Compact SUV; Built in Japan
  • 4-door wagon
  • transverse front-engine/front- or all-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $3,600 – $10,200*

2003 Mitsubishi Outlander

2004 Mitsubishi Outlander

2005 Mitsubishi Outlander

Mitsubishi Outlander interior

  • Cargo room
  • Acceleration

Outlander is one of the more pleasantly carlike compact SUVs, but is unexceptional otherwise. Its engine feels coarse and is underpowered in anything but routine driving. Mitsubishi’s reputation for workmanship and resale value has trailed that of most import brands. That could mean moderate secondhand prices, but uncertain reliability.


Mitsubishi entered the compact sport-utility vehicle arena for 2003 with a new crossover wagon, based on its Lancer subcompact sedan. The Outlander represented the “tall-wagon” school of small SUVs, typified by the Subaru Forester, versus the more trucklike profile of a Ford Escape or Honda CR-V.

Slightly longer overall than most SUVs in the compact class, the Outlander was no taller or wider. Outlanders seated five and used a 140-horsepower four-cylinder engine and four-speed automatic transmission, with a separate gate for manual shifting.

Front- and all-wheel drive versions were offered, in base LS and uplevel XLS trim levels. The AWD system lacked low-range gearing, and Outlanders were not intended for serious off-road use. Front side airbags and antilock braking were optional–exclusive to the XLS.

All Outlanders had 16-inch wheels, 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks, air conditioning, CD audio, cruise control, and power windows, locks, and mirrors. The XLS added alloy wheels, a roof rack, rear spoiler, fog lamps, and clear taillamp lenses. Inside, the XLS was distinguished by white-faced instrumentation, see-through headrests, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.

Other XLS-only options included a sunroof and leather upholstery. Compact-SUV rivals included the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, and Subaru Forester.

Yearly Updates

2004 Outlander
Additional power led the 2004 revisions to Mitsubishi’s compact SUV. Specifically, the four-cylinder engine gained 20 horsepower. Mitsubishi claimed quieter running via a revised exhaust system and various noise-deadening measures.
2005 Outlander
Four-wheel disc brakes became standard this year, and a manual transmission became available. Rear-end styling was revised slightly, and a top-of-the-line Limited series joined the LS and XLS. Alloy wheels held 17-inch tires on the XLS and Limited.
2006 Outlander
There were no changes of significance for the 2006 Outlander.


transverse front-engine/front- or all-wheel drive

Early Outlanders had the same powertrain: a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that generated 140 horsepower, driving a four-speed automatic transmission. Engine output rose to 160 horsepower in 2004, and a five-speed manual transmission became available for 2005.

ohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.4/143
Engine HP 140-160
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 157-162
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic

EPA rating with 2WD and automatic is 21/26 mpg.

Road Test

In its 2003 form, acceleration with automatic and front-drive was acceptable around town, but the Outlander lacked muscle for confident merging and passing. With its extra 20 horsepower for 2004, the Outlander feels a tad peppier, but it still isn’t that swift for passing/merging. Long grades can be a struggle either way, especially with a sizable load. The transmission is smooth and responsive, but its four speeds are one short of what the engine really needs. Trailer-towing capacity is 1500 pounds.

Fuel economy is satisfactory. Outlanders with all-wheel drive have averaged 22.3 mpg, while 2WD versions averaged 21.9 to 22.5 mpg. Mitsubishi recommends regular-grade fuel.

Although it doesn’t quite qualify as carlike, an Outlander rivals the Subaru Forester for the most stable, comfortable ride in this class. Outlanders corner with modest body lean and no tippy sensations, but their elevated ride height contributes to unwanted lateral rocking in quick directional changes. Steering is accurate, but slightly numb and over-assisted. AWD seems to enhance overall grip and control, even on dry surfaces. Stopping power is adequate, with good brake modulation.

Wind rush is noticeable but not objectionable at highway speeds. Tire noise is unobtrusive, except on coarse pavement. Typical of small wagons, though, road rumble is nearly always present from the cargo area. Engines are raucous at full throttle.

A simple dashboard layout includes easy-to-reach controls, though radio switches should be larger. Hooded gauges are easy to read, even in sunlight. Overall solidity fails to impress, but interior materials are appropriate for the Outlander’s price class.

Front seats are comfortable, with good side bolstering. Tall drivers might want more rearward seat travel. Entry/exit is easy and visibility good. Rear head room ranks as generous, but leg and foot space are sufficient only if front seats are no more than halfway back. The firm, tall split bench seat has reclining backrests.

Cargo space is sufficient for a half-dozen grocery bags, with rear seatbacks in place. Space is slightly below the class average with seatbacks folded, and they don’t lie flat. Liftover is low, but the liftgate opening narrows at the bottom. The optional cargo cover stows neatly beneath the floor.


Model Tested: 2004 Outlander LS AWD

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 3
Fuel Economy - 6
Ride Quality - 6
Steering/Handling - 5
Quietness - 4


Controls/Materials - 5
Room/Comfort Front - 5
Room/Comfort Rear - 4
Cargo Room - 7


Value - 4

Total: 49


4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
103.3 179.1 68.9 66.3
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
60.3 15.7 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.9 38.2 42.3 35.5
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 2003 Outlander 4-door wagon


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
Front Passenger Injury - 4

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
Rear Passenger Injury - 4


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Climate control
Description: The temperature dial for the heater may stick due to a dirty gear track or a bent link in the system and revised parts kit is available and a filter should be installed. (2003)
Engine fan
Description: The engine may overheat because the soldered connection for the radiator fan controller can short out and the company was replacing fan controllers with a voluntary recall. (2003-04)
Description: The vehicle may vibrate, shudder or surge when cruising between 35-50 mph because the transmission fluid breaks down causing torque converter clutch to misbehave. (2003)

Recall History

2003 Outlander
Description: The owner’s manual doesn’t adequately explain the child-restraint system. Dealers will distribute further operation instructions.
2003-04 w/dealer-installed trailer hitch
Description: Electronic control module for hitch may overheat, which could result in fire.
Description: Bilingual English/Spanish removable airbag warning labels on dashboard and sunvisor do meet size requirements.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.

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