2006 Mitsubishi Outlander
2006 Mitsubishi Outlander. Click image to enlarge

By Chris Chase; photos by Paul Williams

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Photo Gallery: 2006 Mitsubishi Outlander

Mitsubishi seems to be a company on the move these days, as it brings out redesigned and much-improved versions of the vehicles in its current lineup. One of these is the Outlander: for 2007, it gets a new standard V6 engine and attractive styling in a package packed with value.

Therefore, there’s no better time to take a look at the first-generation Outlander, which debuted in Canada along with the rest of the company’s offerings when Mitsubishi first set up shop in Canada in 2003.

The 2003 Outlander got a 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine good for a rather tepid 140 horsepower, which put it at a disadvantage compared to some of its key rivals, like the Honda CR-V and Hyundai Santa Fe. The horsepower problem was rectified in short order, however, as 2004 Outlanders got a more potent 160-horsepower version of the 2.4-litre engine. The nifty footnote here is that many overseas markets got a version of the Outlander (known in some other places as the Airtrek) with a turbocharged engine used in the last-generation Lancer EVO sedan.

2006 Mitsubishi Outlander
2006 Mitsubishi Outlander. Click image to enlarge

A four-speed automatic was the only transmission choice in 2003 and 2004, and a five-speed manual became available on the base, front-wheel drive model in 2005.

The Outlander’s fuel consumption is respectable, with Natural Resources Canada ratings ranging from 11 to 12 L/100 km in the city and 8 to 8.8 L/100 km on the highway, depending on model year, transmission choice and whether you’re looking at an all-wheel drive version.

Comprehensive reliability info is difficult to find online, but Consumer Reports lists the Outlander on its list of most reliable used cars and notes no major trouble spots. Mitsubishi launched a voluntary recall in the U.S. to fix faulty radiator fan control modules that could cause the engine to overheat; it’s not clear if a similar campaign was carried out in Canada. Also, the outboard bushing on the rear suspension control arm seems to be the cause of squeaking from the rear of the car. Generally speaking, the Outlander seems to be a solid vehicle. Spend some time in the forums listed in the Online Resources section below to get an idea of what else might cause trouble down the line.

2006 Mitsubishi Outlander
2006 Mitsubishi Outlander. Click image to enlarge

The Outlander seems reasonably solid safety-wise, too. In 2003 and 2005, it earned four stars each for driver and front passenger protection in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) frontal impact crash test, and five and four stars respectively in the organization’s side impact test for front- and rear-seat occupant protection.

Conversely, while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the first-generation Outlander a “good” rating in the organization’s frontal impact crash test, it gave the car a “poor” rating in side impact protection. Both organizations tested models without the side airbags that were available on the Outlander.

Anti-lock brakes became standard across the line in 2006; before that, they were standard only in the top-line model and unavailable in lower-spec models. Traction and stability control were never offered.

2006 Mitsubishi Outlander
2006 Mitsubishi Outlander. Click image to enlarge

Outlander resale values are quite low, according to Canadian Red Book, with suggested used prices coming in below those of a similarly-equipped Hyundai Santa Fe. Price-wise, a used Outlander blows the Honda CR-V (perhaps the Outlander’s closest rival in terms of size and horsepower) out of the water: a 2005 Outlander Limited is worth $19,550, while an ’05 CR-V EX-L carries a value of $25,625. Overall, Outlander values range from $12,025 for a front-wheel drive 2003 LS model to a high of $24,550 for a 2006 AWD Limited version.

While Mitsubishi’s reliability history is less certain than some of its key rivals, the Outlander looks like a strong used value for an attractive, if unexceptional, small SUV. Of course, there’s always the risk of getting what you pay for when you go for the cheapest car you can find; the Santa Fe is available for slightly more money but has a far more solid reputation to back it up. But even if the Outlander isn’t as sure a bet as some of its rivals, a well-maintained example should prove to be a dependable ride; just get any prospective purchase checked out by a trusted mechanic before you buy to help avoid any nasty surprises.

Online resources

The two most prevalent online resources for the first-generation Outlander are Mitsubishiforum.com and Mitsubishi-Forums.com (note the similar, but different, URLs). Of these, the former might be a better bet, as it gives the first-generation Outlander its own discussion section; the latter site offers a general Outlander section that’s already full of talk about the new-for-2007 second-gen model. Note, though, that the first site contains lots of references to the Airtrek, the name the Outlander was known by in many overseas markets. Aside from the availability of a turbocharged version, the Airtrek and Outlander should be almost identical mechanically.


Transport Canada Recall Number: 2004044; Units affected: 3,000

2003: On certain vehicles, the owner’s manual does not comply with the requirements of CMVSS 210. The manual does not contain language on the adjustment of the head restraints when using the user-ready tether anchorages. Improper placement of the tether strap could result in insufficient restraint of the child restraint system. Correction: A sticker containing step-by-step instructions for handling the head restraint when installing tether straps as well as instructions on where to affix the sticker in the owner’s manual will be mailed to owners.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2003139; Units affected: 2,608

2003: On certain vehicles, water may enter the front floorboard area from openings in the side sill or upper dash area. This water may collect under the seat and cause electrical corrosion to occur in the harness connectors that contain the wiring for the seatbelt pretensioner, lateral airbag impact sensor and stop lamps causing inoperability or malfunction of these systems. Correction: Dealer will seal any openings in the side sills and dash panel and replace corroded floor harness.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2003023; Units affected: 2,000

2003: On certain vehicles, in extremely low temperatures, ice can build up inside the engine throttle valve and cause the accelerator pedal to stick or not to return to idle after accelerating. Correction: Dealer will modify the engine control computer software.

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Manufacturer’s Website

Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

For information on recalls, see Transport Canada’s web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.

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