Some say Mitsubishi is doing pretty well right now. It’s got a great subcompact car that provides an alternative to people who don’t like the idea of a used Hyundai or where a very small car is practical. It’s got a three-row SUV that’s a better value than an Acura RDX, provided people know it exists. It’s got...uhhhhhh....
Granted Mitsubishi is in a better place than Suzuki was in its death throes. Suzuki more or less bet the farm on its Kizashi midsizer, assuming Americans would buy into ads that said, yes, this is a budget Audi - while ignoring their own SX4, the most affordable AWD vehicle in the US market at the time. If Suzuki managed to wrap a decent subcompact crossover around the SX4’s running gear, maybe they could’ve been around for a few more years.
Mitsubishi isn’t prepared to make the same mistake, offering the Outlander Sport, the regular Outlander, and the tiny Mirage for people who think tall lifted wagons are disgusting. I still think there’s more to do, especially with the Evo leaving us.
One Vehicle to Replace the Lancer and Outlander Sport
The Lancer was a decent compact car that had aggressive looks (and looked better than some of its competition), legitimate street cred and great economy. Despite a dated design it was able to hold its own until meeting its scheduled demise (or not, but the car will continue to age regardless). The Outlander Sport is another decent sub/compact SUV sharing the Lancer’s aggressive if not somewhat dated looks - and a bit more than that, too; riding on the same GS platform as the Lancer (and even the larger Outlander) it’s in some ways the better-looking Lancer hatchback we never got. Mitsubishi is hoping a revised MY 2016/17 Outlander Sport will help carry the brand.
Still, it’s a bet that relies on a warmed-over redo of a car that’s been around for what amounts to an eon. Mitsubishi just did a more extensive revamp of the adult-sized Outlander that helps it break out of its staid anonymity, and the brand really needs something more than just another update of its smaller brother. Perhaps they should take the opportunity to address two needs at once by using a page from Subaru’s book - have one vehicle that can be two. An attractive, fun-to-drive four-door hatchback that can take on the mantle of the old Lancer in FWD and “performance” AWD-versions, and with a simple Outback-like lift kit can become the new Outlander Sport. The new car would probably have to be a bit larger than the current Outlander Sport in order to allow it to compete at once with the Civic (which has grown significantly) and larger, two-row compact SUVs like the CR-V and Escape.
A Miarge-based CUV with actual features
Meanwhile, the Outlander Sport’s old subcompact CUV slot can be taken up by a new CUV riding on the Mirage’s mechanicals. As it stands the Mirage sells because it represents a very cheap means to obtain four-wheeled transportation - but a CUV based on the same architecture needs more in a very crowded market and a consumer base that doesn’t mind putting up extra dollars. Mitsubishi should take the opportunity to provide a vehicle with a very small footprint and very high mileage for its class in order to appeal to urban drivers - but also offers a decent list of standard features. That expected phrase that people now expect from even basic CUVs for example - “power everything.” An interior that feels as nice as a typical Millennial’s apartment, so that Millennial buyers can explain to their friends “this thing is as nice as my first apartment.” Even if leather isn’t offered as an option, at least the cloth should feel pretty nice (even many alledgedly higher-end car brands seem to mess this up a lot lately). The bigger Outlander is actually pretty nifty-looking on the inside, so we know they can do it.
Yeah, I don’t know who this guy is. But that’s not the point. The point is that the advertising campaign for the Outback actually kind of works. At the very least it’s better than the advertising campaigns for the rest of the lineup, which is basically nothing. Right now, the best advertising Mitsubishi has in its pocket right now is from Jason Torchinksy.