2015 Subaru Outback vs Mitsubishi Outlander vs Kia Sorento – Saturday Showdown

In this week’s Saturday Showdown, we’re pitting the 2015 Subaru Outback against the 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander and both of them against the 2015 Kia Sorento. All three compete in the small-to-midsize crossover sport utility market and all three are strong contenders with compelling points of interest. You can read full reviews of each vehicle here on CarNewsCafe, linked below.

Fast VS Facts

Contenders: 2015 Outback 2015 Outlander 2015 Sorento
City/Hwy MPG:  25/33  24/29 20/27
Base Price: $24,895 $23,195  $24,300
Strong Point:  Well-refined  Fuel economy  Largest
Weakness: No Subaru “fun”  Lackluster interior  Base Engine Weak
Showdown Score:  16  16  18

Daily Use Ergonomics

Outback: 4 | Outlander: 4 | Sorento: 5

On the road in daily driving around town and on the highway, all three are comfortable rides, though the Sorento and Outback are more cushioned and quiet than is the Outlander. Parking is actually easiest in the Outlander thanks to its overall design and visibility, especially when a rear camera is opted for. The Outback suffers from huge pillars that block vision over your shoulder while the Sorento has narrower windows and more blind spots.

Comfort, fit and trim are both strong points for the 2015 Outback and 2015 Sorento, with overall comfort for most people being a clear win for the Sorento. It’s larger size, more adjustable seating at lower trim levels, and superior headroom are boons compared to the Outback.

Family Friendliness

Outback: 3 | Outlander: 4 | Sorento: 5

2015 Subaru Outback - snow 1 - AOA1200pxEach of our three candidates is an excellent family hauler. The 2015 Outback features a lot of cargo and second row room, but the 2015 Outlander has a (small) third row that accommodates children and the 2015 Sorento has a third row option that is also suitable for children. This gives the Outlander and Sorento the advantage of becoming 7-passenger vehicles.

The traditional crossover design of the Sorento and Outlander means that they have taller doors which, especially on the Sorento, mean easier entry and egress. For parents with small children still in child safety seats, that can be a back saver as well.

Ride Comfort

Outback: 4 | Outlander: 4 | Sorento: 4

2015 Mitsubishi Outlander - sunset 1 - AOA1200pxFor passengers, ride comfort will be superior in the 2015 Sorento and 2015 Outback, overall. For the driver, however, ride comfort will depend largely on driving style. Those who want a sportier, more involved experience will enjoy the Outlander’s handling characteristics and more engaging dynamic. For cushioned, comfortable driving, the Sorento is the pick and for a halfway-between combination of the two, the Subaru is the choice.

Both the Outlander and the Outback have a panoramic roof option that opens the cabin and gives kids something to look out of besides the side windows. The 2015 Outback and Sorento share similar offroad capabilities as well, though the Outlander is not to be underestimated.

Powertrain Options

Outback: 5 | Outlander: 4 | Sorento: 3

2015 Kia Sorento - trees 3 - AOA1200pxThe 2015 Outback offers a four- and six-cylinder engine option (MPGs above are for the 4). Both are well-rated, well-vetted engines running through a nicely-tuned continuously variable transmission (CVT). All told, it’s a good mix of choices for a vehicle that size.  All-wheel drive is, of course, standard with both engine options.

The 2015 Outlander also offers a four- and six-cylinder engine option. The four-cylinder utilizes a CVT while the six runs through a six-speed automatic gearbox. All-wheel drive is optional on the four-cylinder and standard for the V6. Our MPG numbers above reflect the four-cylinder with AWD. The six-cylinder engine is a well-vetted Mitsu motor, but the four is relatively new.

The 2015 Sorento also offers both a four- and six-cylinder engine, bot of which run through a six-speed automatic transmission. The four-cylinder is unpopular as it is underpowered for a vehicle the size of the Sorento, but its MPG numbers are used above. The 3.3-liter V6 in the Sorento is the most powerful offered of our three, but also returns the lowest fuel economy. Both are engines with a relatively long history.

Final Assessments

The final assessment should be clear for the buyer who is looking for a crossover in the small to midsize category. Our models were all compared utilizing all-wheel drive in its best fuel-efficiency powertrain option. Trim levels will determine some comfort and amenities, of course, but for the most part, the three are roughly equal in terms of what you get for the dollar in that regard.

Families will prefer the Outlander or Sorento for their extra row of seating, when needed, and superior cargo space. Small families or those who don’t necessarily need a full-time family hauler and prefer something more contemporary and car-like in its handling and dynamics will prefer the Outback.

All three of our contenders are good choices in this market, so your choice will depend on factors unique to you. We hope our above assessments of the basic criteria for family crossovers has helped you narrow your field of candidates. Let us know in the comments if you have made a  choice or found our Showdown to be helpful.

To read the individual reviews of the three crossovers, links are below for your convenience.

Aaron Turpen
An automotive enthusiast for most of his adult life, Aaron has worked in and around the industry in many ways. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press (RMAP), the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA), the Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA), and freelances as a writer and journalist around the Web and in print. You can find his portfolio at AaronOnAutos.com.