The Outlander was Britain’s top-selling PHEV, but how does it shape up next to newer rivals?
THE Outlander PHEV has proved a real sales success. When it launched, price parity with the diesel model and attractively low running costs ensured the Mitsubishi became Britain’s bestselling plug-in hybrid. Although our pictures show a top-spec 5hs, it’s the £31,805 Kotu model we test to see if it still has what it takes against newer rivals.
DESIGN & ENGINEERING
DESPITE a recent facelift for the Outlander PHEV, the car’s underpinnings remain similar to when it was originally launched, with a few tweaks here to freshen it up. This means a 2.0-litre petrol engine and two electric motors giving four-wheel-drive running capability to match the MINI – but with one difference: the Outlander can send all of its battery power to both the front and rear axles.
This facelifted car gets an EV priority switch, which allows you to maintain battery power for when you need it, just like the Countryman and Golf. Mitsubishi claims it’s improved the car’s regenerative braking too, which wasn’t the smoothest on its predecessor. It’s adjustable using the steering wheel paddles, changing the level of energy harnessed when slowing down.
A new calibration for the suspension dampers and different rear suspension bushes are claimed to improve refinement, while Mitsubishi has also developed the electric element of the powertrain.
The battery’s output is now 10 per cent greater, while the PHEV ’s rapid-charging facility can now boost the battery to 80 per cent from empty in around 25 minutes. A full charge takes five hours with a conventional plug and 3.5 hours with a wallbox fast charger. Electric-only range is now up to 33 miles, one mile further than before.
This Kotu trim is pricier than the MINI and VW but you get a similar level of kit, with a satnav system, Bluetooth, DAB, climate, cruise control and parking sensors fitted as standard.
While the equipment list might be a match for its rivals here, quality isn’t. Despite improvements to the Outlander, too many surfaces are still made from harder, cheaper plastic.
THE Outlander PHEV ’s powertrain operates in a narrower window than either of its rivals. Due to the car’s 1,845kg kerbweight the 2.0-litre petrol engine feels strained, while the boost from the battery and electric motors isn’t as noticeable.
The single-speed CVT automatic gearbox isn’t as responsive as the transmissions in its competitors, either. This setup meant we couldn’t record any in-gear times, but the Outlander accelerated from 0-60mph in 9.0 seconds.
As well as being the slowest car, it’s also the worst dynamically. The high centre of gravity and slow steering mean it doesn’t handle as sweetly as the VW or MINI, and it doesn’t deliver as much comfort.
The chassis isn’t as well set up because the car isn’t as composed as its rivals over bumps. Although all three cars are on the stiff side, the Outlander doesn’t have the sophistication when it comes to ride quality, and combined with its relative lack of refinement on the move, it means the Mitsubishi is more taxing over longer journeys.
Once the battery has been depleted the naturally aspirated engine doesn’t feel as punchy as its turbocharged rivals, while the fuel economy dips further due to the heavier body. It means the Mitsubishi is more out of its comfort zone on the motorway, but if you can keep the battery topped up, it makes more sense around town.
GIVEN the Mitsubishi’s size, its 463-litre boot isn’t that large. That’s partly because the battery pack eats into space, so the load bay isn’t quite as usable.
The PHEV loses the standard Outlander’s seven-seat versatility, too, so there’s only space for five here. However, it’s roomier in the rear than its more compact rivals, while the taller roofline gives good headroom in the back.
Storage is good, but not too much better than the Countryman or Golf because those cars feel better packaged and more modern. However, no loading lip for the boot and a big tailgate means the Mitsubishi is easy to load, while the Outlander’s higher ride height helps entry and exit, compared with the lower Golf in particular.
MITSUBISHI didn’t feature as a brand in our Driver Power survey, although it did achieve a place in our list of dealers. However, it’s nothing to shout about; official garages took 30th spot out of 31 brands.
The Outlander fares better when it comes to safety. With autonomous braking plus seven airbags, it achieved a five-star Euro NCAP rating.
ALL three models claim impressive combined fuel economy, but unless you charge them for nearly every journey, they won’t yield economy as high as their claims.
We plugged in the cars to maximise efficiency, and the VW came out on top with 47.3mpg. The MINI was second with 45.1mpg and the Mitsubishi averaged 39. 2mpg.
The VW will save around £65 in fuel a year over the MINI and £275 over the Outlander. These are still respectable results compared with conventionally powered alternatives, while the low CO2 emissions mean major tax breaks for business users.
Spacious cabin is down to Outlander’s bigger dimensions REAR
CHARGING Flap on rear driver’s side flank reveals standard and CHADEMO fast charge sockets