The Mitsubishi Outlander has been a steady performer over the past couple of years, consistently grabbing around six per cent of the compact SUV market month after month. Its appeal is mostly due to its brilliant warranty, its practicality and its space - the Outlander has plenty of room, no matter which variant you opt for.
So, if you don't require off-road ability but still like the Outlander's virtues, Mitsubishi has a solution for you - a two-wheel-drive version.
What you're looking at here is a front-wheel-drive, four-cylinder Mitsubishi Outlander, featuring the same space, storage options and extensive warranty that all its siblings have, but at a price that puts it right at the pointy end of competitiveness.
At $28,990, on a dollar per litre of cargo capacity, it's one of the best value equations on sale in the SUV market (the other being the Nissan X-Trail 2WD). Add a CVT (as tested here) and the price becomes $31,490.
Open the boot and you're greeted with a cavernous space, which is made all the more appealing because the bottom section of the tailgate drops down to give an extremely low-loading load area. Friends of ours took their Outlander to the local drive-in cinema - the bottom lip made for an excellent seat while watching the movie.
One touch and the back seats fold and tumble, liberating even more load space. To help someone out of a jam, I was even able to load several 1800mm x 1000mm sheets in the back with plenty of extra room available for loading up other bits and pieces - a weekend away camping would be a breeze with the Outlander (as long as it wasn't too far off-road).
There's plenty of space in the back seats, too, with a good amount of legroom and excellent headroom by virtue of the Outlander's tall-boy styling. Front passengers will find comfortable (if slightly flat) seats and a dual-opening glovebox which has plenty of room in the bottom portion, but limited space under the top flap.
The transition from all-wheel-drive to front-wheel-drive has been made fairly obvious by the plastic blanking plate which takes the place of the drive mode selection dial, but apart from that, the rest of the interior is all Outlander. That means quite a bit of hard plastic across the dashboard and doortrims but a fairly solid build.
Steering mounted stereo controls are appreciated, as is cruise control. In front of the driver, the instrumentation (shared with the Mitsubishi ASX) is reasonably clear, but a little busy with its overly notched arcs both inside and outside of the numerals. The stereo is not too bad for this price range but unfortunately Bluetooth isn't available on the LS base model which we tested here.
Under the bonnet is Mitsubishi's 2.4-litre, four-cylinder petrol, making 125kW and 226Nm, and thanks to its continuously variable transmission (CVT) it keeps fuel consumption at 9.0 litres/100km on the combined cycle. With a heavy right foot, you would comfortably climb a few litres higher than that, but one of the beauties of the CVT is it always works to keep the engine at its most efficient. The bad part about the CVT is it highlights one of the engine's downsides - its propensity for noise.
If accelerating hard, the Outlander 2WD revs to its redline - around 6000rpm, where maximum power is made - and stays there until you back off. While it picks up pace with enthusiasm and accelerates smoothly, it also buzzes annoyingly, and sounds fairly coarse the whole time. There's a zinging sound that just never goes away and coupled with the very apparent road noise, the Outlander 2WD can become a little wearing.
On its 16-inch wheels it's also not the greatest handler, though the ride is not too bad. The steering is a bit disconnected also, but braking is good and pedal feel is fine. Dynamically, then, it's middle of the road.
But this isn't the kind of car you'll be flinging at a racetrack. It's a roomy family car that will swallow a whole lot of gear and then have some room to spare.
It's easy to drive and has an excellent warranty, but the biggest issue is its main rival - the Nissan X-Trail. In CVT form, the X-Trail 2WD is smoother, quieter, has a much more supple ride, has just as big a boot (but also has underfloor dividers) and has a much nicer interior.
The X-Trail isn't quite as quick, but counters with better fuel consumption (8.4L/100km vs 9.0L/100km). The X-Trail 2WD is also $500 cheaper.
Despite the Mitsubishi's better warranty, the X-Trail would be our pick.