Mitsubishi has given its hybrid SUV, the Outlander PHEV, a much-needed makeover. AOL cars gets behind the wheel to see if it's feeling its age.
What is it?
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV has been one of the UK's best-selling hybrid vehicles since it arrived on the market four years ago. At the time, it was one of the only full-sized family hybrids, and canny Mitsubishi priced it identically to the diesel Outlander to heighten the appeal further.
However, as the years have progressed, so has the hybrid market, and so the Outlander PHEV has been joined by a variety of rivals produced by some capable manufacturers. We're testing Mitsubishi's attempt to keep the car up-to-date – a facelifted model with new tech and a plusher interior.
A variety of new tech features have been added to keep the Outlander PHEV up-to-date. There's a 360-degree parking camera, which should aid those put off by the car's hefty proportions. It also benefits from improved sound deadening – a comprehensive upgrade made possible by better window glazing and a revised door sealing system.
Top-spec cars now also receive welcome upgrades such as heated seats and LED mood lighting.
Low emissions mean the Outlander PHEV does not have to pay the London Congestion Charge, and cars under £40,000 benefit from reduced road tax, too. In fact, Mitsubishi claims the average PHEV owner could save over £2,000 over a three-year period compared to someone with a petrol or diesel-powered alternative.
What's under the bonnet?
The Outlander PHEV uses a 2.0-litre petrol engine, mated to electric motors on the front and rear axles. Mitsubishi claims this combination gives more power than an equivalent 3.0-litre petrol engine, but without the associated high fuel consumption.
While 0-60mph takes an agonising 10.8 seconds, 0-25mph time has been reduced by two seconds, so the Outlander PHEV will easily keep pace with traffic at town speeds.
Mitsubishi also claims incredible fuel consumption of 156mpg and CO2 emissions of just 42g/km, made possible by batteries that can run the car as a pure EV for up to 33 miles.
Three drive modes give flexible options on how to run the car, and clever usage means you should never be without battery power when you need it.
What's it like to drive?
The Outlander PHEV is a curious mix of good and bad when it comes to the driving experience. Around town, running on all-electric power is actually good fun – eerily silent, and quite nippy thanks to the instant torque from those electric motors. It's accomplished at navigating urban traffic.
However, when you head out onto the open road, things are a little less relaxed. The drivetrain always feels like it's struggling at higher speed, thanks to the CVT gearbox revving the engine furiously to make progress. There's also quite a lot of wind noise on the motorway.
The steering isn't the best, either. It feels artificial, too eager to re-centre and therefore somewhat disconcerting.
If you run out of electric power, then the car is reduced to its 2.0-litre petrol engine – which struggles to get anywhere near those headline economy figures. Running solo, the engine barely achieves 30mpg – drain the batteries with any regularity and your average will likely be around 50mpg.
How does it look?
The Outlander isn't a bad-looking thing, as SUVs go. The front end has a large chrome grille, and in brighter colours it almost looks space-age – our car was in metallic white and certainly looked the part.
Large alloy wheels give it serious road presence, while bright LED headlamps are good-looking and practical.
However, one of the Outlander's key selling points has been relatively subtle styling – it's not quite as out-there as the vast majority of hybrids, which will appeal to a few people.
What's it like inside?
The interior has been lifted with better materials, but it's not up there with more premium rivals. Plastics are hard to the touch, and there are swathes of shiny piano black around the switchgear – a real dust magnet.
However, everything feels built to last, and the seats are particularly comfortable – especially the heated leather units in our car.
There's a usable, if tight, 463-litre boot, and this can easily be increased by folding the rear seats flat. However, due to the battery pack, there's no option for a seven-seater version as you get with the diesel Outlander.
What's the spec like?
Top spec cars like our test unit come fitted with a huge range of standard equipment. There are heated leather seats, upgraded audio system and LED mood lighting. Even base GX3h cars receive 18-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, and dual-zone climate as standard, so you don't necessarily need to head to the top of the range to find the best standard equipment.
The Outlander PHEV is a solid option for those looking to cut their running costs without being forced to opt for a small electric hatchback. There are lots of incentives to attract buyers, but the aging design feels outdated compared to truly space-age modern alternatives.