When looking for an SUV to haul you and your crew to the trail or across the country, Mitsubishi may not be a brand that comes to mind. But, for the budget conscious buyer it’s worth checking out. The concept of the Mitsubishi Outlander technically goes back to 1991 in the form of the 4WD Mitsubishi RVR “Recreation Vehicle Runner”, which was more of a short wagon than an SUV. Mitsubishi designers drew from the Mitsubishi ASX and Mitsubishi Airtrek to give us a crossover SUV as the third generation of Outlander today—production of which started in 2013. The Outlander received a pretty major update for the 2016 model year, but not enough to mark a new generation and for 2018 there were just a few cosmetic updates.

To test the Outlander we packed it for a weekend trip from Boulder up to Breckenridge. We stayed at One Ski Hill Place and enjoyed getting away from the heat of the Front Range. Since we weren’t camping, all of our stuff fit—we definitely would have needed the roof box to fit camping gear. As driven, the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander GT 3.0 S-AWC, their top of the line trim with the sunroof option, priced at $34,150.

Handling

As might be expected from a $30k SUV, handling was average. It doesn’t have silky smooth suspension but the ride was comfortable and the standard electronic power steering was fine—never twitchy or stiff. Its turning radius of 34.8 feet is quite good for SUV’s of this size, so it’s great for maneuvering around the city or other tight spaces.

With 8.5 inches of ground clearance, it’s on the low end for SUV’s. This is fine for getting around town and on grated gravel roads but not great for actually crawling over rocky roads and certainly not for rough true off-road conditions. Naturally, this does help keep the center of gravity lower and it generally helps the vehicle be more stable.

Hauling

Our GT 3.0 S-AWC trim version of the Outlander comes with the biggest engine available in the lineup, a 3-liter MIVEC SOHC 24-valve V6. Mitsubishi rates it at 224 horsepower (at 6,250 rpm) and 215 pound-feet of torque (at 3,750 rpm) to provide 3,500 pounds of towing capacity and a max tongue weight of 350 pounds. That’s plenty of power to haul larger pop-up camper types of trailers and even some smaller hard sided campers. Lesser trims of the Outlander max out at 1,500 pounds (max tongue weight 150 pounds), plenty for a teardrop style camper or smaller pop-up tent campers.

On the inside, three rows of seating provide room for up to seven passengers. We never used the third row this round, but I’m sure it works fine for short term needs as the legroom is only 28.2 inches. The second row has 37.3 inches which turned out to be fine for accommodating our kids’ car seats (one forward facing and one rear facing). Up front offers up to 40.9 inches of legroom, but that maximum couldn’t be used on the passenger side with the rear facing car seat behind it.

Cargo space is a scant 10.3 cubic feet behind the third row but bumps to a very useable 33 cubic feet once that third row is stowed. I wouldn’t say it was plenty of room for our summer trip into the mountains—we nearly maxed it out. Granted, that included some high-volume items like a balance bike for the 4-year old and an Osprey kid carrier for the little guy. For kidless couples, or cargo-only missions, the second row folds down to provide 61 cubic feet of space.

Efficiency

The 3-liter V6 engine is naturally a bit more demanding at the pump than the 2.4-liter 4-cylinder available on the other trips. We didn’t really put enough miles on the Outlander with our jaunt up to Breckenridge to need to fill multiple tanks to make our own calculations on gas mileage. But with an EPA combined rating of 22 mpg (20/City; 27/Hwy) the Outlander is a little sub par considering it’s about the same mileage as the Nissan Pathfinder we reviewed but the Pathfinder has a towing capacity of 6,000 pounds with a 3.5-liter V6. The Pathfinder is also a touch more expensive—you get what you pay for.

Amenities

The Outlander easily falls into the average range of amenities—at least the ones important to me. The 12v receptor in the cargo area is not pointing into the main compartment, it’s on the back of the wheel well cover which keeps the plug from jutting out and being pushed around by the cargo.

The cruise control controls are well placed and easy to use. I also liked that the volume control on the steering wheel is placed on the left side. I can’t understand why manufacturers ever put the steering wheel based volume control on the right side when you can just as well reach to the center console with your right hand to adjust the volume (ahem, Ford).

The cup holders are a good size and fit a range of cup sizes (and they’re placed in a good spot ahead of the shifter so it’s easy to get to them—unlike the Jeep Compass where they were tucked under the arm rest).

The entertainment layout was easy to navigate along with the climate controls which were real buttons (not via the digital display).

It also comes with the surround view camera system to help avoid backing into something. The sound system was good but nothing amazing, even with the very visible woofer in the left rear panel of the cargo area.

Family Friendly

The Outlander takes kid seats pretty well but one little miss was the anchor hook on the back of the seat. The clip on our child seat was too big—rather, the design of the anchor well was too small for the clip to clip on the anchor bar without twisting the strap. By flipping the hook over and putting a twist in the strap, it could hook from above but not from below like it has worked with every other vehicle we’ve tested (we must be going on at least a dozen tests or so now).

Other than that, it included the standard window and door latch locks to keep little fingers from opening something they shouldn’t. Also lacking, and I’m not sure if maybe this can be a special add-on, were built in window shades for the rear.