Which tweener small CUV should you buy?
Small crossovers are all the rage these days. So much so that Mitsubishi makes two of them! This year, it’s giving the older one a major front and rear redo. Yes, the 2020 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is all new from the windshield forward and gets new wheels, rear fascia, and LED head- and taillamps. Interior sprucing includes a new center stack area sporting a bigger 8.0-inch screen on most models plus nicer-looking and -feeling knurled silver knobs for the infotainment volume, tuning (new this year), and climate controls.
Mitsubishi isn’t on everyone’s radar nowadays—especially folks living in the 39 percent of our great nation not currently served by a dealership (they’re working on it!)—so we figured you could use some help deciding between the two subcompact Mitsubishi crossovers. For comparison, we’re also including a third mainstreamer that’s almost the same size, shape, and price—the Nissan Rogue Sport (the Kia Niro is also super close size- and price-wise if you want a fourth option).
What the Salesperson Will Tell You:
“The Eclipse Cross is our more high-tech, stylish, sportier-driving CUV, and the Outlander Sport is more mainstream and affordable.” Well, sure enough, there’s more styling on the Eclipse Cross, though we think the changes to the Outlander Sport for 2020 close the extroversion gap. And there’s no denying that with base prices ranging from about $23,500 to $28,000 USD (the manual transmission is dropped for 2020; expect official pricing closer to the September launch), the Outlander Sport is generally a bit cheaper than an Eclipse Cross ($24,690–$32,365 USD). On the tech front, however, the differences seem minimal. Meanwhile the Rogue Sport prices out between these two, at $23,335 to $30,405 USD offering similar tech. You’ll have to decide for yourself whether you prefer Mitsubishi’s “Dynamic Shield” or Nissan’s “V-Motion” front-end themes.
How Do They Perform?
The Rogue Sport’s 2.0-liter 141-hp/147-lb-ft four-banger is somewhat outclassed by both of the naturally aspirated Outlander Sport engines and by the Eclipse Cross’ 1.5-liter turbo. The base Outlander Sport gets a 2.0-liter good for 148 hp and 145 lb-ft, while the GT gets a 2.4-liter producing 168 hp and 167 lb-ft (unchanged from 2019). The Eclipse Cross makes 152 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque, but it’s the heaviest of the three. All are equipped with continuously variable automatic transmissions. Comparing all-wheel-drive versions, the Outlander Sport 2.4L turns out to be the 60-mph-sprint winner at 8.5 seconds, followed by the Eclipse Cross and Outlander Sport 2.0L (9.0) and Rogue Sport (9.8). The cars sorted the same way in our figure-eight test: 28.0 seconds at 0.59 g, 28.5 at 0.56 g, 29.0 at 0.68 g, and 29.6 at 0.53 g. The Outlander Sports even out-brake the others from 60 to 0 mph 118 and 116 feet to the Eclipse Cross’ and Rogue Sport’s 125 and 137 feet. If tiptoeing off-pavement is your thing, the Mitsubishis offer various all-wheel-drive modes; the Rogue Sport offers an AWD Lock button. Of course, as these middling numbers pretty accurately indicate, none of these cars is likely to rekindle anyone’s lust for an open twisty road.
Advantage: Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
Here, the tables turn in a perfectly predictable manner, with the poky Rogue Sport winning index-of-efficiency honors, with EPA city/highway/combined ratings of 25/32/28 mpg (9.4/7.3/8.4 L/100 km) (front drive) and 24/30/27 (9.8/7.8/8.7 L/100 km) (AWD). The 2.0-liter Outlander Sport front-driver matches the Rogue’s AWD figure, then steps down to 23/29/26 (10.2/8.1/9 L/100 km) for the 2.0-liter AWD, 23/29/25 (10.2/8.7/9 L/100 km) for the 2.4-liter front-drive, and 23/28/25 (10.2/8.4/9.4 L/100 km) with AWD. The Eclipse Cross earns a 25/28/26 (9.4/8.4/9 L/100 km) rating with either drivetrain (so might as well splurge on AWD).
Advantage: Nissan Rogue Sport
What’ll They Haul?
The Mitsubishis ride on the same 105.1-inch wheelbase—0.9 inch longer than the Rogue Sport’s—but the more rakish styling of the Eclipse Cross leaves it measuring longer by 1.0/1.5 inches (Rogue/Outlander), slightly narrower, and considerably taller. The added height helps compensate for the steep rear glass angle in the cargo department, allowing it to miraculously fit more than 22 cubic feet behind the rear seats (the Outlander Sport fits 21.7, the Rogue Sport right at 20.0. Lower all the seats, however, and the Rogue’s your schlepper by a margin of 53.3 cubic feet to 49.5 (Outlander Sport) and 48.8 (Eclipse Cross). Of course, whatever doesn’t fit inside an Eclipse Cross can be towed behind it, as it gets an official 1,500-pound (680-kg) tow rating. The others aren’t officially rated, though the internet suggests the Rogue Sport can handle 1,000 pounds (453 kg) and the Outlander Sport possibly 1,500 (680-kg) (caveat tow-er).
Tie: Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross and Nissan Rogue Sport
Mitsubishi equips both its entrants with knee airbags. Nissan doesn’t, but it makes blind-spot warning and automatic emergency braking standard (including pedestrian detection in the top two trim levels) with optional intelligent cruise control, part of its ProPilot Assist Technology package. Mitsubishi’s similar LDW and Forward Collision Mitigation only come on top GT versions of the Outlander Sport, and adaptive cruise control is not available. The Eclipse Cross makes most of that equipment optional. NHTSA has crashed the two Sports but not the lower-volume Eclipse Cross. The Outlander and Rogue Sports performed identically for NHTSA (four stars for frontal and roll-over, five for side-impact, four overall). IIHS has fully tested only the Outlander Sport, granting “good” ratings for all but the small-overlap tests (its original design predated that test), headlights, and child-seat anchor ease of use.
Advantage: Insufficient data
If you live where buying and servicing a Mitsubishi doesn’t require an epic drive, and if you dig the aggressive new looks of the Outlander Sport, give the 2.4-liter model a spin. It’s worth noting that Mitsubishi recently jumped to third place among non-luxury brands in the most recent J.D. Power Customer Satisfaction Index study. Of course, if you travel extensively, the Nissan Rogue Sport’s better gas mileage and broader dealer network might be more appealing. Then again, if your prime goal is to stand out in a crowd and not see yourself coming and going, go for the Eclipse Cross.