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Mitsubishi Is Really Leaning Into Cheap

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Photo: Mitsubishi

The 2020 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport starts at $22,595 not including the destination charge, which is in the range of its competitors like the Hyundai Kona, Kia Seltos, and Mazda CX-30. But the price wasn’t low enough for Mitsu.

The 2021 Outlander Sport will start even lower, at $20,995, or $1,600 less, Mitsubishi said Monday, thanks to the addition of a new trim, the S. The Outlander Sport S will be front-wheel drive only. You might scoff, but the Outlander Sport is Mitsubishi’s best-selling car in North America, with 24,504 sold year-to-date at the end of the third-quarter last year, edging the Outlander proper, which sold 23,467 in that time frame. Third place is the Mirage, with 14,292. The Outlander PHEV is dead last at 1,579, somewhat sadly but predictably so.


But, back to the Outlander Sport, which will have automatic high beams, lane departure warning and an automatic emergency braking system standard on every trim. Under the hood of all but the fanciest trim is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 148 horsepower, while the GT AWC gets a 2.4-liter that makes 168 HP, the same options from 2020. The point of this car isn’t power, though it’s fuel efficiency numbers — 27 mpg combined — aren’t terribly impressive either.

Mitsubishi’s point, more generally, is value. I don’t know if I’d recommend buying a used Mitsubishi, but the new ones come with warranties that would, in general, put a lot of my concerns about buying a Mitsubishi at ease.

Outlander Sport boasts one of the industry’s leading powertrain and new vehicle warranties: a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain limited warranty; 5-year/60,000-mile new vehicle limited warranty; 7-year/100,000-mile anti-corrosion/perforation limited warranty; and 5-year/unlimited mileage roadside assistance program.


The GT AWC trim tops out the range and starts at $26,995, and while I like the idea of getting a fancy-trimmed cheap car, it’s usually best to get a cheap cheap car.

More broadly I’m fascinated to see where Mitsubishi will go from here, because while most automakers are going the direction of bigger, pricier cars, Mitsubishi has stuck small and cheap. are now leaning into that a bit. Which on paper makes sense — in uncertain economic times I would think consumers would want to spend less, or take on less debt if they are getting a loan — but persistently low gas prices have complicated the situation. The last time small cars got popular in America (2008) the economy was bad and gas prices were sky-high.

Whether Mitsu actually cares about any of this — there is a halfheartedness to their entire vibe, from their website to their press releases — is immaterial. I’m just glad it is here to provide some counterprogramming.