You are forgiven for not knowing about the Mitsubishi RVR.
In a sea of small sport-utility vehicles and crossover wagons, the RVR is Lemuel Gulliver in a world of Brobdingnagians, as far as sales numbers and marketplace presence are concerned. For every RVR sold in Canada, Ford sells nine Escapes, Honda and Toyota six CR-Vs and RAV4s, respectively, Hyundai five Santa Fe Sports, and Nissan four-plus Rogues.
They are giants compared with Mitsu. And it doesn’t help that Mitsu stumbles when it comes to third-party research. In the latest J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study, Mitsu ranks third from the bottom and in the newly released “things-gone-right” J.D. Power APEAL study, Mitsubishi is sixth from the bottom.
Yet, the RVR is a useful, fuel efficient, affordable wagon, especially the GT version with all-wheel drive. It’s quick to park, quiet at highway speeds and the 2.0-litre, 148-horsepower four-cylinder engine mated to the CVT transmission is fuel thrifty.
Unfortunately, without discounts it’s no bargain. A comparably equipped Subaru XV Crosstrek Limited is $2,233 less than the RVR GT, while a CR-V LX is $2,440 less. A Rogue SV has a $3,300 price advantage. So a word to the wise: bargain like a fiend for an RVR, aiming to get all sales sweeteners possible.
If you win the negotiation, consider yourself well rewarded with an all-around city car that does many things well. The seats are among the better you’ll find in this type of wagon, second-row room is average, but its road manners are good. The RVR is a quick and lively, with tight steering and strong braking. Safe? The U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates it a top safety pick (the RVR is known as the Outlander Sport in the United States).
But what Mitsu gives in road manners and style, it takes away in cargo space. The RVR has just a bit more than half the hauling room of the Rogue and CR-V, for instance, two-thirds that of the Escape and less even than the similar XV Crosstrek.
I like the RVR, but if Mitsu wants to break through in a segment cluttered with big sellers, it needs to have more edge on its rivals than this.
2014 Mitsubishi RVR GT
Base price: $28,498; as-tested: $34,178 (including $1,450 freight)
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder
Transmission: Six-speed electronic CVT
Drive: Full-time four-wheel drive
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 8.5 city/6.7 highway, using regular fuel
Alternatives: Nissan Rogue, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Subaru XV Crosstrek, Dodge Journey, Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain, Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Volkswagen Tiguan
Looks: Here we have a winning design, from that bold nose all the way back to the tidy sculpturing in the doors and the strong tail-lamp section.
Interior: The seating is first-rate and the hardware is easy to see, understand and operate. Simplicity is good here. The materials are tasteful, though not particularly rich – about par for the segment.
Technology: The CVT transmission with computer controls that give the feeling of proper gearing delivers fuel economy gains that are of note. The engine feels refined, although horsepower is behind the class leaders.
Cargo: The Nissan Rogue has almost twice the cargo room and all other rivals have more space in back for IKEA hauls.
You’ll Like This Car If: You want a handsome little SUV that does all the things it should do and well, but isn’t sold by one of the many giants offering similar rigs in this segment.
The Verdict: 7.0
The RVR succeeds as a pleasant-to-drive city SUV with nice looks and an open cargo space at the rear, just in case.
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