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Sporty new Mitsubishi the best design in the lineup Add to ...

Mitsubishi set a record for October - sales were 27 per cent higher than the year before. The jump is due mostly to the Outlander, but Mitsubishi's all-new RVR crossover also played a part. Although the RVR's official launch was this month, more than 190 were sold last month.

The best feature on the 2011 Mitsubishi RVR is the price; it starts at $21,998 for the SE FWD with a five-speed manual transmission. A continuously variable transmission, with an infinite number of gear ratios, is also available, but costs slightly more. But even the most expensive trim won't break the bank - the GT 4WD costs $28,498.

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However, the base model won't disappoint you. It's packed with items you'd expect to pay extra for such as a tilt and telescoping steering wheel with audio controls, heated front seats and cruise control.

There's also a plethora of standard safety equipment including seven airbags, active stability control, traction control, a tire-pressure monitoring system, and ABS with electronic brake force distribution.

My tester is the GT 4WD trim, which adds rain-sensing windshield wipers and a more powerful 710-watt Rockford-Fosgate audio system with nine speakers including a subwoofer, six-disc CD player and six months of free Sirius satellite radio (the base model gets a 140-watt system with four speakers and an in-dash CD player).

Another cool feature is a huge panoramic glass sunroof; it covers the front and rear seats, creating an airy, bright cabin. At night, you can turn on the LED mood lights, which surround the sunroof for a funky atmosphere. The only drawback is that the roof is fixed - you can't open it even slightly to get some fresh air in the cabin.

From the exterior, the RVR is appealing with its sporty, athletic design cues. Frankly, it's the best design in Mitsubishi's entire lineup.

A curving roofline, my tester's 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels, chrome grille and a single exhaust outlet with chrome trim are attractive touches. But the best trait is the colour of my tester. It's a stunning shade dubbed kingfisher blue - a welcome sight amid the sea of silver and black vehicles on the road. You'll be able to spot it easily in a crowded parking lot. The GT also gets super-wide high-intensity discharge headlights that provide 35 per cent greater light output compared to standard HDs.

The RVR seats five. There are assist grips at each door to help you enter/exit the cabin, but you'll probably never need to use them - the step-in isn't too high. Once inside, you have a commanding view of the road ahead. The front seats are comfortable with manual adjustments - the driver's seat moves six ways; the passenger's seat four ways.

The rear seats aren't as comfy - they could use more padding. But leg- and head-room is ample as is the trunk space. There's 569 litres - which is plenty of room for groceries, kids' toys, strollers and a few golf bags. The rear sears fold flat for a larger cargo area and also recline for added comfort.

The GT comes with a rear centre armrest with cup holders and a pass-through for lugging longer items such as skis or hockey sticks. The rear seats are also equipped with LATCH child safety seat anchors and upper tethers and child-safety rear door locks.

The dashboard is intuitive and well-laid out with modern touches such as a push start/stop button to fire up the engine. While you're surrounded by plastic in the cabin, it doesn't look or feel cheap; the material is sturdy and high-quality as are the fabric seats.

Powering the RVR is a two-litre, four-cylinder engine - there's no V-6 in the lineup. The inline-four delivers 148 hp and 145 lb-ft of torque. Mated to the engine is a continuously variable transmission. I'm not a big fan of CVTs and this one leaves a lot to be desired - it tends to drone and whine under hard acceleration.

While the four-banger has enough juice for travelling around the city, merging on the highway or passing other vehicles takes time and patience. Some road and wind noise also seeps into the cabin. Still, the CUV feels solid and sturdy - it does a respectable job of soaking up bumps and other degradations in the road.

The all-wheel drive is a great system, especially for tackling harsh Canadian winters. You can also select between three driving modes - front-wheel-drive, on-demand four-wheel drive or four-wheel-drive lock - via a dial on the centre console. For the 4WD trim, the fuel economy is rated at 7.6 litres/100 km combined highway and city driving. But I didn't fare as well; I averaged 10.5 litres/100 km. At least it takes regular gas.

This compact crossover is likely to help Mitsubishi set more sales records.

2011 Mitsubishi RVR GT

Type: Four-door, five-passenger compact crossover

Base Price: $28,498

Engine: 2-litre, DOHC, four-cylinder

Horsepower/torque: 148 hp/145 lb-ft

Transmission: CVT

Drive: All-wheel

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 8.4L city/6.6 highway; regular gas

Alternatives: Subaru Forester, Hyundai Tuscon, Kia Sportage, Nissan Juke, Volkswagen Tiguan

pgentile@globeandmail.com

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