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 hasn’t been renowned for the quality of its cabins, but the Outlander’s is probably its smartest yet. The quality of materials compares favourably with any other car in this class, and there’s plenty of colour around the cabin to smarten things up. The layout is generally good, too, with nice, chunky buttons, but the touch-screen sat-nav that is fitted on top GX4 trim is fiddly 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 slightly higher 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 GX3 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 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 suspension has clearly been set up for comfort – and to pretty good effect. Other than a slightly lumpy feel at low speeds, diesel versions of the car ride comfortably – and more smoothly than the hybrid version, which makes too much of a meal of bumps at low speeds than we would like. The key to that is having plenty of travel in the springs to absorb the bumps, but the price you pay is plenty of body roll in the bends. That’s not to say the car handles badly – on the contrary, it’s very safe and secure – but the roll (combined with the lack of side support in the seats and the lack of feel through the steering) soon discourage you from barrelling down a B-road. Instead, it’s best to settle back into a more relaxed driving style.
There are two versions of the Outlander, one with a 2.2-litre diesel engine 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.
For company car users, the plug-in hybrid is exceptionally attractive
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 much worse – figures which put the Outlander ahead of rivals such as the Hyundai Santa Fe, but are 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 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 up to 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 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 hybrid version was tested separately, but it too scored a maximum five-star rating
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, only top-spec GX4 models also have Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning and a Forward Collision Mitigation system, which can help to avoid a collision when the car is travelling at less than 20mph, as well as reducing the severity of an accident at speeds above 20mph.
The diesel-engined range starts with the GX2, but although it comes with dual-zone climate control and cruise control, it misses out on some desirable kit. It’s the only model without alloys, for example, and only has five seats, so we’d recommend going for at least the GX3. As well as the extra seats, this also brings parking sensors, Bluetooth and automatic wipers, and upgrades the LCD display to full colour. Go for GX4 and you get leather upholstery, sat-nav, DAB radio and a powered tailgate. The hybrid range starts with GX3h, but the trims are basically the same as the equivalent diesel-engined model.
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.