Sharp styling is always nice, and strong performance can be exciting, but nothing speaks to new car buyers as loudly as price. The Korean carmakers have known this for decades and now Mitsubishi has cottoned on and released a new entry-level model in its very successful Outlander range. Like buying ‘home brand’ at the supermarket the Outlander LS forgoes some of the fancy packaging to chase down a more attractive price – $37,990. That’s a tempting sum to swap for NZ’s best selling medium SUV especially coming with Mitsubishi’s 5-year/10-year warranty. But in achieving this price what concessions have been made on this brazen base-model? Car and SUV opened the packet on the Outlander LS to take a closer look at the contents within.
Visually the LS, like all Outlanders has a more traditional boxy SUV shape when compared to the highly curved new-school SUVs like the Hyundai ix35 and the Mazda CX-7. Classic good looks aside, it’s only under close inspection that the LS differs from its more expensive siblings. Mitsubishi’s ‘jet fighter’ grille, first used on the Lancer then on the facelifted Outlander range, hasn’t filtered down to the LS model. While this leaves it a facelift behind other Outlanders the overall styling on the LS is modern and gives it genuine presence. Tough black plastic mouldings protect the underside and it rolls on 16″ steel wheels with silver covers. Overall, it’s a smart looking machine with its high beltline, tinted rear glass and subtle chrome touches. With the exception of the steel wheels there is nothing about the Outlander LS that really screams ‘base model’.
Inside it’s a similar deal with the LS providing what’s a spacious and pleasant environment. Good quality dark plastics are used for the main body of the dashboard and contrasting silver trim features throughout. There are areas where cheaper grade untextured black plastics have been used but everything feels well screwed together. The switchgear is easy to use and although the stereo looks slightly dated and isn’t uniformed with orange illumination it functions well. The instrument cluster is large and has a screen that offers trip and economy information. For standard equipment the Outlander LS does well with auto air-conditioning, power windows, keyless entry, Bluetooth telephone system and an immobiliser all included.
The front seats are firm but supportive and are finished in a hardwearing black cloth with lighter grey panels. For space the front occupants are well looked after, the back seat is recline adjustable and provides decent head and legroom. Three can fit in the back fairly comfortably and if that’s not enough, there’s a third row of seating stowed in the hatch floor. This extra pew adds versatility and boosts Outlander capacity to seven people but it is quite small and best suited to kids.
With the third row of seats folded away cargo capacity is a very usable 882-litres. But to get more space the second row can be shifted forward and tilted upwards, doubling capacity to a cavernous 1,691-litres. A practical split tailgate makes loading large items easy and can double up as a seat when parked.
Under the bonnet the Outlander LS is the only model in the range to receive Mitsubishi’s 2.0-litre 4-cylinder MIVEC engine. This unit is good for 111kW of power and 200Nm of torque at 4,200rpm. It’s a spirited motor and while the LS is no rocket ship off the line, it has no issue propelling the 1,535kg SUV around town. On motorways and open roads space is needed for overtaking but at the speed limit the LS is relaxed and settled.
Despite the off-roading looks the Outlander LS is 2WD and power is sent to the front wheels through a 6-speed CVT transmission. With the weight saving from not running a 4WD system and the smaller engine the LS returns impressive economy of 7.6l/100km combined. This is one category where it wins out over its more expensive stable mates.
The CVT transmission helps with economy but it can flare up and be slightly skittish when the LS is given too much gas. Under regular driving, though, it transfers power predictably and light pedal work will keep it smooth.
Dynamically the LS handles fairly well, there is some body roll when cornering sharply but not much more than you’d expect from any SUV. There is plenty of grip on offer and it bites into the corners with an appetite. On road there would be very few occasions where drivers would miss having a 4WD set up. Off road the LS would struggle to keep up with its 4WD brothers but the increased ride height and long vertical suspension travel would still allow it some capability.
Ride quality is a fair compromise, and while it’s not pillow soft, it easily absorbs bumps and dips in the road but is firm enough for steady cornering. It’s particularly good during suburban duties where the light steering and relaxed powertrain function admirably. It’s also nicely quiet in the cabin with very little engine noise entering and the 16-inch wheels keep it mellow as well.
No concessions have been made with safety and the Outlander LS is fitted with front, side and curtain airbags. There’s stability control, traction control and it’s achieved a 5-star safety rating.
While the LS may lack the fancy alloy wheels, the V6 engine and even a 4WD system it is still a smart idea. It’s positioned at the competitive end of the hardest fought SUV segment and it has retained the characteristics that make the Outlander popular. It’s spacious, well built, is very safe, can seat seven, and is easy to drive with predictable dynamics. Factor in Mitsubishi’s extensive warranty and it makes for an attractive prospect.
Mitsubishi has not only widened its Outlander model range with the LS but has also extended the ladder down a rung allowing those who really wanted a new Outlander but were short on cash a chance to now own one. There are always going to be some concessions buying a base-model vehicle but there’s little that looks or feels budget with the Outlander LS.
Price: $37,990 + ORC
What we like:
- Well priced for a mid-size SUV
- 7-seater capability
- Fuel economy
- Safety features
What we don’t like:
- There are more refined CVT boxes around
- Switchgear looks a little dated
- Body roll
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo