2021 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE - Rental Review

Jun 26, 2003
July 2021 Rental Review

2021 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE

3366 Miles



A/C ice cold
Plenty of cupholders and power points up front
Decent Display with Apple Car Play in Head Unit
Mid 20's fuel economy
Quiet engine 75MPH/2200 RPM even at mile high elevations
Decent Audio
Generally Easy to use controls.


Road noise.
Lacks power in mountainous terrain
Carplay asked to be enabled EVERY time you attach your phone.
Proximity Key gets confused. Wouldn't work sometimes and needed you to pull the key from your pocket to lock/unlock the doors.
No way to close AC vents
No Zoned Climate Control
Cheap Interior
High beams not intuitive.
Cruise Control gets caught off guard from time to time in hilly terrain.


Estimated fuel economy in the mid 20s, let's say 25MPG for now. Didn't track it too close.

Got this car from Avis. Received it with just under 9k miles on the clock. Looked like Avis @SLC is short staffed when it came to cleaning as the interior was a bit dirty. We later found out it was low on washer fluid as it took nearly a gallon of the stuff on the 2nd or 3rd day of a 12 day trip while we were in Whitefish, MT.

The first evening, we simply drove from SLC to Idaho Falls, ID, or about 200 miles north of SLC as it was the end of the day. Here I learned that the 2.0L/CVT combination has some good points and bad points. Seems the sweet spot for this vehicle is around 75 MPH. Try to go any faster and it will go, but the cruise control will not reliably keep the speed. The problem is in many rural roads have an 80MPH speed limit. This will do it when loaded with two adults and luggage for two weeks, but the cruise will sometimes lose the plot and you'll be 5MPH above or below your set point. Heat, elevation and climbing hills has something to do with this. I think the bigger issue is the 2.0L is too small for this job without a turbo. A bigger engine, or better for this area of the country, a turbo would help things quite a bit.

Road and wind noise mask the engine doing its work. I looked down and saw the tach between 5k-6k RPMs from time to time. I couldn't hear the engine over the road noise. Speaking of sound, when stopped at a traffic light or similar, this vehicle has the loudest AC compressor clutch I've ever heard.

On a positive note, the AC is freezer cold. It had no problems dealing with temperatures that reached 117 in Hurrican, UT. The downside is that it wasn't a zoned system nor could you turn off vents like you can in most other vehicles. There was the perpetual "climate fight" between oilBabe and me depending on who had sun coming in their side window and what stage of hot flashes/power surges she was in as we are people of a certain age.

The CVT must either have a lock up torque converter as you could feel a lurch upon unlock, or it would drastically change ratios to the point of it feeling like a downshift from time to time. To me, it seemed more like an unlock event, but I couldn't really tell you. But it interrupted the otherwise smooth operation of the CVT.

The place where the powertrain really struggled was Brian Head, UT/Cedar Breaks National Monument. We approached from Parowan, UT as we were traveling South from Idaho Falls, ID to Hurrican, UT and put Cedar Breaks on the route so the day wasn't just 500 miles of driving. Parowan, UT is about 6000' of elevation and Brian Head is at 9800' Getting up into Cedar Breaks the elevation is about 10,600 feet above mean sea level. When we stopped in Brian Head at a little country store for a bio break and gift shop for oilBabe, strange smells from the powertrain were noticeable. Most of the over 4600 feet of climbing is in the last mile or two between Parowan and Brian Head and that's where the odor was noticeable. It was steep enough that the Outlander couldn't manage more than 35MPH with the pedal to the rug. I believe speed limits were similar so we were not necessarily a hazard to others. However, it was a bit unnerving to have nothing more under foot.

The rest of the climb to Cedar Breaks was uneventful. Never did we have issues keeping up with traffic, it's just the 2L/CVT combo was working overtime. While the coolant gauge (a bar graph on the center info screen between the tach and speedo) didn't move from it's just below the middle mark, I suspect the CVT/Belt was overtaxed and likely the source of the smell during the steep climb.

On the downhill side, putting the CVT into Ds provided some engine braking and we never felt out of control when making our way down to Cedar City and back onto I15 to Hurrican, UT. (We stayed there to visit Zion, Bryce Canyon and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.)

I found myself comparing this to our 2017 RAV4 XLE with which it would compete. This seems to be a 7/8ths sized SUV. The RAV4, while being 4-5 years older and close to 100k miles now seems better put together. The fit and finish seemed nice, the 2.5L/6 speed power train seems more suited to a vehicle of this size, and while lacking Apple Car play, the infotainment seems better thought out in the Toyota. I paired my phone with the head unit in the Outlander and if I did not wait for the screen to come up asking permission to pair with Car Play, which I must have clicked always automatically pair 50 times or more of the course of 12 days, it kept asking me to do so. I'd have thought it was a one and done. It was annoying to have to come to a complete stop to be able to pair the phone. This locks out all other functions, which means one must either stop OR look under the dash to unplug the USB cord. Probably the biggest annoyance because one would expect that Always Pair means Always Pair and don't ask me again. The screen indicating something to the effect of "This function not allowed while in motion" was both annoying and there was no intuitive way of getting out of it. The back button on the head unit didn't work. It took stopping the vehicle for the prompt to appear OR pulling the cord, which is as distracting if not more as it's even less out of the line of sight for the driver.

Not to mention if there is a passenger, and we know there is a sensor in the seat because it knows when there is a passenger seated without a seat belt, who is to say it's not the passenger operating the head unit.

It's a very annoying experience and detracts greatly from the car.

2021 Outlander Sport:
Length 171.9"
Width 71.3"
Track 60.6"
Wheelbase 105.1"
Engine 2.0 MIVEC I4 148HP@6000RPM / 145 lb-ft@4200 / Redline 6500
Weight 3120-3260#

2017 RAV4:
Length 183.5"
Width 72.6"
Track 61.8"
Wheelbase 104.7"
Engine 2.5L 176HP@6000 / 172 lb-ft@4100
Weight 3400-3600#

Back to pluses, the smaller size of the vehicle helps in the somewhat crowded national parks as the US awakens from the 2020 pause. Avis bills this as a vehicle for 5. I don't see how you could get 5 people with luggage in this unless it was weekend bags. I had one large duffle. oilBabe had a wheeled suitcase. We both had daypacks and picked up a soft side cooler that fit into my duffle for the trip home. The backseat easily held both day packs and the cooler while we had hiking poles, water and a change of shoes in the back most days. Plus any treasures oilBabe found at the various shops visited. Visibility seemed good as I drove. I never felt I had bad visibility in any direction. It did have the typical blind spot monitors and side traffic sensors that would light the mirrors and/or make noises to warn of cars in the blind spots or approaching from the sides when backing.

The 3366 miles of this trip were generally as follows:

Day 1 Drive from SLC to Idaho Falls, UT
Day 2-4 Drive from Idaho Falls, UT to Glacier NP where we went back and forth between Whitefish, MT where we stayed to Glacier. We did the Road to the Sun both directions as we were able to get a pass for the park. The smaller size of this vehicle helps on the narrow stretches.
Day 5 Drive from Whitefish, MT to Idaho Falls, UT.
Days 5-7, daytrips from Idaho Falls to Craters of the Moon, Twin Falls, Pocatello and our 14th anniversary was poking around Idaho Falls and a "romantic" time doing our laundry at the hotel before going out to dinner.
Day 8 Drive from Idaho Falls, ID to Hurrican, UT via Cedar Breaks NM, about 530 miles of driving that day.
Days 9-11, stayed in Hurrican UT and trips to Zion NP, Bryce Canyon NP and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Day 12 drive to SLC to fly home.

I think that was the basic itinerary. Just under two weeks and 3366 miles according to Avis.

I was glad to have a vehicle. While the Rav4 isn't considered to be the best SUV out there, I'd say it's better to live with compared to the Outlander Sport. I suspect rental companies got a great deal. We looked at each Outlander Sport we could get to when parked and it seemed 90% plus had indications of being a rental. Bar code stickers on windows for check in/check out. I doubt consumers are buying these at great rates.

Not sure I'd want one from an out West rental agency either as they seem to work hard in the mountains. The smell from the powertrain after the 4600' climb made me leery, but it did make it back to Avis without warning lights or signs of trouble during the last four days of the rental.


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The photos were taken on our trip from Hurrican to SLC. The avg mileage and speed reflected the stretch of the drive from our gas stop in Hurrican to fill up to this Maverik C-store for a bio-break. They don't reflect the overall trip averages.
So that's not really "highway" mpg. I mean, it seems low for such a vehicle.
Last edited:
So that's not really "highway" mpg. I mean, it seem slow for such a vehicle.
Well, not Midwest Hwy mileage. Probably about two hours of mostly 75MPH on I-15 from Hurricane, UT to Fillmore, UT. About 150 miles give or take in just over 2 hours of driving. So it averaged about 70 MPH and 28.5 according to the display. Not the overall mileage. We didn't tank up there as we had enough fuel to get to SLC where we would tank before returning the vehicle.

Edited to add, the Mitsubishi is carrying at least 21# / HP while the RAV4 is carrying 19.3#/HP. So one is looking at a 10% better power to weight ratio with the slightly larger Toyota.
I did have about 1056 miles worth of fuel economy data and used 35.54 gallons over that period from Idaho Falls to my last fill up in Hurricane before. I didn't record the very last fill up in SLC, nor any of the detail prior.

The darn thing averaged 29.72 over that 1056 mile run. It did better than I thought it did.

Mostly highway and certainly mountainous. Not to mention a fair bit of sitting and idling to keep the AC going and figuring out our next move, etc.

Not bad Mitsubishi, not bad!
Oh, and no appreciable oil consumption over the 3366 miles. so whatever oil Avis was using in this seems to have held up in the scorching heat and severe driving conditions of this trip.
Looks pretty basic and cheap, a Mitsubishi standard.
It started, stopped and turned. The A/C worked, everything else did MOST of the time.

It wasn't exceptional, but it did do it's job.

Cannot tell you what it would be like to sit in the back seat as it was used to hold stuff/trash until the next stop.
Sounds miserable, not much more horsepower than my gutless 21 year old Camry.

We took my aunt’s 16’ Avalon V6 on a 5,000 mile road trip including to Glacier National Park, pushed that car hard and drove fast. 29 mpg from that heavy V6 beast. Disappointing a 2.0L can’t do better.
Mitsubishi still makes vehicles for the U.S. market?

But seriously, very detailed review. I can’t believe how weak that would be at altitude with 5 people and some bags. Not being to go faster than 35 is mind blowing to me.
Also, mind sharing what the rental cost you in this busy time without a ton of cars to rent?
1) I forgot to ask; is this the Outlander which is mostly a Nissan Rogue?

2) I wouldn't compare mileages between these 2 middling cars Nick1994 as both samples were done at super-highway speeds or crawling up and down mountains. The OP did say the 35 mph Purgatory was shared by many (he wasn't obstructing traffic).

3) There's always been recognized differences between a small engine revving its guts out vs a vehicle with enough power.
Also, mind sharing what the rental cost you in this busy time without a ton of cars to rent?
We booked in late Jan or early Feb and the total OTD for the rental was $448. About 1/3rd of that was taxes and fees.

Time and mileage (unlimited miles) was $290.40

Taxes and fees made up the rest of the $447.65 was taxes and fees.

Had we had to book now, I'd expect double that.
Mitsubishi still makes vehicles for the U.S. market?

But seriously, very detailed review. I can’t believe how weak that would be at altitude with 5 people and some bags. Not being to go faster than 35 is mind blowing to me.
To be honest, that was a pretty steep stretch of road. I believe close to 14% at some points, IIRC. At around 9k feet anything without a turbo is going to have problems.