Kia Sportage VS Mitsubishi Outlander
- Great ride
- Good standard safety
- Great standard features
- Rivals offer AWD cheaper
- Full safety suite on GT-Line only
- Petrol engine thirsty
- Instantly familiar motoring
- Crucial tech update adds phone integration
- Mid-spec and up gets impressive safety kit
- Petrol engines lack punch
- Conventional automatic only available with diesel engine
- Design feels a little plasticky for our tastes
If you take a snapshot of the Australian mid-size SUV market, it becomes apparent that the Kia Sportage is an oft-overlooked option in a sea of storied Japanese nameplates.
Perhaps it’s because the Sportage is a bit more controversially styled than its Tucson cousin, or perhaps it’s a victim of its own success, having been an attractive option for populating car-share fleets like GoGet.
But I’d argue that the Sportage is special in more ways than it gets credit for, and shouldn’t be overlooked by Australians on the hunt for a new mid-sizer, even this far into its lifecycle.
Read on to find out why, and which variant in the Sportage’s just updated 2020 lineup is our pick of the bunch.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
Andrew Chesterton road tests and reviews the new Mitsubishi Outlander with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
In the booming and bustling world of mid-size SUVs, five years can be an eternity. But that's how long it's been since an all-new, or even majorly updated Mitsubishi Outlander arrived on our shores. Sure, there have been some style updates along the way, but it's been the same basic package since way back in 2012.
And age is beginning to hurt the Outlander, with Mitsubishi's go-to SUV finishing in sixth position in the 2016 sales race, miles behind the segment leaders (Mazda's CX-5 and Hyundai's Tucson), and neck-and-neck with Subaru's Forester.
So, the entire Outlander range has undergone a shake-up for 2017, with Mitsubishi adding technology and safety kit across the line-up. Sadly, it's also increased the costs, with list pricing climbing anywhere from $10 to a little over $1000.
So have the changes helped or hindered the Mitsubishi Outlander?
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
The Sportage continues to age gracefully, now offering an increasingly finely tuned range of variants to suit most price brackets.
While its engine and transmission choices leave a little to be desired, it continues to offer impressive ride, handing, and technology when compared to many (but not all) Japanese segment rivals.
Our pick of the range is the SX in either engine, as it offers the lion’s share of Sportage spec items at the right price.
It might be a little old-school in places, but the injection of fresh technology and key safety equipment adds plenty of value to the Outlander range.
Has Mitsubishi done enough to the Outlander to tempt you away from a rival? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
The Sportage isn’t as conservatively styled as its sensible spec would suggest. Clearly influenced by the likes of the Porsche Cayenne, with the bonnet-mounted light fittings, curvaceous edges and strip-light across the tailgate, the overall look aims to put the “sport” in “Sportage”.
It has enough of its almost insectoid personality to be criticised as a straight rip-off though, for better or worse, and its most recent facelift in 2018 accentuated its best features. At least one criticism that can’t be leveled at the Sportage is that it looks boring.
The more aggressive look certainly sets it apart from the conservatively styled Hyundai Tucson with which it shares a chassis, and that’s even more evident on the inside where there’s a sportier asymmetrical dash with a raised centre-console and slick, three-spoke steering wheel.
While everything is ergonomic in here – with an added bonus of dials and shortcut buttons for the climate controls - the screen-in-dash look is getting a bit dated. The same could be said for the interior plastics, which are finished largely in the same drab grey colour, no matter which grade you pick. The design of them is nice, but anything under the soft dash-topper is hard to the touch.
Thankfully, everything is superbly put together with not a squeak or rattle to be heard on any of the test cars I sampled, and the pared-back application of silver highlights in the dash is tasteful. The quad-dial instrument cluster is a classic layout. There’s no option for a digital dash in the Sportage range.
The two-tone alloys look great, no matter which grade you pick, and aside from the flared bits and LED light fittings on the GT-Line, it’s genuinely hard to tell the grades apart from each other, which is good for low-spec buyers.
Overall, the Sportage presents a design which has aged well, thanks to a more risqué approach being taken when this generation first launched in 2016.
The Mitsubishi Outlander's exterior design might not push the envelope, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Instead, it's a simple, un-fussy body design with a bold and aggressive grille and 18-inch alloy wheels even from the entry level model.
