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CAR REVIEW | Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

148 miles per gallon. That is the official fuel consumption figure for Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV, an amazing figure for a big, heavy four wheel drive vehicle.

Coupled to road tax that will currently cost you nothing, exemption from the London congestion charge along with a tiny 5% benefit in kind rate for company car drivers and it’s no surprise that they’re an increasingly common sight on our roads. It all sounds too good to be true, is it?

Naturally you’ll be wondering how such a big 4×4 could possibly achieve such tiny fuel consumption. The key is in the name, specifically the PHEV bit; that stands for Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicle. Under the boot floor is a battery pack large enough to power the Outlander for 32 miles without once relying on petrol power. Unlike many other hybrids, this battery doesn’t just get charged by the engine, you can plug it into the mains too.

Once the electricity is all gone, there’s a conventional 2.0 litre petrol engine that can act solely as a generator to charge the battery, drive the wheels or a combination of both. The trouble is that if you rely too much on the engine the fuel economy starts to drop off a cliff. After a long drive on the motorway and with the battery virtually empty the economy dropped to just under 36mpg, a figure that is bettered by the majority of diesel SUVs.

So is it all smoke and mirrors? In a word, no. If you’re one of the millions of motorists who don’t even manage 30 miles a day then the vast majority of journeys will cost you pence in electric rather than pounds in petrol. If you’re lucky enough to work somewhere you can plug it in then you can effectively double that range. According to Mitsubishi’s maths, on a single charge, 106 miles is the point at which a diesel would be more economical.

For most people then, it’s a cheap car to run. It’s not terribly expensive considering the sheer size and complexity of it either. The cheapest Outlander PHEV is less than £29,000 yet still comes with keyless entry, 18” alloys, climate control, Bluetooth and iPod connectivity. Start to climb the range for niceties like sat nav, a premium audio system and swathes of leather and the price starts to get very close to £40,000 before options. BMW and Mercedes territory then.

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At first glance it’s pretty convincing. Externally it’s a quietly handsome shape that shys away from some of the crazier flourishes seen on other SUVs. There’s a little chrome but not enough to be garish giving a classy overall look. Inside the top spec GX5h test vehicle there’s red leather seats with matching trim on the dash, doors, steering wheel and even cupholders. It’s attractive enough but the level of finish is undoubtedly behind premium rivals. Wrinkly leather is not nice.

Rear seat passengers are treated to vast amounts of legroom but seats that are an odd shape and quite hard too. Still, this was a fresh car so maybe a bit of use would soften them up. Behind the seats is a huge boot but no option of a third row of seats due to the battery pack. Oddly, you still get a couple of cupholders back there, however. The top half of the range also benefits from a powered tailgate that can be opened and closed from the key fob, handy.

Those of you that love a bit of tech might also appreciate the Mitsubishi Remote Control on higher trim levels that lets you schedule charging, check battery levels and even turn the air conditioning on remotely through your smartphone. To accompany this you also get a 7” touchscreen infotainment system with sat nav that proved easy to work once you got to know it a little. The uprated Alpine speakers in the test car provided great sound quality too.

To drive the Outlander proved to be a well-engineered bit of kit. Even with drive switching between petrol and electric acceleration was smooth without nasty jolts while noise levels were generally low. A flattened throttle pedal gets the engine screaming thanks to a CVT gearbox that keeps the engine at peak power, effective but loud. There’s also a little lag between nailing the throttle and actually getting full power. Not an issue under normal driving but slightly frustrating when trying to accelerate onto a busy roundabout for instance. It isn’t particularly quick either, 0-60mph takes around 11 seconds.

Handling wise there is less body roll than you might expect but still noticeably more than a normal car or a BMW X3 for that matter. Although fairly neutral when cornered hard, it predictably understeers at the limit for safe if uninvolving progress. Still, this isn’t going to be a car you buy for fun, if driven sensibly you appreciate how easy it is to drive and how quiet it is. With decent ride comfort as well, it’ll prove good enough for most prospective owners.

Should you buy one then? Well to benefit from the potential fuel savings you need to be able to plug it in somewhere and not be travelling too far too regularly. If that applies to you then there’s plenty to recommend. Even looking past the potential fuel savings, the Outlander looks good, is well equipped for the money and overall feels well made (looking past some of the iffy interior trim). No wonder they’re selling so well.

  • Huge inside
  • Cheap to run. Mostly.
  • Well equipped
  • Expensive on long journeys
  • Not as premium feeling as some rivals
  • Uninspiring to drive
  • Car – Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GX5h
  • Price – £38,399 on the road (after £5,000 government grant)
  • Power – 200bhp (combined)
  • 0-60 – 11.0 seconds
  • Top Speed – 106mph
  • Co2 – 44g/km
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