Special Coverage

New York Int’l Auto Show

The Outlander Sport cross/utility vehicle, the first of three eco-friendly models from Mitsubishi Motors North America, debuts today at the New York auto show.

The CUV, i-MiEV electric car and an unnamed global small car all are part of a 3-year, fuel-efficient vehicle strategy at the Japanese auto maker, which is trying to claw its way back to higher volumes in the U.S.

The Outlander Sport, known as the RVR outside the U.S. and a foot shorter than the regular Outlander, and boasts a lighter weight.

The CUV’s base ES grade tips the scale at 3,042 lbs. (1,380 kg), lighter than the Hyundai Tucson and Nissan Rogue, its primary competitors, Mitsubishi says. The auto maker uses thinner steel for the hood, tailgate and doors to reduce weight, while the front fenders are made from recycled plastic.

Despite the lighter materials, Mitsubishi says the Outlander Sport’s structure is “rigid and safe,” with a body design it dubs RISE, for reinforced impact safety evolution.

The CUV’s engine, a 148-hp 2.0L 4-cyl., is “highly efficient,” with highway fuel economy in the 31-mpg (7.6 L/100-km) range, Mitsubishi says.

A 5-speed manual transmission is standard. A continuously variable transmission, with six created gears, is available on ES trims and standard on the SE grade. The CVT comes with magnesium paddle shifters.

Fuel-sipping technologies such as electric power steering – Mitsubishi’s first use of the technology in the U.S. – low-rolling-resistance tires and a regenerative braking system also are standard on the Outlander Sport.

The CUV has a class-leading drag coefficient of 0.33, besting the Tucson, Mazda CX7 and Subaru Forester, the auto maker says.

As with the Outlander, the Outlander Sport offers both front-drive and Mitsubishi’s All-Wheel-Control system. The all-wheel-drive system, also available on the SE grade, includes a knob to select between FWD, AWD lock or auto modes. The CUV comes standard with a stability control system and a hill-start-assist function.

Standard features include a liquid-crystal display screen, 16-in. alloy wheels, “jet fighter” grille and bumper, steering-wheel mounted audio controls, heated outside mirrors, power windows and light-emitting diode combination taillights.

Also standard on the Outlander Sport is Mitsubishi’s Fuse hands-free link system, which combines advanced voice recognition with Bluetooth hands-free calling and audio playback. Fuse also controls the optional 40GB hard-disk-drive navigation system on SE grades.

Other options for the SE model include a panoramic glass roof with LED accent lighting and a 9-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio system. Both features are part of a premium package.

Standard SE features include 18-in. aluminum alloy wheels, one-touch start, automatic climate control and heated driver and front-passenger seats.

The Outlander Sport goes on sale in the U.S. this fall.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com