It's diminutive for a potential seven seater, too, with the Outlander's dimensions measuring a sprightly 4695mm in length and 1810mm in width - shorter and thinner than other full-time seven seaters.
Inside, every interior option is clean and simple, and all feature the same 7.0-inch touchscreen taking centre stage in the middle of the dash. Deeper pockets will earn you leather wrapped seats and more technology options, but the basic elements remain the same: safe, uncluttered and easy to understand.
Like most Korean SUVs, the Sportage has the idea of practicality cooked-in throughout its cabin. It starts in the front row, where the driver and passenger have access to some large cupholders in the doors and centre console (suitable for 500ml containers), a decently sized top-box and glovebox, as well as a very large trench in front of the shift-lever, which also hosts the USB and aux inputs, as well as dual 12V power outlets.
In the back seat, there are plenty of amenities, with decently sized cupholders in each door, pockets on the back of the seats, air-conditioning vents on the back of the console as well as dual power outlets. Another neat trick is that the Sportage has reclining rear seats, allowing extra comfort for rear-seat passengers, or extra boot space where required.
To its credit, the boot space is easy to use and comes with an adjustable rolling cover. Part of the reduction in sheer capacity is due to a full-size alloy spare living under the boot floor – a big bonus for regional buyers, who may need one as a matter of safety.
Leg and headroom are simply great, no matter which seat you’re sitting in, and the big rear doors on the Sportage open nice and wide – good for low-mobility passengers or those needing to fit a child-seat.
Your boot space and luggage capacity depend heavily on whether you've got five or seven seats, and on how many passengers you're carrying.
Boot space is pegged at 477 litres in five-seat models, though that number climbs to 1608 litres with the 60/40 rear seat folded flat.
The exterior dimensions don't change when you opt for a seven seat model, so cargo space is restricted to 128 litres. But as you can see in our interior photos the third row is split 50/50, so you can drop some or all of the seats to increase your luggage space to a maximum 1608 litres.
Price and features
You did read that right, the Sportage range – despite looking exactly the same as last year’s iteration – has received a mild nip and tuck, which includes new variants and pricing. As before, the Sportage range is offered with a choice of three engines, two petrols and a diesel, with either front- or all-wheel drive across four trim levels. All prices on the Sportage range are drive-away.
Kicking off the range is the S, which is available as a 2.0-litre petrol front-wheel drive in either a re-introduced six-speed manual ($28,990), six-speed auto ($29,990) or as an eight-speed auto diesel AWD ($36,990).
Standard spec, even on the entry-level car, is impressive. Included are 17-inch alloy wheels (no steelies here), LED DRLs (but halogen headlights), leather-trimmed wheel and shift-lever, hard-wearing cloth seat trim, a 3.5-inch dot-matrix info screen in the dash, a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android auto support, dual-zone climate control, as well as rear parking sensors and camera. Another nice touch is that the base S model also scores auto rain-sensing wipers as standard.
Considering the standard active-safety suite explored in the safety section of this review, the S could easily be the pick of the range of any other SUV lineup, but our pick is still the mid-grade SX (previously known as the Si).
Available in the same three drivetrain choices at a $2500 premium, the SX adds larger 18-inch alloy wheels, front-facing parking sensors, a more impressive-looking 8.0-inch touchscreen with DAB+ digital radio and built-in sat-nav, backed by an eight-speaker JBL audio system. We’d say the extra spice is well worth it, making the SX our pick.
Jumping up to the SX Plus (previously the SLi) adds leather seat trim (which is hard-wearing, but isn’t the most luxurious-feeling fake leather on the market), an upgrade to the visual treatment with chrome and gloss black highlights, a larger colour TFT screen embedded in the dash, and, for the first time in a mid-grade Sportage, a powered tailgate. The SX Plus is well equipped, but if you can do without leather seat trim, it's not really worth the $7000 like-for-like switch up from the SX…
Available as an all-wheel-drive only, the penultimate Sportage is the GT-Line. Finally gaining a full suite of LED front lights and, frustratingly, the only way to specify a Sportage with blind-spot monitoring, active cruise control and rear cross traffic alert, the GT-Line is relatively expensive, even for the segment, at $46,490 for the 2.4-litre six-speed auto petrol or $49,490 for the eight-speed auto turbo diesel.
