Pedro Arrais review: Mitsubishi RVR an unbeatable off-road value

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Mitsubishi undercuts the competition in the hotly contested compact SUV segment with a $22,998 starting price — and a 10-year powertrain warranty — with the 2020 Mitsubishi RVR.

Mitsubishi knows that it is the underdog in a segment that includes heavyweights such as the Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-3 and Hyundai Kona.

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The RVR attracts more comparisons than most, because its dimensions straddle the line between the compact and sub-compact SUV/crossover segments.

This is the first major facelift for the RVR, which first came to our shores in 2011.

The sheetmetal has been freshened, with crisper lines replacing the soft edges of last year’s vehicle. There is more chrome as the RVR starts to look a lot more like its bigger brother, the Outlander.

As is common these days, the headlights, taillights and running lights are now LED. The interior has been massaged as well, with a general freshening-up of the interior that includes a larger infotainment screen.

The base $22,998 model, an ES FWD is, of course, a loss leader to get you to visit the showroom. Still, you do get a few nice features, including heated front seats, auto-off headlamps and an eight-inch infotainment screen.

My tester came from the other end of the spectrum — the top-of-the-line GT AWC, with a list price of $33,998.

The major difference under the hood is the engine. While the base vehicle comes with a 2.0-litre (148 hp and 145 lb.-ft. of torque), the GT comes with a more powerful 2.4-litre four-cylinder. This naturally aspirated engine produces 168 horsepower and 167 pound-feet of torque.

The smaller engine compares with other 2.0-litre engines in the subcompact crowd, while the larger trails in the larger segment, with the turbocharged 1.5-litre in the CR-V delivering 190 hp and 179 lb.-ft. of torque.

While it is less powerful on paper, it did not feel it on the road. The RVR felt peppy and eager and had no trouble merging with traffic.

There is only one transmission available, a continuously variable model. My tester had the paddle shifters and a sport mode, which made for a more enjoyable drive.

A CVT is also the go-to transmission for fuel economy, with the RVR returning a rating of 10.3 litres per 100 km in the city and 8.3 on the highway.

The RVR does have an ace up its sleeve. While almost all of its competitors offer some sort of all-wheel-drive system, the RVR is stands out by offering lockable 4WD.

Four-wheel drive works by locking the front and rear axles together, splitting torque 50/50 between them. If you are driving on pavement, this means nothing to you. But if you were to take the RVR off-road, or drive it in deep snow, it makes all the difference in the world.

Its off-road prowess contrasts to its performance on back roads. You soon find that it exhibits a fair amount of body roll if driven briskly — encouraging you to slow to a more reasonable speed to enjoy the scenery.

Remember when I previously noted that the RVR straddled both the compact and subcompact classes? The RVR’s width perfectly encapsulates its quandary. At 1,810 millimetres, it is about the same as the Hyundai Kona and Mazda CX-3. The CR-V, by comparison, claims a 1,951-mm width for occupants.

While headroom and legroom are generous, you might find shoulder room at a premium. The tall and narrow body means it falls behind in total cargo-carrying capacity, as well.

While the CR-V has only a modest 680-kilogram towing limit, the manufacturer does not recommend towing at all for the RVR.

The jewel of the crown of the RVR’s interior is its one-piece full-length panorama roof. When the power sunshade is retracted, it gives an unsurpassed view of the sky. The only downside is that there is no opening for ventilation.

The rest of the interior on my GT was commensurate with its $33,998 price, with leather appointed seats, heated steering wheel and a 710-watt Rockford Fosgate stereo system with eight speakers and a massive, 10-inch subwoofer. If you are of a certain age and find it increasingly difficult to hear, this sound system will cure you of your affliction. The system is just as attractive to young adults who have a desire to share their taste of music with the world. You have been warned.

The system includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

The GT model comes with the usual safety suite that includes lane-departure warning, forward collision mitigation, blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert.

At a starting price of $22,998, the RVR is an exceptional value for those looking for a new SUV/crossover — as long as you only need front-wheel drive. There are other models all the way up to the tested GT. Which one you choose depends on your needs and budget.

Mitsubishi has also given the whole line a five-year/100,000-km new car and a 10 year/160,000 km powertrain warranty — the longest in the industry.

While it trails the segment in a number of points, the combination of an attractive price coupled with a long warranty can’t be overlooked.

PS: If you are looking for other auto reviews on the RVR, keep in mind that it is known as the Outlander Sport in the U.S.

THE SPEC SHEET

Type: Compact SUV/Crossover, front engine, all-wheel and 4WD

Engine: 2.4-litre four cylinder, 168 hp at 6,000 r.p.m., 167 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,100 r.p.m.

Transmission: CVT

Dimensions (mm): Length, 4,365; width, 1,810; height, 1,645; wheelbase, 2,670

Curb weight (kg): 1,495

Price (base/as tested): $33,998/ $36,298 (includes $1,900 freight and PDI and $100 AC tax)

Options: Metallic paint $300

Tires: 225/55 R 18 on alloy wheels

Fuel type: Regular

Fuel economy (L/100km): 10.3 city/ 8.3 highway

Warranty: Five years/100,000 km new car, 10 years/160,000 km powertrain and five years/ unlimited km roadside assistance

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