Since its redesign in 2014, the Mitsubishi Outlander could have easily been dubbed the Outsider, such was its lukewarm reception in this highly competitive compact SUV segment. There was nothing particularly wrong with the Outlander, but neither did it stand out in any way. And the styling… well, it looked kinda’ like a rolling thumb.

While Canadian sales of the Outlander tallied 5,330 in 2014, this number pales against the Ford Escape juggernaut of 52,198 units. Not to mention the Honda CR-V (37,684) and Toyota RAV4 (36,693).

Indeed, there are plenty of impressive players duking it out for your SUV dollars. See our recent Compact SUV comparo for a ringside seat.

So how would the Mitsubishi Outlander have fared in this punch-up?

The 2015 model, not so well. However, after driving the significantly revised 2016 model at its press launch in San Francisco, I’m inclined to think it would have held its own, and possibly landed a couple of punches in the process.

Other than its bolder “Dynamic Shield” visage (now with standard LED accent lights) there are not any real big OMG! changes to the 2016 Outlander. But lots of little ones. Mitsubishi has gone over this SUV with a fine-tooth comb, focusing mostly on NVH, ride quality, improved handling and perceived quality. And it shows.

Mitsubishi brought a few 2015 models along so we could drive them back to back with the 2016. Smart move.

Criticisms of the 2014-15 Outlander centred on its woolly body control, too much road and tire noise, and cabin quality that wasn’t up to scratch. Hopping into the 2016 after driving last year’s model proves it to be markedly quieter with a more refined ride and sharper handling. It isn’t as alert on these back roads as a Honda CR-V or Mazda CX-5, but it shows a pleasantly compliant and quiet ride that puts it with the segment leaders in this regard – the Nissan Rogue being one.

Mitsubishi did a lot of work below decks. Spring rates and shock absorber damping was revised along with the implementation of chassis reinforcements. Dynamic damping was added to the AWD system and body rigidity is enhanced with additional bracing.

Sound deadening was added to the front wheel wells, door panels, floor and door jambs, and the glass benefits from better acoustic insulating properties.

They even worked on the sound of the doors. It might seem like a small thing but it ain’t. There’s nothing more damaging to the perceived quality of a vehicle than a tinny thwang when lifting the door handle or a hollow clang when closing.

From which the 2015 suffered, and this 2016 doesn’t.

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