Other fruit for the extra money includes a sports bodykit, aggressive 19-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, flat-bottomed sports steering wheel, a wireless phone-charging bay, and an automatic-parking suite.
Deciphering the Mitsubishi Outlander model range is a little like unravelling The Da Vinci Code, with the engines, transmissions, even how many seats, changing across a single trim level.
The price range kicks off with the entry-level LS, which is offered in front-wheel drive (FWD), with five seats and a five-speed manual ($28,750). Opting for the continuously variable transmission (CVT) however, earns you two bonus seats, for seven in total ($30,500). Finally, the LS is also available with all-wheel drive (AWD), seven seats, a CVT and a bigger engine ($33,500).
Standard fare across the LS trim level includes an Apple Car Play/Android Auto-equipped 7.0-inch touchscreen multimedia unit that will pair with your iPhone, and also features a CD player and DAB digital radio. It can be controlled via the steering wheel buttons. The Bluetooth-equipped sound system is matched with six speakers.
You'll also find 18-inch alloys, cloth seats, dual-zone climate control (ac), a 12-volt charge point in the boot and a shark-fin antenna. You can also expect cruise control, power windows and keyless entry. Opt for the automatic version, however, and you'll add electric exterior mirrors, while choosing the AWD model adds an electric parking brake.
The Outlander range then steps up to the LS Safety Pack, available with a CVT only. The LS Safety Pack is available with five seats ($32,000), or you can opt for a bigger petrol engine and AWD (upping the cost to $35,000), or you can add two seats for seven in total ($36,000). Finally, the LS Safety Pack can be equipped with a diesel engine and a conventional torque converter six-speed automatic, along with seven seats ($39,500).
Standard fare across the LS Safety Pack line-up includes the same features as the LS, but adds forward collision warning with AEB, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control and auto high beams. You'll also add automatic windscreen wipers and headlights and an electrochromatic rearview mirror.
By comparison, the Outlander range tops out with the seven seat Exceed model, available in a CVT-equipped petrol version ($44,000) or a diesel model paired with a conventional automatic transmission ($47,500). Standard fare includes a sunroof, leather seats, push-button start and Mitsubishi's clever parking system that will slam on the brakes if it thinks you're going to have an accident while parking.
All models arrive with front and rear cup holders and room in the doors for bottles. Weirdly, there's no GPS sat nav anywhere in the line-up, but that's easily fixed using your phone's map system that will display on the screen.
There are seven colours on the Outlander's palette, including White, Starlight Pearl (a kind of beige) Cool Silver Metallic, Titanium Metallic (a grey), Black Pearl, Ironbark Metallic (brown) and Red. There's no blue, orange or green available.
The above are Mitsubishi's retail prices (or RRP), but you can and should haggle at multiple dealers to see how much wriggle room they can offer on the official price list.
Engine & trans
The Sportage is offered with a choice of three engines, all of which are unremarkable.
These engines are also starting to show their age, but the fact that you can choose either petrol or diesel across the range will be a win for some consumers.
The 2.0-litre petrol offered as the front-wheel drive option on the S, SX, and SX Plus grades produces 114kW/192Nm and can be chosen with either a six-speed auto, or a six-speed manual on the bottom two grades.
The 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine offered across the range with only an eight-speed automatic in all-wheel drive produces a better-sounding 136kW/400Nm (hence the price hike).
The GT-Line is the only grade that can be had as a petrol in all-wheel drive, it benefits from a larger 2.4-litre petrol engine with outputs set at 135kW/237Nm, paired only to a six-speed automatic.
It would be nice to see higher tech turbocharged petrol engines make it to the Sportage range for the sake of both power and fuel efficiency, but these kinds of dated petrol powertrains are par-for-the course in the Australian mid-size SUV landscape.
A benefit to many drivers will be the torque-converter automatic transmissions, rather than their lacklustre CVT counterparts, which appear in most of this car’s Japanese rivals.
In terms of engine specs, the entry level Outlander LS is offered with a 2.0-litre petrol engine paired with a five-speed manual transmission or CVT, with power fed to the front wheels. The engine produces 110kW (147 horsepower) at 6000rpm and 190Nm from 4200rpm.
