For the past several years I’ve driven a used 2004 AWD Toyota Sienna minivan. For carting kids, carpooling and Costco runs, it’s been just fine. It’s roomy and rugged, but really lacking in bells and whistles. That’s what I noticed most when I compared my current ride to the car I got to test drive for a week earlier this month: the 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport.
Heated seats! Sirius radio! Touch-engine start! Who knew such little amenities would bring me such joy?
In case you haven’t guessed, I’m not really a “car person.” I care little about horsepower or “zero to 60 in X seconds.” I appreciate a car that’s fuel efficient (the 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE AWC I drove gets 29 mpg on the highway), but what really enhances my time behind the wheel are all the “extras” and the “fun factor” of a car. This Mitsubishi model has those.
The first thing I noticed about the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is that it’s friendly. I’m not accustomed to a one-touch start/stop button, so the second time I started the car, I forgot I had to have my foot on the brake for the engine to start. The nice car reminded me gently:
This car is also very concerned about my safety. It comes with a sweet rearview camera system which I did use regularly in the week that I had the car, driving it from Aspen to Glenwood Springs, Colorado, in my daily life.
Again, looking out for my safety, the car didn’t like it at all when I didn’t wear my seatbelt. Not that I drive without my seatbelt often. But I don’t put it back on after I hop out of the car to grab my mail and then drive up the looooong driveway to my house. The car beeped at me incessantly until I turned the engine off in my garage.
As far as other bells and whistles go, I absolutely loved the Sirius radio. To have all those channels and types of music at my fingertips was awesome. (Yes, I’m easily impressed and have been deprived without Sirius in my own car.) The oversized 7-inch LED touchscreen display made it easy to read the names of all the channels. Plus, you can store up to 3,000 songs on the built-in music server. My daughter preferred to plug in her iPhone and play all of her songs without downloading them; her playlists and the names of her songs showed up on the screen and were easy to find and play.
The touchscreen also serves as a navigation system providing driving directions and real-time traffic updates (which we really didn’t use, as I stuck close to home the week I test-drove this car).
And the heated seats! Granted, Colorado was in the midst of a warm spell when I drove this car (note the thermometer reading 50 degrees in early December), but I used that seat warmer as often as I could, namely when climbing into the Mitsubishi in the early morning.
Another super-fun amenity: the panoramic glass roof. This was the largest glass roof I’ve ever seen in a car; perhaps it’s built so big because it can’t slide open. Still, I loved the light shining in the car as I drove around on sunny days. Even more fun: the LED illumination that lined the sides of it. The row of little white lights made it feel as if I were in a party limo at night.
Let’s see… what else. The kids reported that the back seat was plenty roomy for the two of them on short jaunts not far from our house, though we agreed we aren’t quite ready for a car of this size yet. That is, they’d feel a little cramped on family road trips of any length. We did think that the trunk was plenty roomy for after-school carpooling (four kids’ backpacks and musical instruments) or big grocery-shopping trips. The kids liked the “secret door” where they could reach through and grab a small item if they liked.
Heated side mirrors, hill start assist, and seven airbags, including one that is designed to protect and cushion the driver’s knees (see, again, safety first!). I’d never heard of this before, but I think I like it.
Funny story: The car is automatic transmission, but it does have a pair of paddle shifters located behind the steering wheel, so manual shifting is literally at your fingertips. Only I didn’t know what the paddle shifters were, but decided to pull on one as we were sailing down the highway at about 45 miles an hour. Indeed, I jerked the car a bit, since it wasn’t an appropriate time to downshift. But once I figured out the appropriate times to use the manual shifting levers I used them a lot, especially on the hills around my house.
This compact crossover vehicle is a little small for my needs right now (too often I’m driving more than four passengers), but when my kids are old enough to start driving themselves and their friends around town, I’d absolutely consider this snazzy, fuel-efficient and friendly, too. In fact, whenever I’d shut off the engine, I got this sweet note from the 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport: