2013 Mitsubishi RVR Road Test Review

Simon Hill - CAP staff
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If cars were pets, the Mitsubishi RVR would have to be a pug: compact and belligerent-looking, but ultimately pretty docile and family friendly. The only real difference is that while pugs seem to be all the rage these days and garner plenty of attention, the RVR struggles to be noticed in a segment crowded with heavy-hitters like the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage, not to mention the funky Nissan Juke, the recently-redesigned Ford Escape and the new-to-market Mazda CX-5 and Subaru XV Crosstrek. But beyond its Lancer EVO rally car-inspired grille, the RVR has at least a couple more aces up its sleeve when it comes to being noticed.

Price is always an attention-getter, and certainly Mitsubishi has placed the RVR well in this regard: At $21,448 including destination charges, Mitsubishi's compact crossover starts just below the $21,759 Hyundai Tucson and the $23,645 Kia Sportage, and significantly undercuts the $26,500 RAV4, the $27,630 Honda CR-V and the $26,190 Subaru Crosstrek (although in fairness to the Subaru, it's the only one in the bunch that comes standard with all-wheel drive, even in base model manual-transmission versions).

Fuel economy can be an attention-getter too, and here again the RVR posts some impressive numbers: 8.7 L/100km in the city and 6.4 on the highway with the manual transmission, or 8.6 and 6.6 respectively with the automatic (based on 2012 ratings). This puts it in the same league as frontrunners like Nissan's slightly smaller Juke, which manages 7.5 and 6.1 L/100km with its CVT transmission, and Mazda's SkyActiv CX-5, which gets 7.8 and 5.7 L/100km with the manual.

The RVR comes in ES, SE and GT trim levels. At the bottom of the range the ES gets the front-wheel drive and a five-speed manual, while the top-end GT includes all-wheel drive and an automatic CVT (continuously variable transmission). The mid-range SE offers a wider range of choice: it can be specified with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, and if you order up the front-wheel drive version you can choose between the 5-speed and the CVT (all-wheel drive is available only with the CVT).

My test car was an SE version with front-wheel drive and the 5-speed. At a suggested retail price of $23,548 including destination charges this represents a $2,100 step up from the base ES model, but the SE gets a wide array of the most desirable extra equipment including 16-inch alloy wheels (the base car gets steel wheels), fog lights, rear privacy glass, Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio connectivity, USB input, steering-wheel mounted audio controls, plus a leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.

Even in base ES trim the RVR is fairly well equipped, with air conditioning, cruise control, heated front seats, remote keyless entry, power locks and windows, multi-information display, tire pressure monitoring system, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, halogen headlights and a 140-watt four-speaker CD/MP3 audio system.

Inside, Mitsubishi has outfitted the RVR with a soft-touch dash face and soft-touch front door uppers, but as expected in this segment the remainder of the all-black interior is built of hard plastics. The overall effect is comfortable and welcoming, if somewhat plain (there's some chrome trim on the door panels, vent knobs and shifter base, plus some satin metallic-look trim bracketing the centre stack and steering wheel, but that's about it). On the plus side, while the dash may not be showy it's well laid out and easy to use, with all controls logically grouped within easy reach, and simple easily-legible instrumentation.

The cloth-covered front seats in the SE are roomy and comfortable, although the seat heater controls are buried down near the seatbelt latch where they are difficult to operate and nearly impossible to see. The rear bench has good legroom and headroom too, offering genuine comfort for two normal-sized adults (or three in a pinch), but the short rear doors make getting in and out a bit tight. The rear cargo area isn't huge (614 litres with the seats up and 1,402 litres with them folded), but the floor is flat and mostly unimpeded by wheel wells or other protuberances so the available space is very usable and the split-folding rear seatback provides good cargo flexibility.

On the road, I found the RVR to have a pleasant, easy-driving character. At 148 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque the 2.0-litre DOHC 4-cylinder engine offers adequate if not exactly overwhelming power, and when equipped with the 5-speed it goes about its work relatively quietly, providing relaxed highway cruising in top gear. The 5-speed transmission has fairly long shift throws, but the clutch is light and easy to modulate so shifting is never a chore. A bonus that comes with the 5-speed is notably quicker acceleration: 0-100 km/h with the 5-speed takes about 9 seconds, versus approximately 10.5 seconds in models with the CVT.

The suspension is tuned more towards comfort than handling, which is fine although this translates into a fair amount of squat on launch that results in the front wheels spinning more easily than most cars when you accelerate hard on wet pavement. On the highway I found the handling to be slightly nervous feeling - not so much as to be tiring, but it did seem to dart around a little over imperfections and in crosswinds. Around the corners the RVR behaves itself perfectly well, offering reasonably positive responses and safe and predictable understeer at the limits, aided by standard-equipment traction control, stability control and ABS brakes.

With pricing starting at the aforementioned $21,448 and running up to $30,448 including destination for a loaded GT 4WD model, the Mitsubishi RVR offers an nice blend of budget-friendly value, family-friendly packaging and thrifty fuel economy wrapped up in a package that's got just a little more style and few millimetres less bulk than some of the better-known competitors. If you gravitate towards a compact crossover that's genuinely compact in size and offers good bang for the buck, you'll want to put the RVR on your list of possibilities.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Crossover, Mitsubishi, 2013, RVR, $20,000 - $29,999, Compact,

Organizations: Mitsubishi

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