Stepping up to an AWD model (a light-duties, no low-range 4WD) requires a bigger engine size, with Mitsubishi's 2.4-litre petrol unit producing 124kW (166 horsepower) at 6000rpm and 220Nm at 4200rpm. The bigger engine will use a claimed/combined 7.2L/100km (expect that number to climb if you're heavy on the gas). Both petrol engines offer the same 1600kg towing capacity.
The sole diesel engine on offer is a 2.2-litre motor with output ratings of 110kW at 3500rpm and 360Nm from 1500rpm paired with a six-speed torque converter automatic. Fuel use is a claimed (combined cycle) 6.2L/100km, with towing specifications pegged at 2000kg - enough to shine in most towing reviews, but a long way off the 3500kg industry best. Diesel-equipped vehicles are 4-wheel drive only. There is no LPG model in the line-up, though the Outlander is also available in a yet to be updated hybrid model.
The Outlander range requires a 0W-20 oil type and oil capacity is pegged at at between 3.9 and 4.5 litres. Gross vehicle weight ranges from 1985kg to 2280kg. For common issues, including diesel problems, turbo problems, timing belt or chain issues, as well as transmission problems, please see our Mitsubishi Outlander problems page.
A downside to old engines with rigid transmission ratios pulling heavy SUV bodies is a notable cost in the fuel-consumption department.
The 2.0-litre front-drive variants carry claimed combined fuel-consumption figures of 7.9L/100km, but the figure most people will experience is in the rather more honest official “urban” figure of 10.9L/100km.
In my back-to-back tests of the 2.0-litre petrol versions of the SX and SX Plus I produced figures on either side of that number, scoring 10.5L/100km and 11L/100km in the real world, over about 350km of testing respectively.
Not great, then, and those figures are easily bested by CVT rivals – even the 2.5-litre all-wheel-drive Forester – according to real-world figures put on the board in recent CarsGuide reviews.
Mercifully, the Sportage is capable of drinking base-grade 91RON petrol to fill its 62-litre tank.
The Outlander's 2.0-litre petrol engine's fuel consumption is pegged at a claimed/combined 7.0L/100km with a manual transmission, and drops to 6.8L/100km with the CVT. It requires 91RON fuel and its fuel tank capacity is 63 litres.
Step up to the bigger 2.4-litre petrol engine and your fuel economy numbers climb, too, with the official claim at 7.2L/100km, with that engine paired exclusively with the CVT. It will also sip 91RON fuel and has a slightly smaller tank, at 60 litres.
The 2.2-litre diesel fuel consumption is an official 6.2L/100km, with that engine linked with a conventional six-speed torque converter automatic. It's packing a 60-litre tank.
The Sportage’s engine choices don’t offer the most modern drive experience on the mid-size SUV market, but its locally tuned suspension really makes it stand apart from the pack. This means it’s at its best in most driving scenarios you’ll experience in Australia. I’ve driven Sportage variants on long-distance freeway drives, across the worst, most potholed streets Sydney’s CBD has to offer, as well as rutted gravel tracks on the other side of NSW’s Blue Mountains, and all of them behaved admirably, everywhere.
On the axis of sport-to-comfort I’d say the Sportage’s ride sits slightly to the sportier end of the equation. It’s a stiffer ride than the Honda CR-V, Nissan X-Trail, or the new Toyota RAV4, for example. Yet it seems to strike a more comfortable balance than the sporty CX-5.
The handling is really nice for an SUV this size, as I’ve said in previous reviews – it’s nimble and feels almost like you’re piloting a giant hatchback. For reasons I can’t seem to pin down, I vastly prefer the Sportage’s ride and handling to that of the Tucson. It just feels more balanced all round than its Hyundai cousin.
The engines are a bit of a letdown, however. While all are adequate for city-commuting duty, on the open road and up hills the petrol drivetrains get thrashy and noisy quickly – and at higher revs the limitations of these engines' outputs become apparent.
That having been said, both automatic transmissions are slick and predictable. When power is needed they also lock into gear nicely, unlike their CVT competition. We are yet to sample the re-introduced manual variants.
