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2011 Mitsubishi RVR
A diet makes you look sporty, even if there's no more muscle

By Malcolm Gunn

2011 Mitsubishi RVRIt's not every day that Mitsubishi introduces new models to North America, but it had to happen sooner or later.

Technically, though, the 2011 RVR (called the Outlander Sport in the U.S of A.) is a spin-off of the current Outlander wagon. In fact, both models use the same platform as the compact Lancer sedan. But with a 37-centimetre reduction in overall length over the Outlander, the RVR actually appears radically different. It's also geared to a different audience and seems destined to fulfill a different mission in life.

Without doubt, the RVR's attractively proportioned shape appears, well, sporty, as opposed to the sheetmetal on the family-values-looking Outlander. In fact, only the senior Outlander's outside mirrors are shared with the upstart. From stem to stern, the design is more cohesive and works well with the Lancer Evolution-style open-mouth nosepiece that Mitsubishi claims was inspired by jet-fighter air intakes.

Naturally, a price must be paid for pruning more than a foot from the RVR's length. The bigger Outlander is available with a third row and the RVR is not. Simple.

2011 Mitsubishi RVRAlthough the cargo hold has been similarly shortened, it remains more than adequate. If need be, the storage space can be maxed out by folding forward the split 60:40 rear seat.

The five-passenger seating arrangement will suit most needs although we wonder about the polka-dot-like base seat coverings. For drivers, a display screen indicating fuel, outside temperature, odometer reading and other vitals separates the dashboard's large twin gauge pods.

The RVR's thrust is provided by the Lancer-based 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that makes 148 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. That's not exactly earth-shattering compared to the Hyundai Tucson's 175-horsepower engine or the Volkswagen Tiguan's 200 turbocharged horses, but it should be enough to make the 1,410-kilogram RVR (about 180 kilograms lighter than the original Outlander) perform in a lively manner. The 2.0's 8.7 l/100 km in the city and 6.4 l/100 km on the highway with the five-speed-manual makes the RVR one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles in its class.

2011 Mitsubishi RVRThe manual is fitted to the base front-wheel-drive SE trim level, while a continuously variable (CVT) unit is standard on the SE AWD as well as the up-level GT The CVT includes paddle shifters that control the six artificial built-in steps. The idea is to emulate the sound and feel of a more familiar automatic transmission with the pitfalls of a traditional automatic, such as the power- and economy-robbing torque converter.

The optional driver-activated all-wheel-drive is operated from a control knob on the floor console. Under low-stress/cruising conditions, the vehicle remains in front-wheel-drive. When tire slip is detected, up to 70 per cent of the engine's torque can be directed to the rear wheels. However, when the situation calls for maximum traction from all four wheels, the AWD can also be set to a "Lock" position that maintains a 60:40 torque split.

The $23,450 front-wheel-drive SE includes a good assortment of standard features that would please most bargain hunters. Opting for the top-line  all-wheel-drive GT ($30,000) adds climate control, push-button start, rain-sensing wipers, upgraded seats and 18-inch alloy wheels (16-inch alloy wheels are standard).

Among the suite of options are a mega-sized sunroof, mega-watt sound system and a navigation/rearview camera combo.

The RVR's performance might not entirely live up to its sporty intentions (Mitsubishi has more potent four-cylinder engines that it could easily draw upon), but for style and content, this shrink-wrapped wagon should earn a spot in the big leagues.

What you should know: 2011 Mitsubishi RVR

Type: Four-door compact front- /four-wheel-drive sport utility vehicle
Engine (hp): 2.0-litre DOHC four-cylinder (148)
Transmissions: Five-speed manual; continuously variable (opt.)
Market position: Compact sport utility vehicles such as the Outlander-based RVR provide a bit more ruggedness than their wagon counterparts with optional all-wheel-drive and generally make more practical and all-weather useful.
Points: Reducing length of the Outlander actually does make the RVR appear sportier; Lancer Evolution nose clip a bit misleading, unless Mitsubishi plans introducing performance upgrade; Driver-controlled four-wheel-drive rare for this segment; Faux six-speeds makes CVT a more acceptable choice; Temptingly attractive base price.
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
L/100 km (city/hwy): 8.7/6.4 (MT)
Base price (incl. destination): $23,450

By comparison:

Hyundai Tucson
Base price: $22,800
Sharp-looking second-generation model has become a popular choice.

Jeep Compass
Base price: $17,200
A low price is this small ute's primary appeal. For on-road use only.

Volkswagen Tiguan
Base price: $29,500
Powerful turbo engine and high-quality interior worth the premium price.

Malcolm Gunn is an automotive writer based in Moncton, NB, and a regular contributor to CarTest!

Posted February 02, 2011. © CarTest.ca TM


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