Photo Credit: MITSUBISHI MOTORS - The 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander sports a new aggressive grill  and available GT package.It's seemed like Mitsubishi's days in America were numbered just a few years ago. At the height of the Great Recession, officials with the Japanese auto manufacturer were quoted as saying the company was going to drop all their gas-powered vehicle in favor of electric vehicles. And they only make one.

Fortunately, Mitsubishi has apparently changed its mind. Although still a small automaker compared to such titans as Honda, Nissan and Toyota, the company is pressing forward with some new and updated vehicles, including the 2015 version of its compact Outlander crossover. Entirely redesigned last year, it is one of the smaller SUVs to feature a third row of seats.

The Outlander can also be ordered in versions ranging from fuel-efficient, four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive family hauler to performance-oriented GT with a V6 and the company's Super All-Wheel Control all-wheel-drive system. In this trim, the Outlander is well equipped for freeway driving, winter weather or moderate off-road use. The S-AWC system allows the drive to choose between several driving modes, from Eco for the best mileage to Snow for slippery conditions to Lock for locking the center differential for maximum traction.

Because Mitsubishi is underfunded compared to its larger rivals, its vehicles sometimes don't feel as refined as the competition. But the Outland is still very well made and earned an IIHS "Top Safety Pick +" and an NHTSA 5-star overall rating for 2014 — one of the few vehicles with three rows of seats to do so.

The base Outlander with a 2.4-liter four cylinder engine and FWD is rated at 25 miles per gallon in the city and 31 on the highway by the EPA, which is among the best of any crossover. The sportier GT version is not as economical, of course, with ratings of 20 city and 28 highway miles per gallon. But many buyers will find the increased power and practicality worth it, especially since it comes standard with a six-speed automatic transmission instead of a Continuously Variable Transmission, which some people think sacrifices performance for economy.

Photo Credit: MITSUBISHI MOTORS - The interior of the 2015 Mitsubishi is cleanly styled, with easy to use controls.Mitsubishi only tweaked the Outlander slightly since last year. The most notable change is a much improved front grill that gives it a more aggressive look. Our test GT also came with classy looking two-tone 18-inch alloy wheels. Interior materials have improved over the years and the current design is simpler than the cluttered dashes found on many other vehicles these days. The leather seats and wood trim made it feel upscale without being overly fancy.

On the road, our test Outlander GT felt light and responsive. Visibility was excellent, thanks to the high seating position and expansive widows. The optional GT Touring Package included many desirable features, such as a 7-inch touch screen, an upgrade stereo and lane and front collision warning systems. Although this pushed the price to over $35,000, entry level Outlanders begin at around $23,000 and are still well equipped.

Mitsubishi has always made vehicles that appeal to two types of people, those looking or value and those looking for something a little different. The 2015 Outlander continues that trend.

2015 Mitsubishi Outlander

Base price: $23,195.

Price as tested: $35,145.

Type: 5-door, 7-passenger compact crossover.

Engine: 2.4-liter 4, 3.0-liter V6.

EPA estimated mileage: 25 city/31 highway (4), 20/28 (V6)

Overall length: 183.3 inches

Curb weight: 3,285 pounds

Final assembly: Okazaki, Japan

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