2004 Mitsubishi Outlander
Photos: Mitsubishi. Click image to enlarge

By Jil McIntosh

For several weeks I ended up in a variety of compact SUVs. For most, it became a routine: drive it, note the good and bad points, and then give it back to the company.

But one was different. A friend asked about the Mitsubishi Outlander in our driveway. The Designated Passenger replied, “They’ll have to pry that one out of her cold, dead fingers.”

Well, not quite – said digits are still warm and working – but he was pretty close. Normally I’m not really a fan of these too-tall station wagons, but I returned the Outlander reluctantly. If I were putting a compact SUV in the driveway permanently, this would probably be the one.

The Outlander starts at $24,458 in front-wheel-drive configuration; an “all-wheel-drive” version – which transmits power to the rear wheels if the front ones slip – starts at $27,078. Load up the top-end XLS with all available packages, and Outlander’s price tag peaks at $32,118.

All models include automatic transmission, air, cruise, power locks with keyless remote, heated power mirrors, power windows, variable intermittent wipers, AM/FM/CD and cargo cover. The upper-line XLS adds fog lights, ABS, extra speakers and privacy glass.

2004 Mitsubishi Outlander

2004 Mitsubishi Outlander

2004 Mitsubishi Outlander

2004 Mitsubishi Outlander
Click image to enlarge

Although the Outlander debuted for 2003, its 2.4-litre engine has already been tweaked from the introductory model, and it produces 160 horsepower and 162 ft-lbs of torque. I got 11 L/100km, about average for this class of vehicle.

It’s very smooth and perky for a four-cylinder, but that’s just part of its appeal. Really, it’s the entire package. It’s easy to climb into, and roomy and comfortable inside. It’s very nimble – it feels like you’re piloting a compact car, with far less body roll than many competitors. Visibility’s never perfect in an SUV, but Outlander’s open headrests and large windows make it relatively easy to see everything around you, especially when parking.

The interior is very well planned. Clever round vents seal completely with a touch, and rotate 360 degrees. The front cupholders – well out of the way of any controls – are made to accept two travel mugs, with handles. (It doesn’t sound like much, until you’re on a trip with someone and you both have them. Call me shallow, but it’s the little things that can make or break a commuter car.) And the airplane-style clock is way cool.

Outlander’s one-piece hatch doesn’t lift excessively high – I could open it fully under my low carport. (Do you ever check liftgate height before it’s paid for, and you suddenly realized it’s going to hit your garage door track?) With the 60/40 rear seats in place, there’s 84 cm of space; fold them, and it opens to 145 cm. The floor lifts to reveal three storage areas, and the middle panel flips from carpet to plastic. I hit the garden centre, turned the plastic up to protect the interior, and hauled home five bags of mulch and several plants – running out of money before I ran out of room.

Warranty is 3-year/60,000 km basic, with 5-year/100,000 km powertrain.

So was there a downside to my beloved Outlander? Alas, there’s one: Mitsubishi is still trying to gain ground as a stand-alone company in Canada, and there aren’t a lot of dealers in their network. But all things considered, I’d make an effort to find one. This is a compact SUV that feels like a car and hauls like a truck. Hmmm. My fingers do feel just a little chilly wrapped around the wheel.

Technical Data: 2004 Mitsubishi Outlander LS FWD

Base price $24,458
Freight $1,025
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $25,583
Type 4-door, 5-passenger compact SUV
Layout transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive
Engine 2.4 litre 4 cylinder, SOHC, 16 valves
Horsepower 160 @ 5750 rpm
Torque 162 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Transmission 4-speed automatic
Curb weight 1470 kg (3240 lb.)
Wheelbase 2625 mm (103.3 in.)
Length 4550 mm (179.1 in.)
Width 1750 mm ( 68.9 in.)
Height 1685 mm ( 66.3 in.)
Ground clearance 210 mm (8.25 in.)
Cargo capacity (behind second row) 1707 L (60.3 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 11.3 l/100 km (21 mpg)
  Hwy: 9.1 l/100 km (26 mpg)
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km
Powertrain Warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km

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