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May 7, 2013

Mitsubishi crossover gets new styling

Introduced just three years ago, the Outlander Sport is a relative newcomer to Mitsubishi's lineup.

Despite what were initially lukewarm reviews from the press, buyers seem to love it, making it Mitsubishi's top seller in the United States today. It even outsells more affordable cars, like the Lancer, and more famous vehicles like the Galant and Outlander that it shares a name with.

Why is it such a hot seller?

It's a good value, for starters. It has a base price around $19,000 and comes with a nice list of standard equipment for the money, including the FUSE hands-free system that lets you control your smartphone and stereo with voice commands. 

It's also got a good reputation for safety, with last year's model being named a "Top Safety Pick" by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. And it has a bigger, more substantial, SUV-like feel compared to some of its compact crossover competitors, like the Nissan Juke.

Still, in my mind at least, the Outlander Sport never stood out in this ultra-competitive category, and it's hard to pin down exactly why that was. It didn't have the perky driving feel of a Mazda, the supple cabin of a Hyundai, or the reputation of a Honda, perhaps.

Mitsubishi is trying to rectify that with some major changes to the 2013 model year that help it stand out more.

Styling gets a thorough massage, both inside and out, to keep it looking fresh in the fast-moving current of compact crossovers. The front end is heavily revised, including a new grille design, in addition to new rear bumpers, black side sills and chrome accents that add some bling.

 Every single model gets 18-inch alloy wheels this year, too, which is an improvement over the wheels on last year's base model.

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