In the past, the Mitsubishi Outlander has often been a 4x4 that never quite got the success it warranted. Things though, have been changing since the launch of the current third generation version and this design has now been given a classier look. Jonathan Crouch checks it out.
Ten Second Review
You're looking here at the first mainstream family car developed from scratch around both conventional combustion and Plug-in hybrid power. Few expected Mitsubishi to be first to market with such a thing but with this third generation Outlander crossover model, the brand has stolen a march on many of its rivals. It can seat seven, take you properly off road and even make its own kind of eco statement. You can't ask much more from family transport than that. So how does this model stack up in this re-styled third generation guise?
Haven't family cars come a long way? Look at this one, Mitsubishi's improved third generation Outlander. It can carry seven and conquer the lower slopes of Ben Nevis while delivering the kind of running costs you'd expect from an ordinary family estate. It's a Crossover with a conscience - and a mission.
Which is to show just how technologically far ahead of some of its competitors Mitsubishi is, something emphasised in no uncertain terms by the top PHEV petrol/electric Plug-in Hybrid version, with headline fuel economy and CO2 figures to embarrass the cheapest, most frugal citycar. Did we ever believe we'd really see an SUV-styled four wheel drive family car green enough to gain its owners a place on the Friends of the Earth Christmas card list? Well, it's a reality with this Outlander. If you'd prefer diesel power, a more conventional 2.2-litre DI-D diesel variant's on offer. Either way, both models get sharper styling in the revised range we're going to look at here.
As before, in its most conventional form, this Outlander features a 150PS 2.2-litre diesel engine, offered with a choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmission. The auto does add 1.5 seconds to the manual car's sprint to 62mph, stretching it out to 11.2 seconds. Both cars register an identical 124mph top speed.
The alternative is the PHEV Plug-in hybrid variant, which offers a 2.0-litre petrol engine aided by a 70KW generator and a couple of 80bhp electric motors, one at the front, one at the rear, giving all wheel drive and a combined power output in the region of 220bhp. It's quite a remarkable vehicle, which most of the time will operate under battery power alone across its three driving modes.
The first of these - 'Pure EV' - sees full silent milkfloat mobility across a range of just over 30 miles, during which time the car will be driven by its two electric motors with drive supplied from the battery pack. Should the need arise for sudden acceleration or the battery charge have run down, the car will seamlessly switch to its second 'Series Hybrid' driving mode. Here, your forward motion will still be battery-driven but the generator will start up to power the battery and the motors. If that's still not enough for either the performance or the driving range you need, the car will finally, almost reluctantly, switch to its third 'Parallel Hybrid' driving mode, which adds the resources of the petrol engine driving the front wheels, in which form the car will spirit you from rest to 62mph in about 11s. In this mode, you'll have a driving range claimed at 547 miles.
Design and Build
These facelifted models feature a revised look, with 'Dynamic Shield' frontal treatment that includes LED daytime running lights, a 3D grille, restyled bumpers and mildly different tail treatment. The bumpers also add 40mm to the overall length, making this Outlander look a little lower and sleeker than its predecessor. Inside, updates to the cabin make the fascia look simpler and classier but otherwise, things are much as before. You won't think you're in an Audi Q5, but this Outlander offers plenty of soft-touch finishes and a clean, architectural fascia design.
Moving back into the second row, there's reasonable space for two adults - or three at a squash, though taller folk may feel the need to recline back the adjustable backrests. The main news here is the flexibility you get thanks to the way the bench can slide backwards and forwards by as much as 250mm. Which certainly helps make the third row seating more usable - where fitted of course. You can only have two rows in the PHEV hybrid model, which is a pity, this seemingly the only area of practicality that was compromised by the battery installation.
Assuming you have chosen a model in which seating is possible in the luggage compartment, you access the rearmost section of the car via a sliding 'walk-in' function and head in to find that there are two separate properly-sprung seats with integral head restraints and reclining backrests. They're still only really meant for children or adults who you don't like very much but at least there's the feeling that this Mitsubishi is a proper seven-seater, rather than a crossover with a couple of midget perches in the boot.
Market and Model
Expect entry-level diesel variants (priced from just under £25,000) to come equipped with air-conditioning, alloy wheels, cruise control, four powered windows, remote locking, seven airbags and stability control, while mid-level cars will feature things like leather and dual-zone climate control. Buyers of the range-topping model will get refinements such as satellite navigation, a parking camera and a high-end audio system, along with advanced safety systems including lane departure warning, radar cruise control and a collision mitigation system (which applies the brakes automatically if it senses an impending crash). The diesel model line-up of trim levels runs from GX2 to GX4.
Prices for the PHEV hybrid also look very competitive, starting at just under £30,000 after subtraction of a generous £5,000 government Plug-in Vehicle grant - so the same kind of money as you'd pay for a conventional Outlander GX3 diesel auto. That's for the entry-level GX3h version: there are also three other PHEV models, the GX3h+, the GX4h and the GX4hs, with prices ranging up to £36,000.
Expect a decently high spec to come as standard across the range, especially with the PHEV model. Here, even the base GX3h variant gets climate control and cruise control, while the GX4h gets leather seats, a heated steering wheel, a DAB radio, self-levelling LED headlights and a 360-degree camera. The flagship GX4hs variant includes front and rear parking sensors and extra safety features.
Cost of Ownership
There's a simple reason why Mitsubishi reduced the output of its 2.2-litre DI-D diesel engine for original version of this third generation model. Namely to bring running costs into line with the impressive frugality now expected amongst the class-leaders in the developing Crossover segment. That required more than a power tweak of course. Over 100kgs of weight has been trimmed away in the creation of this MK3 model resulting in a total kerb weight less than that of a compact car like, say, BMW's 1 Series. And a stop/start system has been included to cut the engine when you don't need it, stuck in traffic or waiting at the lights. As a result, the CO2 returns of this model are very class-competitive, with an entry-level diesel variant managing 53.3mpg on the combined cycle and 139g/km of CO2.
Go for the PHEV petrol/electric hybrid and there's a big step up from that, with a scarcely credible quoted combined cycle fuel figure of 156mpg and 42g/km of CO2. This plug-in hybrid can drive for over 32 miles on a full electric charge and can be fast charged to 80 per cent in 30 minutes. This means that for some drivers, they'll be able to pop the car on charge in the evening, do the commute and bring it home without using any petrol at all. Mitsubishi reckons that if you cover more than 100 miles between charges, the diesel is going to work out more cost-effective. Charge the Outlander PHEV more frequently and the numbers swing in its favour. Residual values ought to be strong, as the trade has quite taken to the Outlander and this plug-in hybrid was the first example of its type in the sector.
You can see why Mitsubishi is doing so well with this generation Outlander model in the UK. Some of the technology here is genuinely forward-thinking, even if you don't opt for a Plug-in hybrid variant that sets new standards, not only for Crossovers of this kind but also for family cars as a whole.
Which is worth knowing, for if you're looking at a car of this kind, then this might not be the one you'd first think about. Despite the fact that running costs are low, the residuals are good and equipment levels are well up to class standards. Other rivals might offer classier cabins or a slightly more dynamic drive but they're often pricier, less versatile and less effective when it comes to things like towing.
Or driving on the mud. This car, after all, also feels a good deal more suited to light off roading than the Crossover competition. Which is worth knowing if you and six others ever want to share a vehicle able to tackle the Rubicon Trail. That's not a realistic family aspiration of course - but this car very definitely is, the kind of model the brand has long needed for style-conscious folk with kids and active lifestyles. It's unexpectedly clever, unexpectedly effective, unexpectedly... Mitsubishi.