Mitsubishi Outlander 2005 review

The Mitsubishi Outlander may share a badge with its unloved predecessor, but the two cars are the motoring equivalent of chalk & cheese

There is plenty of interest in the new Outlan-der, not least because it will also form the basis of the eagerly anticipa-ted SUVs from Peugeot and Citroen. On first imp-ressions, the Mitsubishi version is a class conten-der, with a well thought-out and practical cabin, plus a big boot. Sadly, there is a long wait in store before anyone can actually buy it.

Don't be fooled by the familiar name! The new Mitsubishi Outlander may share a badge with its unloved predecessor, but the two cars are the motoring equivalent of chalk and cheese.

Unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show, and developed with Peugeot and Cit-roen (who plan their own versions of the car), it has a spacious cabin, revised engines and fresh look. But does bigger and bolder mean better? Auto Ex-press got behind the wheel to find out.

The newcomer's striking appearance makes its larger dimensions immed-iately noticeable. It is 95mm longer, 50mm wider, 10mm higher and has 45mm extra in the wheelbase. To im-prove practicality further, there's a split tailgate, and the load area is generous despite the car's seven-seat layout.

Cabin quality is hugely improved, too. It's well finished, and the heavily cowled instruments are a neat touch. There's decent space for rear passengers, with the middle-row chairs tumb-ling into the floor in one easy move-ment and the third row folding flat.

Our test model had a 2.4-litre petrol four-cylinder engine, mated to a six-speed CVT auto. However, VW's excellent new 2.0 diesel, badged DI-D, will also be available - and in the UK at least is expected to be the bigger seller.

Refined

The new SUV is good to drive as well. With power going to all wheels, it del-ivers plenty of grip through corners. The ride is relatively supple, and the whole package feels surprisingly refined at speed. Acceleration is strong, and the steering amazingly accurate, helped by impressive body control.

To ensure the model is a more serious proposition off-road, there are three driving modes: 2WD for regular use, 4WD Auto which regulates traction and handling depending on the surface, and maximum-traction 4WD Lock. An easy-to-use dash knob allows you to swap between the settings.

However, the car is not without fault. Least impressive is the CVT gearbox. It forces the engine to work uncomfortably hard, and refinement is soon undermined at full throttle. A manual alternative with steering wheel paddles helps to smooth things out by forcing the motor to make more use of the rev range, but frankly it's not much better.

Mitsubishi says that, with the model not due until 2007, it's too early to think about price. However, it's a fair bet it'll be more than the current car's £18,000, although the firm claims it will offer better value and spec than the Nissan X-Trail. The current Outlander sells only 1,500 units a year here. Thanks to its better looks and more practical cabin, its namesake should shift much more.

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