2020 Mitsubishi RVR – New, but not all-new!

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By Nauman Farooq

The Mitsubishi RVR first showed up in Canada back in 2010, and it was off to a good start!

For the time, it impressed with its features, many of which were not available on other compact CUVs – such as its humongous panoramic sunroof, complete with a power operated hard cover and night lights (I’m fairly certain that the RVR is still the only vehicle to offer that latter feature).

Back in 2010, it also impressed with its handling and drivetrain; but what about now? Mitsubishi has just introduced a 2020 model of the RVR, but has it moved the game forward far enough to keep competition at bay?

Time to find out!

Styling: For 2020, the RVR has received what is known in the industry as a facelift – not a complete redesign. While the updates are smart, a decade on, Mitsubishi should have given us an all-new vehicle, not just an updated one. A facelift is fine when a model is about five years old, but not a decade after the vehicles introduction.

The update is quite attractive, and for buyers who are not finely tuned to the automotive industry, will see it as comparable to offerings from other manufacturers. So, kudos to the Mitsubishi design team on a successful update!

Interior: If you’ve been in RVR’s over the last decade, than stepping inside the 2020 model will give you déjà vu! There is a lot that hasn’t changed in the last 10 years in terms of layout, but Mitsubishi has vastly improved the quality of the interior. It no longer looks like the interior was made from old Tupperware boxes, the fit and finish on the 2020 RVR is superb – especially if you’re in the ‘GT’ trim, as tested.

The seats feel about the same, which are nice, but could benefit from more thigh support. The cabin space hasn’t changed at all [for a compact CUV, it is fairly roomy] but what has changed is the infotainment system. It now has an eight-inch screen that looks like it was built specifically to be in this vehicle – the unit in the old RVR looked like it was bought from a budget electronics store.

This new infotainment system – which is available from the base ES FWD trim to the GT AWC trim – is compatible with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay; that’s a good thing. What’s not so good – and a problem I find with every Mitsubishi model currently on sale in Canada – is that there is no option for a built in navigation system. You have to run the app through your phone, which means you’re going to be running data charges, a problem which will only compound when travelling across the border! Mazda offers an SD card that has all mapping data, and all their vehicles are pre-set to run navigation, so just buy the SD card from your local Mazda dealer, slot it in your vehicle, and you’re set. Mitsubishi should find a similar solution.

Thankfully, Mitsubishi does offer heated seats and a heated steering wheel on the RVR, both wonderful features for our winters.

Powertrain: There are more noticeable changes under the hood, mainly because now you get to choose between two different engines.

The base motor is the old 2.0L four-cylinder unit featuring 16 valves and variable valve timing. It produces 148 hp and 145 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels (or optionally, to all-wheels) via a CVT automatic. This is the same powertrain that’s been offered on the RVR since 2010.

For 2020, when you opt for the ‘SE AWC’ or ‘SEL AWC’ or the top of the line ‘GT AWC’ trim, you’ll get the bigger engine, a 2.4L four-cylinder unit, which also features 16 valves and variable valve timing. This engine – which has been offered on other Mitsubishi models in the past – develops 168 hp and 167 lb-ft of toque. All models equipped with this engine feature an active all-wheel drive system which can switch between front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive based on road and weather conditions (Mitsubishi refers to it as AWC, as in, All-Wheel Control).

If you like using a manual gearbox, than the RVR is not for you, as all trims only come with the CVT automatic – and while it’s a decent gearbox, it isn’t tuned for sporty driving. A decade ago, Mitsubishi offered the Lancer Evolution with a dual-clutch automatic, a transmission I still say is one of the greatest fitted to any production car, I wish that would have trickled down to other Mitsubishi models by now.

Performance & Driving Dynamics: As you would have gathered by now, the 2020 RVR is not a driver’s vehicle. It doesn’t have a lot of power, and the gearbox is set for gentle cruising rather than any sporty driving.

However, show the RVR some corners, and it will surprise you! Mitsubishi has made a name for themselves by making great handling vehicles over the last 35 years, and they’ve got the trophies to prove it – from Dakar racing to the World Rally Championship. I’m not saying the RVR handles like a competition race car, but it handles far better than you might expect. The chassis, steering, and suspension have been tuned by a team that understands going around bends and chicanes, and it shows – if only it had the power to match the handling, the RVR would have been spectacular.

A little more tech would also have been wonderful, such as adaptive cruise control, which is now offered by just about every competitor of the RVR. If you spend as much time on the highway as I do, this feature is worth its weight in gold!

Speaking of highway driving, this is also where you’ll notice how little sound proofing is in this vehicle – it’s very noisy at motorway speeds.

Fuel Economy: In my fuel economy test cycle (which includes 170 km of highway driving + 130 km of city driving); I averaged 10.5 L/100 km, which is quite poor for a vehicle of this size and power. By comparison, the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross is not only a larger vehicle, but offers more performance, yet it drinks only 9.6 L/100 km – and I’ve tested that vehicle twice and got the same results! I wish the RVR was offered with the turbocharged motor out of the Eclipse Cross.

Pricing: The base price is fine, with the ES FWD model starting from $22,998. Things get a bit too pricey as you move up the trim levels, and the GT AWC trim –as tested- starts from $33,998. That is just way too much for this vehicle – even the ‘Limited Edition’ version of the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross will cost you less than that!

Verdict: I have loved Mitsubishi vehicles for most of my life. The first manual transmission vehicle I ever drove was a 1988 Mitsubishi Galant. My favourite sportscar from the 1990’s was the Mitsubishi 3000GT VR4 – in both Coupe and Spyder version – and I still say that one of the best handling cars I have ever driven is the last-generation model of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.

Mitsubishi is capable of doing great things, and have often punched above their weight! With recent vehicles like the Eclipse Cross and Outlander PHEV, Mitsubishi once again proved how clever and creative they really are.

I wish a lot of that Mitsubishi magic had found its way into the RVR, but it didn’t. It lacks tech, it lacks refinement, it drinks too much fuel, and it is priced just way too high!

For some, one of the biggest reasons to buy a Mitsubishi is their vehicle coverage (five year/100,000 km bumper to bumper, and 10 year/160,000 km powertrain warranty). I say, that is a valid reason for you to walk into a Mitsubishi showroom, but do yourself a favour, and sign the sales contract for the Eclipse Cross – trust me, you’ll thank me for it.

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