Inheriting the essence of the Concept cX show car revealed at the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show, the all-new Mitsubishi RVR is the most important global car to come out of Mitsubishi Motors since the Lancer some five years ago. Slated for showrooms around the world by the end of this year, and in the U.S. this fall, the 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport compact crossover has the Subaru Forester, VW Tiguan, and Nissan's successful and -- almost identically sized -- Qashqai in the crosshairs.

Lowered onto a version of the current Outlander's platform, the Outlander Sport (known as the RVR in Japan and the ASX in the rest of the world) is roughly 13.6-in. shorter overall than the Outlander and some 440 lb. lighter. But the RVR looks strangely familiar. That's because designers have decided that, for the foreseeable future, Mitsubishi's brand face will be modeled on the Lancer Evolution, with which the Outlander Sport shares some DNA. Hence the sharp upslanting Evo-styled HID headlights and the huge, upright Evo grille. We think it looks pretty stylish, albeit marginally Audi-ish.

As the global car buyer progressively leans toward smaller, cleaner, more fuel-efficient and competitively priced personal transport, "we are confident that the RVR is the right car for the right time," says project manager Hiroshi Fujii, who just happens to be the chief engineer of the last two Lancer Evolutions. He could well be right. After our brief test drive just east of Tokyo, we can say that the five-seat Outlander Sport should hit the marketplace running, thanks to its good looks, solid chassis, quality interior, and more than acceptable ride and comfort levels.

As one of the first examples to come off the production line in advance of its European debut in Geneva, our test car was an all-wheel-drive, Japan-spec model powered by a MIVEC 1.8-liter gas engine mated to a CVT generating an estimated 137 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 127 pound-feet of torque at 4200 rpm. Reaching 60 mph from rest in around 9 seconds, the Outlander Sport is no bullet. But it does its job efficiently, thanks in part to optimization of the CVT that has it turning 2100 rpm in sixth at 62 mph.