Mitsubishi's long-shot charms with good looks, a great warranty and a few other tricks up its sleeve. But it's still a long-shot.

The Outlander Sport is the best-selling vehicle in the Mitsubishi lineup, but one of the smaller players in a very popular category. It's not as roomy as most compact SUVs, it's less powerful, and it's among the segment's oldest entries, having debuted in its current form for the 2011 model year.

But as it proved during our latest 700-mile road trip between Southern California and Phoenix, there are still things to like about the Outlander Sport even beyond the stylish, sharply creased sheet metal.

The list starts with a 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. Kia is the only player in the group that matches this coverage, while Toyota and Honda offer 3-year/36-000-mile basic and 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranties.

There are three ways to look at the Mitsubishi warranty, and it's attractive from every angle: 1) For buyers who keep their cars a long time, the appeal is obvious. 2) For buyers who prefer to sell their cars every three years or so, remaining warranty coverage can be a strong selling point. 3) The flip side of point number two, remaining warranty coverage can provide great peace of mind for those who like to buy used cars.

That last point is especially intriguing when it comes to the Outlander Sport. While the Outlander Sport has a good reputation for reliability, its resale values are below average for the category. That's a great combination for used-car shoppers. When you also factor in the added warranty coverage, a two- or three-year-old Mitsubishi Outlander Sport can be an intriguing option for compact SUV seekers intrigued by the notion of joining the party for less than $15,000. (Note: The 10/100 powertrain warranty reduces to 5 years or 60,000 miles for second owners.)

But let's get back to the shiny new 2015 Outlander Sport of our comparison test.
One of our favorite features on the Outlander Sport is the available 9-speaker, 710-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system. It's among the best-sounding systems available this side of $30,000, delivering soothingly rich sound that remains comfortably clear when the song or the occasion dictates more volume.

2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport at a Glance
2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport Bar Graph

The great music experience is especially welcome in the Outlander Sport because the actual driving experience is nothing to write home about. Out on the highway the Mitsubishi proved comfortable, powerful and efficient enough to qualify as an acceptable long-hauler, but here's the issue: with perhaps a few small exceptions, every other SUV in the test was more comfortable, more eager AND more efficient. The Outlander Sport's biggest problem is its competition.

The story is similar around town. The Outlander Sport is just fine, but class leaders like the CR-V and RAV4 are just smoother and more eager when pulling away from a stop light, for instance.

Working in the Mitsubishi's favor is the fact that it has the lowest starting price of any model in the group. Starting sticker price is $20,445, and Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase price reflects real-world transactions just shy of $19,000 at the time of testing. At the other end of the spectrum, a fully loaded 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport has a Fair Purchase Price of under $29,000, with niceties like a panoramic moonroof, leather seats, navigation, premium audio, keyless entry/start, all-wheel drive and more.

But as mentioned previously, the 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is saddled with lower-than-average resale values. Looking at our valuable 5-Year Cost to Own calculator, it appears that buying a $22,000 Honda CR-V will actually cost less over a 5-year buy/own/sell cycle than spending $19,000 on an Outlander Sport. The Mitsubishi's shortcomings can become even tougher to overlook when you step back and see that picture.

Small SUV shoppers seeking maximum room and refinement can safely skip the Mitsubishi dealer. Those attracted to the Outlander Sport's sporty look and long warranty (and maybe its excellent sound system) should definitely give it a chance, keeping in mind that it probably isn't the more affordable option it may seem.

Here's how the 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport compares to the competition:

Mitsubishi Outlander Sport vs. Honda CR-V

Mitsubishi's compact SUV is arguably better looking than Honda's, definitely has a better warranty, and offers a superior sound system. And that's about where the advantages end when compared against the roomier, quieter, more refined, more powerful, more efficient Honda CR-V, which is widely regarded as the current class leader. More 2015 Honda CR-V

Mitsubishi Outlander Sport vs. Toyota RAV4

Much like the Honda CR-V, the Toyota RAV4 is a well-rounded stalwart that outclasses the Outlander Sport on most levels. More 2015 Toyota RAV4

Mitsubishi Outlander Sport vs. Mazda CX-5

The Outlander Sport and CX-5 are both among the best-looking small SUVs on the road, but the Mazda backs up the sporty looks with more engaging driving dynamics. The CX-5 had fallen behind in the infotainment department, but an impressive refresh for the 2016 model year has moved it toward the head of the class in that department, too. More 2016 Mazda CX-5

Mitsubishi Outlander Sport vs. Jeep Cherokee

The crisply styled, modestly outfitted Outlander Sport could hardly be more different than the richer, pricier, off-road-qualified Jeep Cherokee. While the Outlander Sport has the lowest starting price in this group, the Jeep Cherokee can extend into the $40,000 range when fully loaded. More 2015 Jeep Cherokee

Mitsubishi Outlander Sport vs. Kia Sportage

Both offer class-leading warranties, both are on the smaller side in the class, and both have a sporty demeanor. The Sportage gets the nod in refinement, infotainment and even resale value. More 2015 Kia Sportage

More Compact SUVs

Build and price your own 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, read our full review or check out our Compact SUV Buyer's Guide to see more options in the segment.

 

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