The compact SUV segment is one of the most hotly contested portions of the Canadian market. All the major players have an entry and Mitsubishi is trying hard to join the fray, to get a foot in the door, with the RVR.
Introduced as a brand new model for the 2011 model year, the RVR is based on the platform used for the Mitsubishi Outlander. It has the same wheelbase but is shorter overall and more of a CUV than and SUV. It’s available in two trim levels that cover the $23,000 - $30,000 spectrum.
This is the third generation RVR but the first for us. Mitsubishi has been selling RVRs around the globe for some time, but until now, has not offered one in North America.
The entry-level model is the front-wheel-drive SE with a five-speed manual transmission. Few of these will find a home. The company expects the 4WD SE at $26,698 to be the volume version while at $30,198 the GT, available only with an automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive is the top dog.
Regardless of trim or transmission all RVRs get Mitsubishi’s "global" 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine developed in conjunction with Hyundai and Chrysler. In this guise it puts out 148 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque.
The SE comes with a five-speed manual transmission while a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) is standard on the GT and a $1,200 option on the SE. The same variations exist for the AWD system. It is standard on the GT and available as an option on the SW. The system has three driver-selectable modes:
2WD, 4WD and 4WD lock modes.
Standard equipment on the base model includes: four-wheel disc brakes, auto-off headlights, air conditioning, cruise control, power windows and locks, heated seats and mirrors, ABS, ESC (Electronic Stability Control), tilt & telescope steering wheel and remote keyless entry.
The SE comes with 16-in wheels while the GT is shod with 18-inch rubber. The GT also gets a nine-speaker, 710-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system with satellite radio, a panoramic power sunroof, automatic climate control and keyless ignition.
The interior of the RVR is well finished considering the price point and competition. Some surfaces are covered with soft touch materials. Fit and finish are excellent and kudos for three big, simple, round knobs to operate the HVAC system.
The front seats are heated on all models, for which Mitsubishi is to be commended, especially as they are one of the few companies to offer heated cloth seats, my favourite.
On the other hand, they might have made the switches for the seat heaters easier to find – they are tucked down low on the sides of the seats near the belt buckle receptacle! But I guess that once you have found them you won’t forget where they are!
Entry and exit are easy thanks to big doors and the high seating position expected in this type of vehicle. Visibility is also worthy of note thanks to a lot of glass and a reasonably low belt line.
The rear seats offer class competitive head, leg and shoulder room. Two big adults fit comfortably, three in a pinch. The rear seat back is split 60/40 and either or both can be folded down for additional cargo space.
The big box holding the subwoofer of the Rockford Fosgate audio system on the GT takes up quite a bit of cargo space. Lower trim levels get lower sound quality, but more space.
The ride is pleasant with little head toss. The RVR’s tight dimensions and relatively light weight result in a sprightlier vehicle than many of the competitors. Yet it handles nasty road surfaces with aplomb.
The all-aluminum engine is robust and reasonably powerful. Quiet, smooth and with a flat power band it can certainly hold its head up against most of the others in the class.
It is let down however by the CVT transmission. Regular readers know I’m not a fan of these transmissions because of the monotonous moaning when accelerating with more than a modicum of verve. Whether merging, passing or climbing steep hills, a CVT puts the engine in its peak power range – typically above 5,000 rpm – and keeps it there while the pulleys within change gear ratios. It sounds like the car has a slipping clutch.
But – and this is a BIG one – driven less aggressively or enthusiastically you’d be hard pressed to find fault with the transmission.
Mitsubishi has even equipped the GT trim level with six simulated gears and paddle shifters for you to play make believe. Overall, it lacks the performance of some in the class and could use some more displacement and low end grunt.
The CVT is known for its efficiency and does help the RVR achieve some respectably low fuel-consumption numbers. Helping out on this front are a number of weight-saving measures including plastic front fenders, and a magnesium fuel filler door!
Mitsubishi is a small-timer in the Canadian auto scene. But it builds high quality, reliable and tough vehicles. I have no hesitation in recommending the RVR for the shopping list of anyone in this market. Shame about the transmission and less-than-stellar performance, however.