Mitsubishi Outlander review
The Mitsubishi Outlander is a spacious, comfortable and practical compact SUV, with an efficient hybrid version
Mitsubishi has a strong history of building tough off-road vehicles, from the mighty Shogun to the L200 pick-up truck, the brand's products are known for being reliable and sturdily built. But in the modern 4x4 market that's no longer enough. If the Mitsubishi Outlander is to succeed, it needs do deliver fuel economy and on-road driving dynamics of a conventional car, as well as the ruggedness and practicality that compact SUVs are traditionally known for.
There are some talented rivals waiting to fight the Mitsubishi Outlander all the way for the attention of car buyers. Chief amongst them are the Honda CR-V, Nissan X-Trail, Toyota RAV4 and Ford Kuga. These are compact 4x4s in the traditional sense but potential Outlander customers may also be drawn to the compact crossover class typified by the Nissan Qashqai.
The Outlander range is split down the middle with Mitsubishi offering a straight choice between a 2.2-litre diesel or the impressive Outlander PHEV plug-in hybrid. Both offer good mpg and are priced at equivalent levels so buyers are presented with an interesting choice between the two different powertrain technologies.
Trim levels run from GX2 through GX3 and GX4 to the flagship GX5 grade, but the Outlander PHEV gets its own GX3h and GX4h grades. The Outlander comes with four-wheel-drive and a 6-speed manual gearbox as standard but there is an automatic option on the diesel car while the PHEV hybrid is automatic only.
The Outlander's styling is distinctive and it offers generous space with seven seats on most of the diesel models but just 5 in the hybrid. Compared to the best rivals, the Outlander's interior lacks sparkle but there's a lot of standard kit included that boosts the Mitsubishi's offering from a value-for-money perspective.
Our choice: Outlander 2.2 DI-D GX3
The Mitsubishi Outlander has a smoother look than its predecessor, despite both using the same Lancer-based underpinnings. It’s been given a more curvaceous look in tune with the manufacturer’s latest design language, with LED headlamps and a large ‘staging’ - as Mitsubishi calls it - of the three-diamond logo.
There’s simple chrome detailing on the grille, window line and across the rear, where there’s a neat light cluster that stretches across the tailgate. It’s not as aggressive-looking as some 4x4s, and all models ride on 18-inch alloys, which actually look a bit too small on the new body. It’s more aerodynamic, too, with underbody panels helping to aid efficiency.
The Mitsubishi Outlander has good road manners, but it’s far from refined. There’s still a lot of wind noise on the motorway, and the diesel’s noisy idle never really smooths out to a quieter hum, although it is overshadowed by tyre noise on the motorway. Everything is much quieter and smoother with the Outlander PHEV hybrid.
The 147bhp diesel engine delivers 380Nm of torque at 1,750rpm, giving it a strong feel when accelerating from low speeds or pulling out of junctions. It will get to 62mph in 10.2s and top out at 124mph so outright performance is nothing to write home about.
Handling is predictable and the Outlander is generally an easy car to drive – the steering isn’t too heavy and the brakes are strong. Throttle response is good, not great, and the ride is comfortable, apart from the odd larger bump upsetting the balance. Off-road, the Outlander is quite capable, while a locking centre diff boosts its ability.
The hybrid model is smooth on good roads, and while you won’t feel the switch from EV mode to petrol, you will hear the loud jump in revs when it happens. The ride is a little firm in the PHEV but most will see that as a small price to pay for its epic fuel economy.
The Outlander should uphold Mitsubishi’s reputation for reliability. The diesel engine is an updated version of existing units, while Mitsubishi isn’t new to electric vehicle technology - as its iMiEV electric city car proves. The brand finished 23rd overall in our 2014 Driver Power survey.
The use of high-tensile steel has made the body stiffer and safer, and there’s also plenty of standard safety equipment including seven airbags on higher-spec models, ABS, traction control as well as the security of four-wheel drive. All this helped the Outlander achieve a full five-stars when it was tested by Euro NCAP in its stringent crash tests.
There’s also hi-tech kit available on top GX5 cars, such as Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning and a Forward Collision Mitigation System. However, the variety of beeps and bells that sound every time this kit is activated, or when you do anything, can become highly irritating.
The Mitsubishi Outlander is bigger than the previous model, with a 240mm-longer boot and a maximum 1,022 litres of space – 33 litres more than the previous car. In diesel guise, comes with seven seats in all bar the entry-level GX2 trim, a feature that's usually a cost option in rivals if it's offered at all.
The rearmost seats a little tricky to access, but the second and third rows fold easily with a one-touch mechanism. The third row is only really suitable for children, but it’s wider than before and, instead of the old car’s bench, it’s now a 50:50 split fold with individually adjustable backrests.
The boot also has additional stowage beneath the floor, and there’s a powered tailgate on top-spec GX5 models. There’s plenty of room up front, too. The plug-in version doesn’t need any additional charging equipment and can be charged through a conventional power socket.
The Outlander PHEV has a big battery pack to store in its boot so practicality suffers a little. Overall luggage space drops from 591 litres to 436 litres. There's no seven-seat option either.
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is one of the cheapest SUVs of any size to run. Its official combined fuel consumption of 148mpg and CO2 emissions of 49g/km are only really beaten by fully electric vehicles and other plug-in hybrids. Servicing for the hybrid should also be cheap, as there are fewer moving parts that would usually require changing.
The diesel is highly competitive, too, with figures of 52.3mpg and 140g/km of CO2 for the six-speed manual version. This is better than the majority of the Outlander's key rivals, cars that it also trumps for interior space. Go for the automatic version and economy drops to 48.7mpg with emissions of 153g/km.