and Snow driving modes.
The 2015 Outlander comes standard with a six-speaker audio system, a USB port, Bluetooth and Mitsubishi’s voice-activated Fuse system. Above the base trim, you’ll get proximity key with push-button start, HD radio and a 6.1-inch touch-screen audio system with a rearview camera. A navigation system with a 7-inch touch screen is available.
Our test Outlander SE came with the Premium package, which adds a power-adjustable driver’s seat, satellite radio and a nine-speaker Rockford Fosgate surround sound audio system.
Despite this upgrade (and attempts to change EQ settings) the audio system sounded muddy from the first two rows and loud from the third row. Settings to pair a phone via Bluetooth were also complicated. I gave up before I could succeed in getting the SUV and my smartphone to find each other. Controls on the dash for dual-zone automatic climate control and the infotainment system also lack visual appeal.
The 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander earned a 5-star overall rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Additionally, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the Outlander a Top Safety Pick+ award for having the top rating of Good in all crash tests, as well as an Advanced rating for front crash protection when equipped with optional safety technologies. On the SE and GT these optional features include adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation and a lane departure warning system.
Seven air bags including dual-stage front air bags, a driver’s knee air bag, and side-curtain air bags are standard equipment.
The Outlander ES starts at $23,195, which is slightly less than a base 2015 Toyota RAV4 or Honda CR-V, which both have nicer interiors and provide better handling. Meanwhile, competitors like the Ford Escape and Mazda CX-5 have slightly lower starting prices. The 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander is not overpriced at any trim level, but for the money you’ll spend, it doesn’t rise above the competition in any category except safety. It merits consideration if you value its strong crash test ratings and ability to seat seven.
The 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander finds appeal among folks who don’t mind its unadorned exterior design and value a compact SUV with stellar safety ratings and seating for seven. However, if you can do without the small third row, a number of competitors outshine the Outlander with nicer interiors, more cargo space and better performance.