THE Outlander PHEV is one of the most popular plug-in hybrids on sale.
What is it?
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV has been somewhat of a success since it arrived four years ago.
Accompanied by low running costs and a decent amount of monetary incentives, it’s little wonder why it’s been so popular.
However, the Outlander is no longer a lone wolf in the plug-in hybrid game, and has been joined by a variety of rivals produced by some capable manufacturers.
Mitsubishi is aware of this, and has therefore updated the Outlander with new tech and better materials to keep it in line with competitors.
A variety of new, technological features have been added to the PHEV to keep it up to date.
These include a 360-degree camera that can provide an overhead view of the vehicle when parking.
In addition, the car has been made quieter thanks to more comprehensive soundproofing – particularly better window glazing and a revised door-sealing system.
As mentioned, the interior has also been updated, with top-spec cars receiving heated rear seats and LED mood lighting to name just two extras.
Low levels of emissions mean that the Outlander PHEV doesn’t qualify for the London Congestion Charge, while road tax will be low for those cars priced under £40,000.
Mitsubishi claims that the average PHEV owner could save over £2,000 over a three-year period compared to someone with a petrol or diesel-powered alternative, through a combination of lower taxation and fuel costs.
What’s under the bonnet?
The Outlander PHEV uses a 2.0-litre petrol engine linked to motors mounted to the front and rear axles. Mitsubishi claims that this provides more power than a 3.0-litre petrol engine, and yet can offer low emissions and high MPG figures.
This latest car’s 0-25mph time has been shaved by two seconds, with overall sprint to 60mph taking a respectable 10.8 seconds.
Mitsubishi also claims that the Outlander PHEV will now return 156mpg and emit just 42g/km CO2, as well as run on all-electric power for 33 miles.
Three drive modes – EV, Series Hybrid and Parallel Hybrid – give flexible options on how to run the car.
For instance, in Series Hybrid Mode the engine works as a generator to supplement the battery’s electricity levels, while the vehicle will switch to Parallel Hybrid Mode when it needs to reach higher speeds.
It’s a clever system, and means you can top up the batteries at any given moment, should you need to.
What’s it like to drive?
The Outlander is a mixture of the good and the bad when it comes to the driving experience. Around town, running on all-electric – provided there’s enough charge that is – makes nipping around town relaxing, while the instant torque from those electric motors gives the PHEV a spring its step, which is particularly useful when navigating urban traffic.
However, when you want to gain a lot more speed – when merging on to the motorway, for instance – then the whole drivetrain can feel quite strained, with the CVT gearbox causing the engine to rev away furiously in an attempt to make progress. It contrasts the relaxing low-speed driving experience, certainly. At those higher speeds there’s quite a lot of wind noise generated by the top of the window shuts, too.
The steering isn’t exactly how you’d want it, either. If you imagine an elastic band wrapped around the centre of the steering wheel, with both ends attached to either side of the wheel itself then you get some idea about the feeling – it’s just too eager to re-centre and this makes it somewhat disconcerting to drive.
In addition, if you run out of electric charge and have to run on engine power alone then the PHEV does struggle to get anywhere near those headline economy figures – you’ll likely see around 50mpg if you have to frequently drive without any battery power.
How does it look?
In fairness, the latest generation of Outlander is quite a handsome looking thing.
The front end benefits from a large chrome grille, while in brighter colours it looks positively space-age – this was the case for our metallic white test car.
Large alloys wheels certainly give the PHEV a little more presence on the road, as do bright LED headlamps.
However, one of the Outlander’s key selling points has been its relatively subtle styling – it doesn’t look as out-there as the vast majority of alternatively fueled vehicles, and that’s likely to appeal to quite a few people.
What’s it like inside?
The inside of the Outlander has certainly been lifted with better materials, but it does feel somewhat down-at-heel compared with some more premium rivals.
The interior plastics are hard and scratchy to the touch, and the large swathe of glossy black plastic surrounding the switchgear is a magnet for dust.
That said, all of the major buttons feel solid enough, and the seats provide a lot of support.
The heated units in our test car were particularly comfortable, and felt as though they’d be the ideal place to spend a few hundred miles.
There’s also a usable 463 litres of boot space to play with, meaning that there’s a good degree of practicality on offer as well as low running costs. You can, of course, increase the load area by folding the rear seats flat.
What’s the spec like?
Top-spec 5hs cars like our test car come fitted with a huge range of standard equipment, including a premium leather interior, upgraded audio system and the previously mentioned heated seats.
You also get LED mood lighting throughout the interior.
That said, even base GX3h cars receive 18-inch alloy wheels, cruise control and dual-zone climate control as standard, so you don’t need to head to the top of the range in order to find the best amount of standard equipment.
The Outlander PHEV is certainly a solid option for those looking to keep running costs down without losing out on practicality or spaciousness.
There are quite a few incentives to attract buyers in, but unfortunately it just feels a little outdated compared to modern plug-in hybrid alternatives.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model as tested: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV 5hs
Engine: 2.0-litre engine with electric motors
Power (bhp): 200
Torque (Nm): 190
Max speed (mph): 106
MPG: 156Electric range: 33 miles
Emissions (g/km): 42