Timing is everything. Mitsubishi will certainly tell you that, because its Outlander PHEV was the world’s first PHEV– that’s a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle to you and me. It arrived at the perfect moment and mopped up sales for years due to its low emissions and low company car tax bills. The PHEV isn’t the only Outlander, though. And as we’ll see, the car provides cheap-to-run transport for families, whether or not you want to plug it in.
The Mitsubishi Outlander is an SUV that doesn’t look like an SUV. Where rivals might have huge alloy wheels, acres of black plastic protective panelling and an aggressive front end, the Outlander looks like an estate car on stilts.
The original car’s styling was an unusual blend of circular fog lights, chrome grille, bluff front end and sharp creases down each flank. The looks were refined in 2015 - and again in 2018 - with extra chrome touches, the Mitsubishi twin-blade grille treatment and larger lights at the rear.
Some models with smaller-diameter alloy wheels run the risk of appearing slightly undertyred, because the wheel arches themselves are quite small in the context of the car’s large sides. It’s worth looking out for examples with larger alloys.
The Mitsubishi Outlander is an SUV that doesn’t look like an SUV
What’s it like to drive?
The plug-in hybrid powertrain matches either a 2.0-litre or a 2.4-litre petrol engine with a couple of electric motors - one of which drives the front axle, the other the rear. When you’re using the electric-only range of around 30 miles, progress is serene. It’s probably this quietness that can make the petrol engine sound a bit noisy when it’s called into action.
The non-turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol-only model is certainly a cheaper option. Performance is undeniably of the ‘yes, yes, we’ll get there eventually’ variety.
The ride is comparatively soft and the steering is very light indeed, which is brilliant in town and when parking. The Outlander’s urban case is helped by the fact it has a tremendously tight turning circle.
The Outlander’s urban case is helped by the fact it has a tremendously tight turning circle.
Where some SUVs promise a great view out and don’t actually deliver, the Outlander is absolutely on point with its raised cabin and huge glass area. The view ahead and to the sides is helped by the relatively skinny pillars. Over your shoulder and out of the rear the view is clear and unencumbered, too. Some have cameras that give a surround view of the car, which helps hugely when parking.
The dashboard is a simple and upright affair, with a central touchscreen alongside the conventional instruments. It’s fair to say it’s a more traditional design than you’ll find in some of the Outlander’s rivals. It works well and has none of the distractions that some inflict.
The feeling of quality is good, with plastics on top of the dashboard that squidge nicely when pressed, and the buttons and levers have a consistently well damped action.
The seats are comfortable, and every Outlander comes with adjustable lumbar support that helps with long-distance comfort. Higher-spec models come with 8-way electrically adjustable seats.
Automatic lights and wipers, keyless entry, privacy glass and heated front seats are standard on all, while top-spec cars add leather trim and a powered tailgate.
There’s good space up front for two adults, as you’d expect from such a large car. The optional panoramic sunroof can impinge on headroom a tad if you’re really tall.
The same applies in the back seats, where there’s good legroom for tall people and decent head space for the two outside passengers. Piggy in the middle might find their head brushing the rooflining (or the glass roof). This second row of seats can also be slid back and forth to vary legroom or boot space as needed.
Where the non-PHEV model has an advantage is that it has a third row of seats, which are big enough to cater for children or smaller adults. Boot space is, frankly, huge, and the seats fold down to leave a completely flat area.
Running costs and reliability
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV will do an average economy figure of 139.7mpg. Scarcely believable, isn’t it? Yes, you’ll have to make sure you plug it in almost every time you stop it if you’re to get close to that. Nevertheless, it’s a deeply impressive number.
By comparison, the 32.5mpg of the conventional petrol engine doesn’t seem so good. When viewed in context with other non-PHEV rivals, it’s fair.
Insurance costs are middling, ranging from group 22 to 32, which reflects the tech used in the PHEV model.
What cinch loves
The Mitsubishi Outlander is an unassuming car that gets on with taking you, your family and a whole lot of stuff from here to a long way over there with the minimum of fuss. On the way, you’ll be able to enjoy the 30 miles of electric range, and the fact that the Outlander is well kitted out and comfortable along the way. And it’ll be light and easy to park when you arrive.
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Mitsubishi made waves when it launched the Outlander because the PHEV powertrain made it a no-brainer for company car users. Now, that same powertrain makes it a brilliant choice for private buyers, because it can minimise your running costs. Add in the space and equipment and it’s hard to see a downside.
This review was