2017 Mitsubishi RVR 2.4L SE LTD AWC Road Test

The subcompact SUV category is booming, with sales growing exponentially and new models being added regularly. A shocking
2017 Mitsubishi RVR 2.4L SE LTD AWC
The RVR received a new look last year and it carries forward unchanged into 2017. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
four upstarts arrived on Canadian roads in 2015, almost doubling competitors to a total of nine, while two newcomers will arrive before the close of 2017. All I can say is it’s a shame Suzuki isn’t here to take part.

Many who remember the fun little Samurai will point to Suzuki as the subcompact SUV initiator, and while the tiny little off-roader deserves credit for reigniting North America’s love affair with subcompact 4x4s back in the ’80s, going so far back might cause us to continue the trek through history in order to include the similarly sized original Willys Jeep that became popular after WWII. Yes, we’ve long been fans of small SUVs, the 1991-1999 Dodge Colt Wagon, Eagle Summit Wagon and Plymouth Colt Vista Wagon also worthy of mention if only because they offered optional 4WD and were all based on the Mitsubishi Expo LRV, a global and
2017 Mitsubishi RVR 2.4L SE LTD AWC
The new model’s rear styling is near identical to the old 2015 model. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
U.S.-compact MPV that was in fact the first-gen RVR, but in today’s modern era of car-based soft-roaders the first true subcompact crossover SUV was the Mitsubishi RVR we know (and love, or not), a.k.a. Outlander Sport in the U.S. (and Indonesia).

The RVR, which only shares its name with the Japanese market (it’s dubbed ASX in most other markets), first went on sale throughout Canada in September of 2010 (as a third-generation global model), one month before the unorthodox Nissan Juke made this upstart subcompact SUV class an actual market segment by providing competition. It wasn’t too long before others smelled opportunity, with the Mini Countryman arriving in 2011, the Buick Encore and Chevrolet Trax jumping on board in 2012, the Jeep Renegade, Fiat 500X, Mazda CX-3, and Honda HR-V
2017 Mitsubishi RVR 2.4L SE LTD AWC
The RVR pulls design cues from the larger Outlander and some recent Mitsubishi concepts. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
joining ranks in 2015, and the new Toyota C-HR, Nissan Qashqai, and Ford EcoSport slated to hit the market later this year. Some consider the Volkswagen Tiguan, Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage part of this smaller-than-compact segment, but they’re sized closer to compacts and therefore should be classified with their larger rivals, whereas the Kia Soul isn’t available with all-wheel drive and thus doesn’t qualify as an SUV.

While the RVR was first to market and garnered strong sales from its first month onward, it’s received only minor updates since introduced. Fortunately for Mitsubishi it was nicely styled and well engineered from onset, so sales have remained very consistent year after year. It’s no longer number one in the subcompact SUV class, however, a title it held by achieving 7,064 sales in 2011, 6,334
2017 Mitsubishi RVR 2.4L SE LTD AWC
Fog lamps and these intricate 18-inch alloys come standard with Limited trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
in 2012, and a record 7,653 in 2013, but lost to the Trax that found 8,533 buyers compared to the RVR’s 6,594 in 2014, after which the Honda HR-V took over in 2015 with 8,959 deliveries compared to the RVR’s 5,786, and while Mitsubishi’s market share climbed to 6,196 RVRs last year, the newcomers stole the show with 12,371 HR-Vs, 9,354 CX-3s, and 9,072 examples of the Trax. The RVR still managed to outpace the Encore’s 5,533 sales, Juke’s 4,442, Renegade’s 3,962, 500X’ 766, and Countryman’s 694, showing it still has strong appeal despite not being the newest kid on the block.

Mitsubishi spruced up its styling for this 2016 model year, however, which is probably why it’s seen a recent upsurge on the sales chart. That said I’m not bullish on the new look, mostly because it appears like a change for the sake of change
2017 Mitsubishi RVR 2.4L SE LTD AWC
LED taillights are standard across the RVR line. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
refresh that’s made less appealing because its predecessor was so damned good looking. Come to think of it, all of Mitsubishi’s past designs looked better than their current lineup. Rather than showing up with something inspirational, like it did with the Concept X in 2005 that would eventually transform into the 2007 Lancer before the near identical and totally knee-weakening Evo X arrived for 2008. That design would be adapted for the 2010 Outlander (although its predecessor was easily as attractive) and the 2011 RVR (which all ride on Mitsubishi’s ubiquitous GS platform, also used for the most recent Delica van, a couple of Citroën and Peugeot models across the Atlantic, and a slew of past and current FCA products, the latter including the Dodge Journey and Jeep Compass/Patriot).

