First Drive: Mitsubishi Outlander
Sector: Compact SUV Price (May 2013): £23,699-£33,999 Fuel: 48.7-53.3mpg CO2: 138-153g/km
Much of the focus on Mitsubishi’s new Outlander has been centred on the forthcoming plug-in hybrid, with its world-first electric four-wheel drive powertrain. But until the technological halo model arrives in the UK next year, the diesel version now filtering into showrooms has plenty of tricks up its sleeve.
It’s certainly distinctive, defined by straight lines and smooth surfaces in a sector that has tended to favour exactly the opposite. Pictures don’t really do it justice – it’s a smart and modern-looking SUV in the metal with its upright bodywork and flat nose, and a departure from its predecessor too.
Bucking the trend for raked rooflines has given the Outlander enormous interior space. All except the entry-level GX2 come with seven seats, and those who remember the third row in the old car will notice a large improvement in comfort and space.
There’s also been a noticeable effort to improve the aesthetics of the rest of the cabin. The new Outlander has gained a soft-touch dashboard, wrapping important controls around the driver on a gloss metallic panel. Even tall front and middle-row passengers should have no problem getting comfortable inside, the driving position is commanding and visibility is excellent.
For all its straight edges, it’s actually very aerodynamic, only slightly less than a 3 Series Touring. Mitsubishi has also cut the weight down by 100kg, bringing it under the X1 and widening the gap between key rivals the Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe. There’s very little wind or engine noise at motorway speeds, and with its drop in kerb weight it’s more agile and efficient too.
At launch, the Outlander is available with a revised version of the 147bhp 2.2-litre diesel engine. It’s very quiet, with strong low-rev pickup boding well for those who tow heavy loads. Opt up to the automatic version and the gearbox learns the driver’s style, varying gearshifts to suit, but CO2 rises to 153g/km.
All models also get Mitsubishi’s very capable four-wheel drive system, with electronically selectable two-wheel drive economy, four-wheel drive and diff-locked four-wheel drive modes. On the launch event, even snow-covered Alpine roads with summer tyres proved no challenge.
Lower running costs and a focus on aesthetics is expected to change the customer base for the new car. In the previous generation, almost a third of fleet-bought Outlanders were the commercial vehicle. There will be an equivalent version of the new Outlander, but seven-seat car models are expected to make up a larger share of corporate sales.
As will the Plug-in Hybrid. Already popular in Japan, this offers electric four-wheel drive at up to 75mph, contributing to 44g/km CO2 emissions and 5% BiK banding in the UK. This isn’t an expensive niche part of the Outlander line-up, instead it will be positioned to offer near identical whole-life costs to the diesel, allowing customers to choose whichever suits their lifestyle better. With a commercial version also due, it could be an effective way to raise the Outlander’s profile in the UK.
In the meantime, though, the diesel-powered Outlander is a step forward in all the right areas – a refined motorway cruiser with reliability, economy and Mitsubishi’s off-road prowess in its favour.
The last Outlander was one of the first "green" SUVs back in 2007, and its successor builds on its best points. Spacious, refined, well built and affordable for fleets.