2012 Mitsubishi Outlander Straightforward Nature>

Crossovers and SUVs are a dime a dozen – sometimes you can’t even tell who made ‘em! Not the case with the 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport ES. That scowling mouth alone sets it apart from the others. Merged with flowing bodylines from stem to stern, the Outlander Sport ES presents a cohesive package as it ends in an upswept bum.

I like the demeanor of the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, smaller brother to the larger Outlander. This Outlander Sport ES is the base vehicle in the lineup and has a six-speed manual transmission to go with its 2-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 148 horsepower. Not enough, you say? I found the lightweight (for a crossover) Outlander Sport’s 3032 pounds didn’t hinder this vehicle one bit; glad to have the manual tranny over a CVT Mitsubishi could have fit on this car.

I drove the Outlander Sport ES from Chicago to Indianapolis in May and loved the fully independent suspension, all-wheel antilock brakes – but found the steering a bit lighter than I like, although that makes it easier to park. Mileage figures of 24/31 are pretty accurate – I used less than half a tank (it holds 16.6 gallons) from Chicago to Indy.

The list price of this machine is $21,900 with the intuitive navigation system with real-time traffic information. The only thing I might have wanted on this silver (with black cloth) Outlander Sport ES might be satellite radio for the three-plus hour trip to Indy.

You learn a lot about a vehicle on the open road; I learned to like the light feel to the clutch and shifter. I appreciated the multi-function leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls (left), phone on the lower left and a well-integrated cruise control on the right. The closed central console storage has a 12-volt plug and USB – there’s even a lighter at the base of the central stack.

There are cupholders in the front doors, a 60/40 fold for the rear but no cargo cover. With seats folded, you can stuff 49.5 cubic feet of detritus behind the two front seats. There are tie-down hooks under the reachable hatch and a full-size spare under the floor.

Now here’s a front-wheel-drive crossover with plenty of utility to recommend it and not too much fluff. I sure like its straightforward nature.

Written by: Anne Proffit HerHighway Contributor