Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: January 7, 2020
Yes, Mitsubishi still sells cars in Canada, not just air conditioners and home appliances, and they actually host an impressive SUV portfolio. We all dearly miss the Lancer but aside from the Mirage, Mitsubishi offers three SUVs, including the Eclipse Cross and Outlander, the latter of which is also available as a plug-in hybrid. Sitting at the bottom of the family tree is the updated 2020 RVR. Updated is a relative term as the RVR still feels a step behind in both design and functionality, especially when compared against its modernized crossover rivals like the Mazda CX-30, Nissan Qashqai, and Subaru Crosstrek. The new exterior design is appealing with rugged looks and a new front grill, but the inside isn’t as refreshing. Hop in and you will discover a dated, plastic-laden, and not exactly feature-rich interior, though the attractive starting price tag and extensive warranties might make you reconsider.
The star attraction of the RVR is its base model’s (ES FWD) price tag of $22,998, a basic front-wheel drive variant with the lower output four-cylinder engine. Still, standard features include heated front seats, an 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, and auto LED headlights. Opting for a 4WD model only costs $2,500 more, well worth it for the Canadian climate if you ask me.
The next step up is the SE, SEL, and GT AWC trims, the latter of which we tested at $33,998. It’s a swollen price tag but comes with some modern creature comforts like a panoramic glass roof, which doesn’t open by the way like the Evoque or E-Pace, heated steering wheel, Rockford Fosgate audio system, and leather seats. Despite these lovely added amenities, the value of the lineup still lies with the more frugal ES AWC.
Two naturally aspirated four-cylinder engines motivate the RVR, 2.0L and 2.4L, both mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The entry-level 2.0L produces 148 hp and 145 lb-ft, while the more powerful 2.4L delivers 168 hp and 167 lb-ft. Our GT AWC is only available with the latter and it drives exactly as you would expect - not much fuss, just go-go-go. The engine produces healthy output but never feels properly athletic, though it should be more than enough for the city commute. No complaints at low speeds.
The RVR’s petite stature allows it to be somewhat agile, though the CVT sucks out much of the fun if you ever find yourself on a twisty backroad. It buzzes, roars, and beats on your eardrums to the point where you want to go slower just to give your ears a rest. There are sporty column-mounted paddle shifters to simulate phony gears should you decide to change things up, but we did not find much use for them. Still, the RVR is an eager little beaver, easy to toss around, and will faithfully go wherever you point it within its limits.
The RVR GT AWC comes with an adjustable 4WD system. It’s not the “Super” S-AWC system found in the Eclipse Cross or Outlander but for a small SUV, it feels just as competent in adverse weather conditions. There’s a dedicated button on the center console, allowing users to toggle between 2WD, 4WD Auto, and 4WD Lock, the latter of which locks the center differential and effectively all four wheels together to get you out of sticky situations. Though I highly doubt that the RVR’s target demographic would take advantage of these precious abilities, it’s a nice little guardian angel for Mitsubishi’s marketers to adequately exploit. Even during heavy snowfall, regular 4WD allowed our RVR (equipped with winter tires) to confidently find grip on all four corners and ease its way around town without much slippage.
The cabin design is simple. One could even call it spartan, especially if you’re coming from another modern SUV. It lacks the garnished center console of the Eclipse Cross with its touchpad and wrapped gear shifter. Instead, the RVR does with a traditional stick and gated PRNDL stalk - not something you will commonly find in 2020 model year vehicles. It really goes to show the age of the RVR’s platform. The nostalgic start-up process even includes a turn-key ignition, though opting for the SEL AWC or GT AWC trims net you an almost-expected-in-2020 push button start and keyless entry. The windshield washer nozzles are also embedded onto the front hood in clear view of the driver - haven’t seen those in a while.
The sizable 8-inch touchscreen is a nice addition and takes up a great chunk of center real estate, but the infotainment hosts a bare minimum of menus and features. Despite lacking a wide variety of adjustment, the front seats are comfortable. They are not situated too high up either to feel like you’re piloting a bus, a common feature found in other small crossovers. The massive panoramic roof opens up the cramped rear cabin, though it’s a shame the roof does not actually open. Furthermore, I can’t sit behind my six-foot self without arching my knees to my chest, and the roofline forces my head right into the headliner. If you plan on ferrying larger adults in the back on a consistent basis, best to check out the larger Outlander instead.
The 2020 Mitsubishi RVR is a reasonably priced, well-built, and somewhat well-equipped crossover despite overwhelming nods to its aging platform. Is it worth holding out for Mitsubishi to completely revamp the RVR? Sure. The subcompact SUV field is booming with more modern and even better driving examples in the meantime. But the RVR holds its own with an attractive value proposition and comprehensive warranties to top it off. While it doesn’t move the needle forward, Mitsubishi’s entry-level SUV remains an effective, all-weather, and no-frills commuter tool for small families and the like.
Model: 2020 Mitsubishi RVR GT AWC
Paint Type: Sunshine Orange
Base Price: $33,998
Price as Tested: $33,998
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,365 / 1,810 / 1,645
Curb weight (kg): 1,495
Engine: 2.4-litre four-cylinder
Horsepower: 168 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 167 lb-ft @ 4,100 rpm
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, 4WD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 10.3 / 8.3 / 9.4
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 9.8