Review of: 2017 Mitsubishi RVR AWD 4dr 2.4L CVT SE Limited Edition
2017 Mitsubishi RVR: Not the greatest, but don't count it out
By Jil McIntosh
Feb. 9, 2017
Let me tell you a little secret about the world of auto writing: it’s easy to get jaded. I drive powerful sports cars, pricey luxury cars and massive sport-utes that do everything but make my morning coffee. But I don’t have to pay for any of them, or worry about such realities as when the warranty runs out, or how reliable they’ll be in a few years. I just hand each one back and go on to the next one.
Which is a roundabout way of saying that while a vehicle might not set a reviewer’s soul on fire, it can still turn out to be a good choice—or if nothing else, a viable cross-shop—for many buyers. And that’s how the Mitsubishi RVR looks from here. Despite a 2016 refresh, the interior still looks dated, and there are compact SUVs with better performance, but there’s much to like about it as well.
Sold as the Outlander Sport in the U.S., the RVR comes in six trim lines, with 2.0-litre or 2.4-litre engines. It starts as the ES 2WD at $19,998 and rolls up to the GT AWC (all-wheel control, Mitsubishi’s name for its all-wheel system) at $29,898. My tester was one below that top-line trim, the 2.4 SE AWC Limited. It comes in at $27,698 before freight and taxes.
Pros & Cons
- + Warranty coverage
- + Headroom
- + Driveability
- - Outdated infotainment
- - So-so acceleration even with larger engine
- - A few cheap interior touches
While I’ve always thought it a little stubby at the rear in profile, the RVR presents a busy but handsome nose, which works better here than it does on its larger Outlander sibling. My tester had its wheels swapped for the winter variety, but it would normally be shod with 18-inch alloy rims. All trim levels use halogen headlights except for the top-line GT, which receives high-intensity discharge (HID) lights. That top line also adds power-folding mirrors and a panoramic sunroof that were missing on my tester.
For such a styled front end, the RVR is far more ordinary at the rear, which doesn’t get any of the chrome accenting used on the nose. That tall bumper also creates a relatively high lift-over when you’re trying to pack cargo in the back.
Still, that stubby look has its advantages. Since the roof drops down only slightly on its way to the rear spoiler, it’s easy to get into the back seats, where headroom is good for taller passengers.
Not only that, but the RVR is small, with a shorter overall length than such models as the Nissan Rogue, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4, and just slightly larger than Honda’s HR-V. That’s not a knock against the RVR, but rather, a bonus for buyers who want a compact that really is, well, compact.
The RVR’s cabin looks dated, especially with its wide expanses of variously-textured plastic, but it’s still functional. Other than the heated seat switches placed too low at the bottom of the centre stack—hot chairs being standard on even the base model—the controls are big and easy to use. That said, there’s a serious lack of door-switch backlighting at night.
Single-zone automatic climate control is optional on the base trim and standard on everything else. I don’t care for push-button start, but for those who don’t like turning a key in the ignition, only the top-line GT has the keep-it-in-your-pocket variety.
The front seats are quite comfortable, and while the rear chairs are flatter and not as supportive, legroom isn’t bad given the RVR’s exterior dimensions. Cargo space isn’t as generous as in many competitors, but the rear seats fold flat to increase the capacity.
The RVR looks most elderly in the technology department when stacked against its competitors. My tester included a touchscreen stereo with rearview camera and Bluetooth streaming audio, but that’s about it. Only the top-line trim gets satellite radio, and it takes an option package, exclusive to the GT, to add a premium stereo with navigation.
There are also no electronic nannies, which can be good or bad depending on your preference. Such items as collision warning, collision mitigation braking, or blind spot monitoring are unavailable on the RVR.
The first four trim lines come with a 148-horsepower 2.0-litre four-cylinder, but the top two—my SE 2.4 Limited tester and the upper-crust GT—use a 2.4-litre four-cylinder that makes 168 horsepower and 167 lb.-ft. of torque. A five-speed manual is available on the two-wheel-drive models, but all-wheel models come only with a CVT.
The combination is fine for an everyday commuter, and the engine and gearless transmission work well together to stay in the sweet spot under moderate load. They’re much less rewarding on hard acceleration, exhibiting a lot of noise and a second or two before the RVR starts to tackle the real estate ahead.
The CVT can be shifted between six “gear” points, using big metal paddle shifters that would be right at home on Mitsubishi’s Evo but which are overkill here.
Officially, it’s rated at 10.5 L/100 km in the city and 8.6 on the highway, while I averaged 9.4 L/100 km in cold-weather driving. That’s not terrible, but it’s also nowhere near best-in-class economy.
The all-wheel system includes a large button on the console that switches it between front-wheel, automatic all-wheel, and a “lock” setting that keeps the torque evenly split at low speeds for tackling deeper snow or mud. At first glance, the numerous modes seem generous, but as my Autofocus colleague Mark Richardson rightly points out, they don’t really make a lot of sense. The automatic all-wheel runs primarily in front-wheel under most conditions anyway, automatically sending power to the rear only when extra traction is required. But why would you bother with the two-wheel setting? There’s likely no appreciable difference in fuel economy, but in all-wheel you have that extra layer of rear-tire traction should you need it, and that’s a situation that often comes with little warning.
The ride is pliable without being doughy, the steering is tight and surprisingly crisp, the turning circle is tight, and braking is smooth and confident. There is some body lean around hard corners, but overall, the RVR rates “decent driver” with me.
The RVR’s in-between sizing means there’s a lot of competition with both larger and smaller models. The Mitsubishi’s starting price of $19,998 is lower than almost all of its competitors save for the Chevrolet Trax, undercutting such models as the Honda HR-V and CR-V, Subaru Crosstrek, Mazda CX-3, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson, and Nissan’s Rogue and Juke.
All of those are more than the RVR when you compare top-line models as well, but you also have to account for included features, especially when more up-to-date rivals throw in such popular items as smartphone app integration, heated steering wheels, and active electronic safety features.
Still, there’s value in the RVR’s warranty, since Mitsubishi offers a decent one: ten years or 100,000 km on just about everything; ten years or 160,000 km on the powertrain; and ten years with unlimited mileage on roadside assistance.
Mitsubishi’s always been a smaller player in the Canadian landscape, and for some buyers, just finding a dealership close by may be an issue. The company shed so many models that some of us thought it might leave our market as Suzuki did, but a partnership hammered out late last year with the Renault-Nissan Alliance looks like it should keep it on track.
That should result in some new-and-improved models, but until then, the RVR could be a good choice for those interested in price and warranty, as well as performance. In this segment, it’s deserving of a cross-shop.