Sometimes being cool doesn't mean being the edgiest or fastest on the lot. Sometimes, being cool is all about getting the job done without a lot of pomp. That's the kind of cool found in the 2018 Outlander. It sells at a lower price than most in the three-row segment. But it ain't cheap.

The 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander is a well-designed three-row family crossover. It doesn't win awards for power, fuel efficiency, or interior ergonomics. It gets noticed for being capable and cheaper to buy. This budget shopper's three-row crossover is definitely worth considering if your bottom line is what matters most, but you aren't willing to skimp on capability or safety.

For 2018, the Outlander comes in five trim levels, starting with the ES and working through the SE, LE, SEL, and the V6-powered GT. We're not including the GT model in this review as it's an entirely different beast.

The engine powering the 2018 Outlander is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder attached to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). A total of 166 horsepower (124 kW) is on tap, which isn't much considering the size of the SUV. But with Mitsubishi's all-wheel drive (called Super All Wheel Control or S-AWC), the Outlander is surprisingly spry for its underpowered design. Most of this comes thanks to engineers at Mitsubishi changing some of the CVT's programming to help eliminate a bit of the sluggishness this generation of the Outlander had when it first debuted.

What all of that means is that the Mitsubishi Outlander won't win any races with its 0-60 mph (0-92 km/h) time of around 9 seconds, but it will at least pass others on the freeway and make the on-ramp without struggle. This couples with the natural-feeling steering, which is neither too hard nor soft, and the more-than-expected maneuverability of the Outlander. Again, largely thanks to the S-AWC option.

Mitsubishi's S-AWC is all about torque vectoring from wheel to wheel and it works amazingly well, especially when the roadway is less than ideal. During a heavy winter storm and the resulting ice buildup in the days afterward, the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander performed very well. When driven judiciously in the inclement weather, the Outlander had no slippage and little problem maneuvering. The Outlander displayed supreme confidence – something we can't say for some other three-rows we've driven recently when the weather went sour.

Inside the 2018 Outlander, the interior is rather plain and unadorned. This fits with the low-cost nature of the vehicle, but doesn't necessarily translate to "cheap" when it comes to the interior's overall feel. Austere, maybe. But not cheap. Materials quality seems good for the price paid, with design and layout being mostly about function rather than form.

The front seating for driver and passenger is simple and nicely done. Some may wish it had more cushion, but we found the firmness to be a better option, especially on longer drives. Infotainment is based on a Rockford Fosgate touchscreen that is responsive with big virtual buttons and easy-to-use menus, but it doesn't do much in the way of advanced tech. Most of the app integration and the like is left up to Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which are standard in the Outlander at every trim beyond the base model.

In the second row, seating remains plain, but is still comfortable enough for most riders. Legroom is good, as is headroom, and the entry and egress are easy thanks to wide-swinging doors and low entry sills. The third row, however, is mostly for kids and isn't terribly easy to access. The second row folds forward, but only slightly, and requires a little effort to tilt and push forward for access to the third row. The Outlander's third row is definitely "kids and occasional only."

The 2018 Outlander does have a good interior overall, though, with plenty of storage and seating for up to seven. With two adults and three children, it's just about right and when you want to add grandma to the mix, there's room for that without anyone getting stuck with the uncomfortable spot.

For safety – always a concern with buyers in this segment – the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander also does well. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rates the 2018 Outlander as a Top Safety Pick vehicle with top scores of "Good" for all crash testing done. It also ranks well, and we'd agree, for its ease of use with child safety seats. Similarly, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also gives the Outlander top scores for crash test safety.

In the end, we rate the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander as an excellent vehicle for the price paid and the accoutrements included. Its fuel economy, rated at 25 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway (9.4, 7.8 l/100km) is not the best, nor is its power output or towing (rated at 1,500 lb/680 kg). But with a starting price of about US$24,000, which includes basic infotainment on a 7-inch touchscreen, the Outlander is one of the lowest-cost three-row crossovers available.

Add in S-AWC, a few upgrades to the infotainment, and some comfort items in a trim point such as the LE or SEL, and you've got a sub-$30,000 crossover that is feature-competitive with those costing three or four thousand more. That is what's most appealing about the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander.

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