It’s spacious, practical, reasonably capable off road and can even make its own kind of eco statement with supermini-style running costs. You can’t ask much more from family transport than that.
Mitsubishi have always recognised the role that electricity can play in powering cars. After forty years of powertrain development, they were the first to launch a pure electric model in our market, then followed that up in 2014 with the Outlander PHEV. This was the world’s very first 4WD Plug-in Hybrid SUV and it’s created quite a stir. A careful package of improvements has continued that sales momentum, creating a smarter, quieter and more appealing product.
There are two very distinct kinds of Outlander driving experience. One gives you the gruff but urgent note of 2. 2-litre DI-D diesel power. The other delivers the potential for silent all-electric PHEV Plug-in hybrid motoring that beyond commuting distances can be extended by automatic activation of a refined 2. 0-litre four cylinder powerplant. The vast majority of Outlander buyers go the PHEV route, so that’s what we’re testing here.
This Outlander’s ‘Twin Motor 4WD’ system combines petrol power with the output from two electric motors, one to drive each axle, both being fed by a 12kWh battery mounted between the axles. The whole set-up develops a combined output of 200bhp and gives willing performance, along with some astonishing efficiency figures.
These have been further improved with this revised model, now claimed at 156. 9mpg on the combined cycle and just 42g/km of CO2, which sees this car with a Benefit-in-Kind taxation rating of just 5% - enough to save some company users a fortune. Drive the car hard and of course, you won’t achieve anything like these returns. Keep the car charged up and only use it for short distances though and you’ll actually better them by driving in an all-electric ‘EV Drive Mode’, a setting in which Mitsubishi reckons you’ll be able to travel up to 32. 5miles. Push on a little and your Outlander PHEV will switch into its second ‘Series Hybrid Mode’ where the engine generates extra power for the electric motors. Beyond that, there’s a third ‘Parallel Hybrid Mode’, which adds the resources of the petrol engine driving the front wheels for maximum performance.
This improved third generation Outlander certainly looks a whole lot sharper than the original version of this MK3 model did. In place of the rather apologetic looks of that car, we’re now treated to smarter, more confident styling exemplifying what Mitsubishi calls its fresh ‘Dynamic Shield’ design direction. That’s given us a lower, leaner and wider bodyshape, yet one still continuing with the high flanks, the raised beltline, the uncluttered surfaces and the strong shouldering that originally defined this model.
Behind the wheel, this time round, a smarter ‘black ash’ dashboard, padded door panels and a stitched instrument cowl all add to the ambience.
The things you more commonly interact with are much better too, with a classier silver-trimmed ‘joystick’-style gearlever next to a handbrake that, rather surprisingly for such a futuristic car, is of the conventional kind.
Moving back into the second row, there’s reasonable space for two adults – or three at a squash, with the third person’s cause aided by the way that the central transmission tunnel has been kept usefully low.
Finally, let’s take a look at the luggage space out back. In the five-seat-only PHEV version, there’s 731-litres of space – only 50-litres less than you’d get in the diesel version with the luggage area chairs folded. If you need more space, then folding the second row backrest frees up 1. 85m of floor length.
You can see why Mitsubishi is doing so well with this Outlander model in our market. Some of the technology here is genuinely forward-thinking, even if you don't opt for a Plug-in hybrid variant that has set new standards, not only for Crossovers and SUVs of this kind but also for family cars as a whole.
In summary, what we have here is the kind of complete product the brand has long needed for style-conscious folk with kids and active lifestyles. It’s unexpectedly clever, unexpectedly effective and unexpectedly…. Mitsubishi.