In a crowded small crossover segment, Mitsubishi sets itself apart with the stylish Outlander Sport. With a strikingly different exterior design, this little crossover looks little like its competitors. And whether you like the vehicle’s design or not, it’s almost always good to be different.

The Outlander Sport’s gaping front face, which is shared by its cousin the Lancer Evolution, gives the vehicle an aggressive look, and the aggression is complemented by the ascending shoulder line back to the rear end. Add in the 18-inch, 10-spoke alloy wheels, and you’ve got a vehicle that just flat looks sporty.

Another good thing about the Outlander Sport is its price. Our test 2011 Outlander Sport SE model with all-wheel drive stickered at just $22,995. A totally worthwhile option is the $1,800 Premium Package, which adds a 710-watt Rockford- Fosgate Punch system with nine speakers and 10-inch subwoofers in back. The premium group also includes a panoramic glass roof that stretches back over the second row. A really cool feature at night is the LED rope lighting that lines the glass roof.

While the Outlander Sport is most assuredly sporty looking, the 2.0-liter Inline-4 that powers this crossover provides smooth - but not sporty - acceleration. Horsepower is 148, and the torque sent to the CVT transmission is but 145. As mileage figures today move inexorably upward, drivers are going to have to get used to less response from some gas pedals. The Outlander Sport does have paddle shifters, which can add fun to the driving experience. The Outlander Sport SE AWD gets a respectable 24 miles per gallon on city streets and 29 mpg on the road. The mileage numbers get even better - 25 and 31 respectively - without AWD.

Inside the test Outlander Sport, the fabric seats were comfortable and supportive. And for a vehicle in this price range, the amenity list was surprising. The SE model has automatic climate control, heated front seats, heated mirrors, power doors and windows, automatic headlights, rainsensing wipers, cruise control, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel on a telescoping column. Keyless pushbutton start - which should one day become as routine as electric windows - is also included, meaning no more fumbling around your pocket or purse for the keys.

The layout inside is roomy and headroom-friendly to 6- footers. Controls were simple and intuitive to operate, and visibility was outstanding. The second row of seats is in a functional 60/40 configuration. A big load of groceries from Albertson’s had plenty of room to spread out behind the second row. With the optional glass roof in the premium package, the inside of the Outlander Sport seemed even bigger. When it comes to safety, the Outlander Sport SE makes the grade. There are seven airbags (including a driver’s knee airbag), 4-wheel anti-lock brakes, stability control and hill start assist. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the vehicle its top “Good” ratings in frontal offset and side impact collisions, but has not tested it for roof strength or rear crash protection.

On the road, the Outlander Sport handles smoothly, particularly with the benefit of AWD. The vehicle felt planted on the road and didn’t offer heavy body roll in hard corners. Braking was good, and steering was excellent with just the right amount of feedback. Road noise was evident, but not distractingly so.

You won’t win races in the Outlander Sport, but if safety, good mileage, sporty looks and an excellent price are more important, you ought to put this crossover on your test drive