We test drive Mitsubishi's latest 4x4 and see if it improves upon the last one
The new Outlander is a massive leap forward over the previous-generation model. It’s a good-looking SUV with a seven-seat layout that offers strong practicality for family buyers. We were particularly impressed with its car-like handling and fuss-free four-wheel-drive system. Admittedly the diesel engine could do with more polish, and the car’s off-road ability is limited, but Mitsubishi has produced a compact SUV that’s not only good to drive, but should prove great to live with, too.
The Outlander is in... But will Mitsubishi's latest 4x4 prove to be one of the hottest of the year?
On sale in March, the newcomer competes against compact SUV rivals such as Honda's CR-V and the Toyota RAV4. Described as a 'crossover' car, rather than a dedicated mud-plugger, it shares its platform with the forthcoming Citroen C-Crosser and Peugeot 4007, both of which are due to arrive in the UK this summer.
With its bulging wheelarches, angular headlights and tough metal-look lower front bumper, the Outlander certainly stands out on British roads. It's a million miles away from the previous-generation model, which was quietly dropped from Mitsubishi's UK line-up in 2005, following disappointing sales. Chunky silver roof rails and sculpted side sills add to the new Outlander's road presence, but the rear overhang looks a bit out of proportion with the rest of the muscular bodywork.
The extended tail does mean that there's room inside for a standard set of seven seats on all but the entry-level model, though. While the rearmost bench is only meant for children, the extra chairs are a big bonus in this sector. However, they appear to be an afterthought, and the pull cord handles mean the system is awkward to use.
At least the spacious second row is more flexible, splitting 60:40 at the touch of a button. Up front, the dashboard is clearly laid out, if a little dull to look at. Flagship versions get a seven-inch touchscreen central display, while the driver's seat offers an excellent view of the road ahead.
Under the skin, the car's clever variable four-wheel-drive system offers three distinct modes. On the road, drivers can swap between front and four-wheel drive with the twist of a knob on the transmission tunnel. If conditions become more treacherous, there's a low range setting that offers extra traction.
For now, there's only one engine choice, an economical 2.0-litre diesel developed by Volkswagen. And it ticks all the right boxes when it comes to practicality and efficiency, as it produces 138bhp while returning 42.8mpg. On the road, the Outlander feels assured and composed. It's based on a new platform that also underpins the recently unveiled Lancer saloon, which means the compact SUV feels very car-like to drive. Of course, in tight corners it suffers from more body roll than your average hatchback, but the steer- ing is accurate for such a big machine and the ride is comfortably supple.
There's no doubt that the new Outlander has a lot going for it. It's spacious, drives well and the seven-seat layout is only matched by the Hyundai Santa Fe in this class. And with a projected starting price of £19,449, the Mitsubishi offers great value for money, too.