Whoever coined the phrase, 'You get what you pay for' could have been describing the Outlander range. If you're counting your pennies, then you'll find yourself behind the wheel of the manual LS, complete with spongy but forgiving five-speed gearbox, largely underwhelming 2.0-litre engine, offering adequate acceleration and a drive experience best described as no-frills.
There's nothing obviously wrong with the way the budget offerings drive, and the inclusion of Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, accessed via a large touchscreen, adds plenty of entertainment options to while away long drives. But there's little in the way of engagement or excitement, a feeling not helped by the steering which feels disconnected from the action going on beneath it.
The bigger petrol engine improves matters, but the pick of the bunch is the top-tier diesel engine which lives exclusively in the most expensive model, the seven seat Exceed ($47,500). The extra torque offers more accessible performance, helping push the Outlander through traffic and up to speed noticeably quicker than the petrol models. You still won't be winning any 0-100km/h sprints, but it feels quicker than its siblings - helped by the sharp-shifting six-speed automatic, instead of the CVT in the cheaper models.
But regardless of the model, the ride (delivered by MacPherson front, multi-link rear suspension) is tuned for comfort, the seats are wide and comfortable, the vision is fine and it's easy to drive and park. In fact, it feels considerably smaller than other dedicated seven seaters. And that's because it is, with the CX-9 for example, stretching a little over 5.0m, compared to the Outlander's 4.7m.
Road noise is kept to a minimum, except the diesel engines aren't the most refined we've driven. The turning circle is an official 10.6 metres. With 190mm ground clearance, the AWD equipped vehicles offer some level of off-road ability and a decent wading depth, but don't expect the best off-road reviews from what is essentially a city-based SUV.
Even just last year, the Sportage’s standard active-safety equipment would have been considered pretty good, even a whole point better than what I’ve given it here. The thing is, though, thanks largely to ANCAP and EuroNCAP’s far more stringent analysis of active technology in the last year, the game has been raised by many of the Sportage’s competitors.
It would be nice, for example, to see active cruise control and blind-spot monitoring available on the SX Plus grade, or, better still, available as an option pack across the range, a-la-Hyundai’s approach.
And now, with the introduction of high-tier active-safety suites on low-spec variants of the Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5 and Subaru Forester, it’s hard to give the Sportage flying colours in this department.
Still, the fact that auto emergency braking (AEB), lane-keep assist (LKAS) and driver-attention alert (DAA) ship on the base-model S is reasonably impressive.
Outside of that, all Sportage grades get six airbags, the expected stability and brake controls, as well as three top-tether and two ISOFIX child-seat mounting points.
The Sportage carries a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating as of this-generation’s launch in 2016.
The entire Outlander range was awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating when tested in 2014, owing to standard safety features including seven airbags (dual front, side and curtain airbags, as well as a driver's knee airbag), Hill Start Assist, a reversing camera and rear parking sensors.
Safety Pack models add AEB, active cruise control and lane departure warning, while Exceed models offer blind-spot monitoring, a surround-view parking monitor and Mitsubishi's 'Misacceleration Mitigation System', which will hit the brakes if it senses an impending accident while you're parking.
All Outlanders are equipped with two ISOFIX attachment points, one in each window seat in the back, so you can fit two baby seats.
Kia continues to lead the pack with a seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, which is two years more than the acceptable segment standard. That’s also backed by eight years of roadside assist if you service at an authorised dealer.
There’s also a comprehensive capped-price-servicing program for the life of the warranty, averaging out to a not-particularly-cheap $391.71 per year for the 2.0L petrol, $408.14 for the 2.4L petrol, or $511.43 for the diesel.
The Sportage will have a battle on its hands in the coming years, with fellow Korean competitor, Ssangyong, looking to launch its new-generation Korando with a highly competitive seven-year ownership program.
All Outlanders are covered by Mitsubishi's five-year/100,000km warranty, and in terms of service costs, require a trip to the service centre every 12 months or 15,000kms. Each also arrives with four years complimentary roadside assistance and three years capped price servicing, with service and maintenance costs published on Mitsubishi's Australian website.
An owners manual and a full-size spare is included in the standard features list, and the Outlander range received a 2.5 out of five reliability rating from US based research company J.D. Power. The injection of fresh technology will likely assist with resale value, too.
For common faults, problems and issues, including reliability issues, please see our Mitsubishi Outlander problems page for owner feedback.