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ROAD TEST: Winter wonder

Mitsubishi RVR handles 'snowmageddon' with aplomb


Toronto, Feb. 11, 2013—Over the past week, Mitsubishi’s compact SUV, the RVR, made the dirtiest weather southern Ontario has seen for years feel like the tiniest flurry. When road testing a new vehicle the writer never knows what’s going to happen, and this time the RVR made a big snowstorm manageable, pleasant, and yes, even fun.

At a Glance
Specs as Tested: 2013 RVR GT 4WD

Body Style: 5-seat compact sport utility
Engine: 4-cylinder 2.0L
Transmission: Continuously Variable Transmission
Drive: Selectable 4WD
Fuel Economy: City: 8.5L/100km; Highway: 6.6L/100km
Price: GT 4WD model tested: $28,998 MSRP. Prices start at $19,998 MSRP.

The car faced slop, deep snow, and the slimy slippery stuff on the highway before the road is cleared, as well as the ruts and windrows left by the plows on a small side street. And it handled all of it with ease. When things got really hairy, the traction control proved very capable and the automatic lights and wipers offered an added feeling of confidence. This vehicle is really capable.

And well-equipped. It’s a pleasure to drive this GT version of the car, with its panoramic roof, 18-inch alloy wheels, leather seating surfaces, touch screen nav, and Sirius radio (six-month subscription) pumping through a nine-speaker setup including a 10″ subwoofer in the rear cargo compartment.

It looks good too. With that protruding Mitsubishi snout, triangular headlights, big alloy wheels and sleek body, the RVR has an aggressive posture that demands attention.

Driving

The RVR didn’t get to the fuel economy number promised by Mitsubishi, but with the slippery, snowy conditions, the car was in 4WD almost all the time. When we did get out on the highway in 2WD, the average economy number started to drop quite quickly. All told, after a pretty typical week of driving—albeit in atypical conditions—with winter tires and in 4WD, city/highway combined, the car reported its fuel economy at 9.6L/100km.

Steering inputs in this vehicle are smooth and the handling is responsive. The suspension is well-tuned for city driving; it’s firm but not harsh. Over the snow and in the ice the vehicle handled really well. Traction control came into play only a couple times, but capably intervened when the wheels started to lose it in the slop. There was never a moment of doubt about staying on the road and in the proper lane, when those all around were slipping and sliding.

The CVT that powers the GT version is smooth.  The car cruises comfortably at highway speeds, and there is definitely enough torque for passing and maneuvering in heavy traffic.

Ergonomics

The RVR offers the driver an extraordinarily comfortable environment. From the seat adjustments to the mirrors, the set-up was easy and intelligently thought out. The seats are very comfortable and have powerful—and quick—heaters that seem tailor-made for cold Canadian winters. The controls for them, however, are awkwardly located below the side bolster of the seats where they are really hard to reach and see. The steering wheel is really good looking and has a great feel to it.

Visibility from the driver’s seat is excellent, although the B-pillar does impede a shoulder check for those who still do that. However, with the giant side mirrors there’s hardly a reason not to trust them to provide all the detail you’d need about what’s going on around you. The back-up camera seems less prone than in some other cars to get blocked by salty, snowy buildup, probably because it’s mounted quite high on the rear of the car, near the license plate.

Entertainment and electronics

The touch screen navigation system works well, and the voice controls were really easy to operate with no need to read the manual at all. After one mis-cue—saying “call” instead of “dial”—the phone was dialing out to the right number. The only hiccup came in actually getting the phone connected to the Bluetooth; for some reason that was not terribly intuitive. As well, using the phone through the touch-screen required hitting the “Info” button, and then a phone icon. Why isn’t there a “phone” button on the console?

The entertainment centre has a hidden CD slot behind the touch screen. Push the rather cryptic “open” button and the whole screen flips up and tips away from the console, revealing the CD slot and other controls for the entertainment system. The only thing missing from the entertainment options in the GT was an “Aux” in port. The car is so contemporary that older music players are not welcome. You need USB connectivity to play your own tunes.

The panoramic roof is a gorgeous feature in the vehicle. Touch the button over the front seats and the jointed panel interior roof slides away to the rear, revealing a lovely expanse of sky, and bringing light in for all the passengers. Running the length of both sides of the roof glass are tiny, twinkly LED lights that cast cast a warm, orangey glow on the interior. The greenhouse roof is only available on the GT model.

Capacity

The RVR easily carries five, and there is plenty of legroom in the rear. Access and egress from both front and rear are easy—the vehicle’s ground clearance makes it suitable for those with limited ability to raise or lower themselves into a seat.

Cargo space is convenient and well-designed. The seats fold 60-40 and there is a pass-through as well, making it possible to go skiing and carry passengers without needing a roof rack. And since, the RVR proved it’s good in the snow, heading for the hills in this SUV sounds like a great idea.