For 2005, the Mitsubishi Outlander receives a five-speed manual transmission on the base LS, four-wheel disc brakes on all models, and on the XLS and Limited, 17-inch wheels. But the big news is its warranty: 2004’s basic 3-years/60,000 km is now 5-years/100,000, while powertrain coverage increases from 5-years/100,000 to 10-years/160,000 km.

More “tall wagon” than SUV, the Outlander is based on the Lancer platform. The LS comes base with front-wheel-drive; other models get an all-wheel-drive system that splits the torque evenly between the front and rear under normal driving conditions, and distributes it wherever necessary when the going gets slippery. It’s not a serious off-roader, but it will get you through the worst of wintery city streets.

The base LS, whether two- or all-wheel, features air conditioning, variable intermittent wipers, 16-inch steel wheels, power mirrors, cruise control (on the automatic), power windows, power locks (with keyless entry on AWD), 60/40 folding rear seat, and CD player with four speakers.

The XLS adds fog lamps, rear privacy glass, 17-inch alloy wheels, leather-wrapped wheel, premium cloth seats, and six speakers. ABS can be added as an option.

The Limited adds leather interior, heated mirrors, clear taillight lenses, heated seats, side impact airbags, ABS, and six-CD/MP3 system.

The Outlander is very smooth and gutsy for a four-cylinder, but that’s just part of it. It’s easy to climb into, roomy up front, and with relatively good visibility for an SUV. It’s nimble, with road feel that’s more compact car than sport utility, and with minimal body roll. The controls are well-designed, the interior is good-looking, and its airplane-style clock is a nifty centrepiece to the dash.

But the Outlander may appeal more to couples than to families; rear seating is tight, and the cushions themselves aren’t all that comfortable. Rear cargo storage is smaller than in the Hyundai Santa Fe or Ford Freestyle; even the Jeep Liberty, which is 120 mm shorter, has 142 more litres of cargo space when both have their seats upright. Mitsubishi’s sparse dealer network will be an issue for many buyers, as well.

The Outlander is built in Mizushima, Japan.

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