Complaints: Inadequate power in the Outlander. It needs a six-cylinder engine or a larger four-cylinder. (The good news is that Mitsubishi is beefing up the Outlander's power for the next edition.) In the Lancer, braking could use some work. Granted, both of the vehicles tested for this column were rentals and might have been subjected to abuse. But both had less than 5,000 miles when we picked them up. They seemed to be in good shape.

Praise: The Outlander and Lancer are excellent urban vehicles, great city commuters. That is their design intent, though the Outlander's styling says otherwise. These are relatively low-miles-per-gallon city runners. Period.

Ride, acceleration and handling: Surprisingly good ride and handling in both vehicles, especially in emergency maneuvers, of which there were more than a few on Texas I-35. Excellent flatland acceleration for the Lancer. Marginal flatland acceleration for the Outlander. Both vehicles were slow in the hills.

Capacities: Both vehicles hold four people comfortably. The Outlander has a maximum cargo capacity of 60.3 cubic feet. The Lancer has a cargo capacity of 11.3 cubic feet. The Outlander can tow up to 1,500 pounds. Towing is not recommended for the Lancer. Outlander ground clearance is 8.3 inches. Lancer clears the ground by 4.9 inches. The Lancer holds 13.2 gallons of gasoline. The Outlander holds 15.7 gallons. Both run on regular unleaded.

Head-turning quotient: Not much for either the Lancer or the Outlander in Texas, where big, brawny, real trucks rule.

Layout: The Outlander and Lancer are based on front-engine, front-wheel-drive platforms. The Outlander is available with all-wheel drive. Both are available with manual and automatic transmissions.

Mileage: We averaged 31 miles per gallon in the Lancer in mostly highway travel and 26 mpg in the Outlander in highway runs.

Prices: Outlander models' base prices range from $18,577 to $21,370, depending on model. Lancer prices range from $14,562 to $17,092.

Purse-strings note: Both the Outlander and Lancer are very competitive urban commuters and very good bargains. They get a "buy" recommendation here.