2017 Mitsubishi RVR 2.4L SE LTD AWC
Those door uppers are soft-touch, as is the dash top. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
the onset of that stunning Lancer redesign, sales of Mitsubishi’s relatively new Canadian division (it only arrived here in 2003 for the 2004 model year) took off with 2006 results of 10,957 units quickly bumped up to 16,759 for 2007, 18,639 for 2008, and 19,786 for 2009, while near bankruptcy of its U.S. division (under Canadian leadership) due to ill-conceived destined-to-fail subprime lending, which coincided with the U.S. economic downturn kept future years’ growth less on a flatter trajectory that peaked in 2014 with 22,704 deliveries. Since the redesigned lineup hit Mitsubishi showroom floors sales have ebbed slightly to 22,293 units, but considering all of its model updates save the 2013 Outlander have been nothing more than mid-cycle makeovers, the brand is managing to maintain fairly strong results.

Fortunately for Mitsubishi, its engineering has always been very advanced. I first drove
2017 Mitsubishi RVR 2.4L SE LTD AWC
A well-organized cabin makes for a comfortable, fun-to-drive subcompact SUV. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
the RVR on its national press launch in Nova Scotia and was impressed with everything from its styling, interior design and execution, overall roominess and great value, its base price was just $21,998 for the manual, $23,198 for the automatic, and $24,998 for all-wheel drive that came standard with an auto. Fast forward seven years and the RVR ES FWD is an even better deal at just $19,998, while the SE with FWD starts at $22,898 and SE AWC (Mitsubishi-speak for AWD) hits the road at $26,498.

There are actually seven RVR trims for 2017, the remaining four being the $27,298 2.0L SE LTD AWC, $27,698 2.4L SE LTD AWC, $28,698 2.4L SE Black Edition AWC, and lastly the $29,898 GT AWC. Of note, the 2017 RVR lineup carries over unchanged from 2016, its two available engines starting with a spirited 2.0-litre four-cylinder capable of 148 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque, and my loaner’s 2.4-litre four developing 168 horsepower and 167 lb-ft of torque. The latter engine gets a continuously variable
2017 Mitsubishi RVR 2.4L SE LTD AWC
Great looking primary instruments include a colour multi-info display at centre. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
transmission (CVT) and AWC (All Wheel Control) standard, the former available with a five-speed manual gearbox or an optional CVT, the latter choice making AWC standard. Got that?

Normally Mitsubishi provides a fully loaded example for testing, which makes my weeklong stint behind the wheel more enjoyable and gives me more to talk about, but this time around I received the near top-line 2.4L SE LTD AWC, the extra power off the line and “Limited Edition” badge on its backside making this very clear. Buffed up in Rally Red paint, this RVR stands out from the crowd thanks to plenty of chrome, satin aluminum and glossy black trim, plus large machine-finished 18-inch alloys with black painted pockets. Its frontal design certainly isn’t near as minimalist as the outgoing model, while its rear end looks mostly the same.

2017 Mitsubishi RVR 2.4L SE LTD AWC
A well laid out centre stack provides most everything you’ll need. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
my Limited-trimmed RVR was downright opulent for its subcompact SUV class, with a soft-touch instrument panel and equally pliable front door uppers. A cross-stitched leather-wrapped sport steering wheel gets some inky piano black lacquered highlights, but unfortunately they were already badly scratched so maybe not the best idea for this application, but the steering wheel switchgear was very well executed with extremely tight fitment and excellent damping, while made from good quality composite, the circular rocker switch that actuates the audio system via the infotainment screen especially impressive.

The RVR’s digital interfaces include a high-resolution colour multi-information display with very attractive graphics set between two bright, backlit chrome-rimmed
2017 Mitsubishi RVR 2.4L SE LTD AWC
The 6.1-inch infotainment touchscreen offers good functionality. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
motorcycle-style analog gauges, while the large 6.1-inch colour touchscreen infotainment display on the centre stack nears the best in the class with good depth of contrast, bright colours, and a nice, simple, easy to understand graphical layout.

Limited trim comes with a number of upscale features, some not yet mentioned including illuminated vanity mirrors, tilt and telescopic steering, a leather-wrapped shift knob, micron air-filtered single-zone auto climate control, chromed HVAC and 4WD control accents, chromed interior door handles, a matte carbon black audio trim panel, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity with streaming audio, voice activation, a rearview camera, heatable front seats, and a folding rear centre armrest with integrated cupholders, while the soft-touch upper instrumental panel and door skins aren’t available on lower trims, but it doesn’t include a “Limited” model’s
2017 Mitsubishi RVR 2.4L SE LTD AWC
Mitsubishi’s CVT includes six sequential “gears” for natural feeling operation. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
usual luxuries like a powered driver’s seat, leather upholstery, sunroof, and powered liftgate, let alone features like proximity-sensing access, pushbutton ignition, navigation, a big-name audio system with a thumping sub, or any of the latest active safety features like autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist, etcetera.

