Mitsubishi Outlander SUV (2015 - ) review
The Outlander is a spacious and practical rival for the likes of the Hyundai Santa Fe, but it's the plug-in hybrid version that really sets it apart
Interested in buying Mitsubishi Outlander?
The Outlander may be a rough-and-tumble SUV, but it's not the slab-sided Tonka Toy you might expect. On the contrary, it’s much more rounded, but those curved surfaces and that sleek shape aren’t just there for effect: they are designed to make the car more aerodynamic, and more fuel-efficient as a result. It’s a very smart-looking thing, too, with colour-coded door handles, mirrors and bumpers on every version. LED daytime running lights are standard, too, as are the chrome flashes on either side of the grille and on the door sills. The finishing touches are the silver roof rails, while all but the most basic models come with alloy wheels and tinted rear windows.
Mitsubishi isn't renowned for the poshness of its cabins, and although the Outlander's is probably the firm’s smartest effort yet, it still leaves you feeling like you’re inhabiting a budget environment. Too many of the plastics are hard, scratchy and unappealing, although in fairness, everything feels very solidly put together. The layout is generally good, too, with nice, chunky buttons, but the touch-screen sat-nav that is fitted on top-end trims is extremely fiddly and confusing to operate. On the other hand, there are no complaints about the driving position, which has plenty of adjustment (a height-adjustable driver's seat comes on every model) and gives the lofty view that SUV buyers love.
The Outlander will make a fine family car: with a couple of six-footers in the front seats, there’s plenty of room for a couple more in the second row, and only the transmission tunnel in the floor slightly limits the space for a central passenger. On hybrid models, that’s as far as it goes, but if you buy a diesel-engined model in 3 trim or above, the Outlander is a seven-seater. Admittedly, the third row of seats is only suitable for children, but by sliding the second row forward a little, you can (just about) get seven on board. To cap it all, the boot is well-sized (even in the hybrid model, which loses a little space to the batteries), and you can fold down all five rear seats (where fitted) to leave a completely flat floor.
Ride and handling
The Outlander’s suspension has been set up for comfort, but not to particularly good effect, sadly. In the diesel-engined model, the suspension is soft but poorly controlled, meaning big bumps thump into the cabin rather than being absorbed effectively. Uneven surfaces also cause the body to bounce and lollop around untidily, and on an undulating road, things get even worse. The pronounced body lean and slow, anaesthetised steering don’t do much for the handling, either, although the standard four-wheel drive ensures that there’s always plenty of grip and traction. The Plug-in Hybrid has a rather firmer suspension than the diesel, but if anything, it actually rides slightly better. Yes, it jitters a little more on rough urban surfaces, but there’s much less of that disconcerting vertical movement, which makes everything feel more tied down and more settled. That extra control also helps it feel a fraction more stable in the corners, but you’re still best off adopting a relaxed driving style.
There are two versions of the Outlander, one with a 2.3-litre diesel engine (For some reason, Mitsubishi calls it a 2.2, but it isn’t) and the other with a petrol/electric hybrid powertrain. Once the diesel-engined version is up and running, it has decent performance, with strong pull in the mid-range and plenty of performance for a car of this type. However, so far, we have only driven models with an automatic gearbox, and we found that the car was slow to pull away from rest and that the gearbox was reluctant to kickdown when you needed a burst of acceleration. However, using the paddles behind the steering wheel to change gear manually soon sorts that out. The hybrid model is a very different beast, almost silent and plenty quick enough in electric-only operation in town, with the electric motor's pull available immediately. Generally, it’s pretty good beyond the city limits, too, with same smooth and easy performance you enjoy in town. However, if you want full acceleration (which is quick enough for most situations), things get unpleasantly noisy when the petrol engine kicks in.
There’s no shortage of cars in this class, but it’s the excellent fuel economy and low CO2 emissions that may well tempt buyers to look at the Outlander. Models with the diesel engine and a manual gearbox emit less than 140g/km of CO2 and average well over 50mpg, while the equivalent figures with the automatic ‘box aren’t all that much worse. These are figures that put the Outlander ahead of rivals such as the Hyundai Santa Fe, but a little behind the Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5. For company car users, the plug-in hybrid is exceptionally attractive: thanks to its amazingly low official CO2 emissions, it's in a very low BIK tax band, while the company accountant will appreciate being able to write off the cost of the vehicle in one year, as well as a lower National Insurance bill. It works well for private owners who mainly use it for short journeys and can run it on all-electric power most of the time. It has a range of around 30 miles on electric power alone, which is enough for most people's commutes, but if you regularly need to make long journeys, the diesel will probably work out cheaper to run.
Mitsubishi has always had a good reputation for reliability, with its cars regularly rated as among the most reliable on the market and the company sitting just above mid-table in Warranty Direct's Reliability Index. After our experience with several versions of the car - and judging by the uniformly positive reports from owners on our website - we see no reason for the Outlander to change that.
The Outlander scored a full five-star rating in Euro NCAP tests, with an impressive 94% rating for Adult Protection and 100% for Safety Assist. The Plug-in hybrid version was tested separately, because it is a heavier vehicle, but it too scored a maximum five-star rating. Every model comes with seven airbags, including one for the driver’s knees, and a speed limiter. However, a blind spot monitoring system and rear cross traffic alert only become standard at 4 and 4h level, and if you want your hybrid to include a suite of safety systems that includes lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beam headlamps and an automatic braking system with pedestrian detection, you have to fork out for the super-expensive 4hs and 5hs models.
The Outlander range is rather confusing, with different trim levels offered depending on whether your car is a diesel or a hybrid. The diesel range kicks off in 2 trim, which comes with remote locking, climate control and cruise control, but at the very least, you’ll want to upgrade to the 3 model for its seven seats, alloy wheels, front foglamps, keyless entry, Bluetooth phone connection, rear parking sensors, leather steering wheel and electronic parking brake. 4 models have a powered tailgate, electrically opening sunroof, heated leather seats, DAB radio, sat-nav and an all-round camera system. Go for the hybrid, and entry-level 3h trim comes with alloys, automatic lights and wipers, keyless entry, DAB and Bluetooth, while the confusingly named Juro edition adds a smartphone compatible stereo interface and heated front seats. The 4h model has leather seats, a powered tailgate, a 360-degree camera and sat-nav, while the 5h model adds a premium stereo upgrade, posher leather trim and heated rear seats. 4hs and 5hs models also exist, and these add a bunch of extra safety kit to the mix.
The good economy and emissions figures - particularly on the hybrid model - make this one of the most attractive 4×4s to run as a company car. On top of that, the Outlander is also a fine family car, with plenty of room for five and with the added bonus of seven seats on most diesel-engined models.