All images: Mitsubishi

Great news for you Mitsubishi fan(s?) out there! A new 2020 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport just showed its face for the first time today. But if, for some reason, you were expecting an all-new vehicle, there’s rough news: it’s essentially a refreshed 2011 model. But honestly, that’s not totally a bad thing.

I’m no platform snob. I believe that, for certain vehicles, it’s totally okay to keep using the same bones for decades at a time. That seems to hold especially true for cheap crossovers, whose buyers really don’t care about the latest weight-savings tech, and who may be more willing to give up having the snazziest-looking car on the block to save a few bills. As long as the car can be refreshed with modern safety features and more efficient powertrains, it’s probably okay.

The 2020 model on the left. The 2011 on the right. Photos: Mitsubishi. Edit by Jason Torchinsky

Still, when I saw Mitsubishi’s press release on the 2020 Outlander Sport (sold elsewhere as the ASX, if you were wondering about the badging), I was surprised to see that it’s clearly built on the same platform that launched in 2010 for the 2011 model year. This thing is set to be revealed at the Geneva Motor Show in March, unintentionally celebrating just over ten years that the Outlander Sport has sat on the same platform. That’s quite a stretch.

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As you can see above, there’s quite a lot of shared sheetmetal between the two vehicles in the rear (forward of the A-pillars appears to be new), and the interior also looks quite similar to what launched for 2011, even though the 2020 model gets an eight-inch touchscreen, which is up from seven inches in the outgoing 2019 model:

2020 Outlander Sport on the left, 2011 Outlander Sport on the right

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So the Outlander is already long in the tooth, and since it’s continuing to use the same underpinnings, don’t expect many changes to suspension design or interior geometry. That’s kind of a bummer, but it makes sense, because it appears that the Outlander Sport is selling well, with Mitsubishi writing in its release::

Since its launch in 2009, the Outlander Sport has sold around 1.32 million units globally in nearly 90 countries...Currently the third-highest selling vehicle offered globally by MMC, the Outlander Sport is key to the company’s global strategy.

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“Why fix what ain’t broke?” is probably what the company is thinking.

Lots of other cars out there are built on some seriously old bones, and their makers are likely thinking the same thing. Dodge’s lineup, as we’ve pointed out before, is extremely dated, with vehicles like the Durango, Journey, and Charger sitting on platforms from 2010 or earlier. There are plenty of other examples, but one that comes to mind is the Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro that debuted just last week, and that’s based on the same platform that debuted at the tail end of 2007.

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So the old platform itself isn’t a bad thing, especially for the bean counters, but what’s bad is if the platform causes the vehicle to continue down a path of mediocrity; my coworker Stef Schrader drove a 2017 model and wrote “I Hate The 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport And Everything It Stands For”, so it sounds like this thing could use all the help it can get.

I contacted Mitsubishi to double check what this “major design change” completely entailed, and was told by a representative that powertrains for the U.S. market are unchanged, but that the important takeaway is that what we’re seeing here is the beginning of a design trend for the brand, with the email reading:

It’s a heavy styling refresh, but the most important point to take away from the reveal is that this is the first step towards Mitsubishi’s new global styling direction, under the pen of Tsunehiro Kunimoto, our global head of design. As the next generation of Mitsubishi vehicles are unveiled, you will see a lot of the styling cues from this vehicle, as well as the Engelberg Tourer concept that we’ll show in Geneva.

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Here’s Kunimoto himself:

So this is the new design direction for Mitsubishi:

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It looks okay. The front seems busy, and while I like the idea of the turn signal lamps being stacked above the fog lamps like that, that big tower of lights looks a bit odd, as does that chrome bit that wraps from the bottom of the fog light, toward the middle of the car, and then loops back up to the bottom of the headlight—that piece and the one on the other side almost make it seem like the compact crossover is wearing some sort of face mask. Mitsubishi calls this design concept “Dynamic Shield.”

I’ll have to see it in person to judge properly, but I think it looks okay. Even if it’s hiding a dated platform.