Of course, its $27,498 entry price wouldn’t allow for such premium-level niceties anyway (move up to the GT AWC and then add on its $1,500 Premium Package and rather pricey $2,000 Navigation Package if you want more goodies), its seats instead covered in particularly nice premium fabric upholstery with contrast stitching around their edges and the same gold colour used to highlight its otherwise black seat inserts, the driver’s of which is nicely contoured to fit one’s backside
2017 Mitsubishi RVR 2.4L SE LTD AWC
The driver’s seat is comfortable and nicely finished. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
in all the right places and six-way adjustable to fit most body sizes and types, and the seat heaters, while just two-way with “LO” and “HI” settings are capable of getting toasty warm when mid-winter chills require. Even the 140-watt four-speaker stereo sounded a lot better than its specs implied it should (although its all relative compared to the Rockford Fosgate Punch display audio system that comes with the aforementioned Premium Package, boasting 710 watts and nine speakers including a 10-inch sub), and as noted the quality of its digital interfaces and the switchgear used to control them was above par.

I must say my favourite 2.4L SE LTD AWC feature was its set of big magnesium paddle shifters on the backside of the steering wheel, and generally the way this little SUV went down the road. I wasn’t surprised, the RVR’s fully independent front
2017 Mitsubishi RVR 2.4L SE LTD AWC
Plenty of room in back, the RVR is hardly short of passenger space. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
MacPherson strut and rear multi-link suspension with thick anti-roll bars at both ends always a cut above most in this class, providing a level of high-speed stability and overall control that defies its diminutive size, all combined with a very comfortable, compliant ride.

Likewise the RVR’s DOHC, 16-valve four with Mitsubishi Innovative Valve-timing Electronic Control (MIVEC) actually lives up to its pretentious name, with strong performance off the line, smooth linear power as speed ramps up, and smooth operation right up to its 6,500 rpm redline, while the rally-bred Japanese brand’s AWC all-wheel drive has always been well-engineered for making the most of available grip. It even comes equipped with a “4WD” button on the lower console that locks both axles for climbing out of slippery situations like banked snow, while
2017 Mitsubishi RVR 2.4L SE LTD AWC
A 60/40-split seatback makes loading in cargo and passengers easy. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
it defaults to an automatic mode that chooses the appropriate drive configuration for road and weather conditions, plus it has the ability to switch into fuel-saving front-wheel drive in dry conditions. Unlike the Suzuki mentioned earlier and plenty of Mitsubishis that have come before, the RVR is not suitable for intense off-road conditions, but take note its 8.5 inches of ground clearance is higher than all of its peers (except Subaru’s Crosstrek, although the Subie is a compact crossover that’s probably better compared to something in the Outlander’s class). The RVR’s CVT gets its fancy Sportronic INVECS-III name due to six sequential “gears” that feel more like a conventional automatic than they have a right to, while still benefiting from the low-friction design of a CVT.

This focus on fuel economy, and a relatively light 1,490-kilo (3,285-lb) curb weight
2017 Mitsubishi RVR 2.4L SE LTD AWC
The rear seats fold mostly flat for a lot of luggage space. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
helps the RVR 2.4 AWC eke out a respectable 10.5 L/100km city, 8.6 highway and 9.6 combined five-cycle Transport Canada rating, while the thriftiest ES FWD model is good for a claimed 9.7 city, 7.8 highway and 8.8 combined.

As noted the front cabin is roomy and its seats superb, while those in the rear are plenty comfortable too, with room enough for average sized adults when similarly normal folks are seated up front. When I set the driver’s seat for my five-foot-eight frame I still had about four to five inches ahead of my knees and nearly four inches over my head, while shoulder and hip space was more than adequate. I didn’t have to contort my body to fit inside either, with my legs normally positioned (instead of forced upward at an awkward angle like some in this class) and lower back support very good. Even the centre armrest was ideally positioned for comfort.

2017 Mitsubishi RVR 2.4L SE LTD AWC
The larger 2.4-litre engine makes a difference off the line. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
rear seatbacks are split 60/40 for expanding the cargo compartment’s 614-litre (21.7 cubic-foot) dimensions to a maximum of 1,402 litres (49.5 cubic feet) when fully laid flat.

Yes, the RVR ticks off most of the boxes subcompact SUV buyers are looking for, which is reason enough that it’s still a strong seller despite being more than six years old under the skin. Mitsubishi will want to completely redesign it soon, and probably will bring something to market along the lines of the eX Concept that debuted at the Tokyo auto show in 2015 or GT-PHEV Concept introduced last year in Paris, but being that the RVR is the brand’s second-most popular model in the North American market, and also factoring in the number of newer models with big marketing budgets that it’s up against, a redesign couldn’t come soon enough.

Until then, consider the RVR seriously as it’s still a worthy offering and you’ll likely get a very good deal on an already well-priced subcompact SUV, while its five-year, 100,000-km (mostly) comprehensive, and 10-year, 160,000-km powertrain warranties can’t be beat. ©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)