Review and photos by
Peter Bleakney, Autos.ca
According to the kids in my ‘hood, if you put your pajamas on backwards and do the “snow dance” (whatever that is), you’ll get a snow day. There must have been a lot of that going on here a few weeks ago, because for the first time in twelve years all the schools in Toronto and surrounding areas were closed. While the storm didn’t turn out to be quite as bad as predicted, 15 cm of snow was enough to test the winter capabilities of my 2011 Mitsubishi RVR GT 4WD and make for a bit of snowy fun.
It is in conditions such as these when owning an all-wheel-drive crossover with good ground clearance makes real sense. Equipped with snow tires, I got my wife to work in this top-trim $28,498 RVR with nary a slip, and then headed out to chew up some unploughed roads.
Mitsubishi might be late to the compact sport-ute party, but this RVR has quite a bit going for it. And gosh knows, with the competition that is out there, it had better.
Let’s start with the styling. Built on the Outlander platform, this is certainly the best looking vehicle in Mitsubishi’s line-up. It is perky, nicely proportioned and the corporate shark-nose along with crisp body lines gives it a purposeful and chunky demeanour. Although it is 37 cm shorter than the Outlander, its wheelbase is the same. Short overhangs equal increased cool factor.
This GT, in Kingfisher Blue Metallic, benefits from 18-inch alloys, chrome grille surround and chrome exhaust tip. RVR front fenders are made from recycled plastic in the interest of improved impact resistance and weight reduction. Indeed, with a 1,405 kg curb weight, the RVR is considerably lighter than the Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage or Nissan Juke.
The five-seat 2011 RVR is aggressively priced, starting at $21,998 for the base SE version that comes standard with front-wheel drive, 16-inch alloys and a five-speed manual transmission. The SE 4WD ($24,998) and my swanky GT 4WD have the Sportronic CVT (continuously variable transmission) with manual mode. This transmission is a $1,200 option on the front-drive RVR SE.
Currently there is only one engine available – the four-cylinder 2.0-litre 4B11 that puts out 148 hp and 145 lb.-ft. of torque. Mitsubishi is claiming best in class fuel economy with the CVT equipped RVRs at 7.6 L/100 km combined. My wintry week returned 10.5 L/100 km.
The only weak link in this otherwise impressive little ute is the drivetrain. Only, you ask? Let’s just say if you’re not in a great hurry, it’s perfectly serviceable. The problem derives from modest power working in conjunction with a CVT that is programmed to eke out maximum fuel economy. When you do get it to kick down, the engine drones away in the most unpleasant fashion. The best way to drive the RVR, if you need some giddyup, is to use the long magnesium column-mounted paddle shifters (GT only) that call up the six “virtual” gears pronto.
That said, I made my peace early on with the RVR and drove with less urgency, enjoying its good seats, great visibility, agile handling and fine steering feel. The interior is also very nicely done, with simple and intuitive controls and clear gauges. It is a notable step up in quality from previous Mitsubishi efforts.
Mitsu is playing the value card here. Even the base SE model features tilt/telescope steering wheel with audio controls, 16-inch alloys, heated front seats, air conditioning, Bluetooth, USB port 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.
After driving a red RVR SE 4WD for a week prior to the GT 4WD, it’s hard to argue against the $3,000 upgrade.
Although there are no mechanical changes, you’re getting a good bang for your buck: excellent auto HID headlights, 18-inch alloys, exterior chrome highlights, 710-watt Rockford Fosgate sound, a fixed full-length panoramic sunroof with way-cool LED accent lights, rain sensing wipers, nicer seat fabric, a coloured central information display, proximity key with push button start, auto climate control and rear seat arm rest with pass-through.
While the front seats are comfortable and offer good support, the back seats are thin on padding, and leg room and head room are limited for six-footers.
With its stubby tail, cargo space behind the rear seats is not generous, and in the GT, a portion of that is taken up by the subwoofer. The Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage have about ten per cent more capacity, but the RVR does beat out the Nissan Juke.
The all-wheel drive system has three settings. You can run it in front drive only, 4WD on-demand where power is sent aft when needed, or in lock mode when it’s 4WD all the time – which is where I had it for my winter fling on the snowy back roads.
The RVR GT 4WD powered through everything, and with the stability control turned off, it was game for some silly sideways action. Only the CVT put a damper on the party.
Back in the real world, Mitsubishi’s new compact SUV makes a compelling offering for those moving up from a hatchback but don’t want a vehicle the size of the Mitsubishi Outlander, Chevy Equinox, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V et al.
The RVR is stylish, economical, functional and it feels like a quality piece. And despite its resistance to rapid forward progress, this GT 4WD model charmed me with its good ride and fine dynamics.
Pricing: 2011 Mitsubishi RVR GT 4WD
Base price: $28,498
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $30,048
Crash test results