By Jonathan Crouch
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 'D'-segment SUV model, the brand stole a march on many of its rivals and in 2015, aimed to consolidate its advantage by introducing improved versions of this car in both diesel and PHEV guises. Both are spacious and practical, the diesel variant is reasonably capable off road and the PHEV Plug-in model 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.
The third generation Outlander SUV was the car that rejuvenated Mitsubishi's sales in this country. The reason why can be explained with four simple letters - 'PHEV'. Industry-leading Plug-in hybrid technology gave the Japanese brand an advantage over most of its rivals in this segment, in the 21st century's second decade giving the Mitsubishi marque a degree of notoriety in our market it hadn't had for years. After considerable initial sales success, this model was significantly revised in 2015. For those who didn't want to connect in to petrol/electric power - or wanted a car of this kind to have seven seats - then Mitsubishi continued to offer a conventional 2.2-litre diesel version.
In the 2015-2017 period though, that diesel version was out-sold three-to-one by its more sophisticated Plug-in PHEV stablemate. Either way, the 2015-era revisions brought sharper styling, greater refinement, improved handling dynamics and a smarter cabin. Both these Outlander derivatives sold in this form until mid-2018. Then, the diesel engine was deleted from the range and replaced by a 150PS conventional petrol variant. And the PHEV derivative was substantially revised and given a gutsier 2.4-litre engine and more sophisticated electronics.
What You Get
This improved post-2015-era 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 were, with this facelifted model, treated to smarter, more confident styling exemplifying what Mitsubishi called its 'Dynamic Shield' design direction. That gave 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 revised model got a smarter 'black ash' dashboard, padded door panels and a stitched instrument cowl, all of it adding to the cabin ambience. The things commonly interact with are much better on this facelifted model too, with a classier silver-trimmed 'joystick'-style gear lever next to a handbrake that, rather surprisingly for such a futuristic car, is of the conventional kind. In 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. And luggage space out back? Well in the five-seat-only PHEV model, 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.
The 2.2 DI-D diesel was fitted with a third seating row. Where fitted, these extra chairs are really only intended for children, but they are separate, properly-sprung seats with integral head restraints and reclining backrests. The diesel version featured a 781-litre boot, extendable to 1,608-litres if you folded the 2nd row seats.
What to Look For
Many Outlander owners in our survey were very happy with their cars, but inevitably, there were a few issues, most of which referenced the PHEV variant. One customer had his car continually off the road for a problem eventually traced to an issue with the 'connectors' in the battery compartment. Other complaints related to rattling front head rests and an alarm prone to go off for no reason. More seriously, one owner found that after a safety recall, his car was failing to discharge the battery as its primary power source, meaning that the powertrain continually reverted to petrol power when there was still available battery charge.
It's extremely unlikely that this Outlander will have been seriously used on really rough surfaces (particularly if it has a higher-spec trim level), but just in case, check the underside of the car for dents and scrapes. It's more likely that you'll find scratches on the alloy wheels caused through ham-fisted parking. Check out the rear seat for scratches caused by unruly children. And of course, insist on a fully stamped-up service history.
(approx based on a 2015 Outlander PHEV ex VAT) An oil filter will sit in the £7 to £14 bracket and fuel filter costs in the £10 bracket. A headlight bulb will be priced at around £200. A fog light bulb will cost about £11. For a pair of rear brake discs, you're looking at paying in the £50 to £56 bracket. A pair of front brake pads are around £28-£39, while a pair of rear pads sit in the £21 to £66 bracket for a set. A spark plug is around £16. And a wiper blade costs around £17.
On the Road
There are two very distinct kinds of Outlander driving experience available from 2015-2017-era models. 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 going to focus on here.
The Plug-in 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 were further improved with this post-2015-era model, claimed at 156.9mpg on the combined cycle and just 42g/km of CO2. 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.
You can see why Mitsubishi did so well with this Outlander in our market in the 2015-2107 period. Some of the technology here is genuinely forward-thinking, even if you don't opt for a Plug-in hybrid variant that set standards in its time, not only for Crossovers and SUVs of this kind but also for family cars as a whole.
Which is worth knowing, for if you're looking at a used family-sized SUV of this kind, then this might not be one of the first ones you'd initially consider. Perhaps it should be though. The diesel variant offers capable off road traction, impressive towing capability and space for seven at pricing able to undercut obvious rivals. The petrol/electric PHEV version meanwhile, delivers all the advantages of Plug-in hybrid technology - not least that if you only use it for commuting distances, you'll never have to fuel the thing. In summary, this could be an ideal product for style-conscious folk with kids and active lifestyles. It's unexpectedly clever, unexpectedly effective and unexpectedly... Mitsubishi.