What is it?
The third generation of Mitsubishi’s Outlander, which is now just weeks from its UK-market introduction. A full road test is in the offing, as is a group test – the latter taking into account the avalanche of new models you’ve got to choose from if you’re shopping for a £30k SUV this winter. Whether it’s the 2013 Toyota RAV4, the new Ford Kuga, last year’s Honda CRV or the Hyundai Santa Fe – or none of the above – you can be certain that we’ll crown a new Autocar class champion before long.
But ahead of all that came an early chance to sample the Outlander in UK-market specification and right-hand-drive form. Not on UK roads, more’s the pity, but at least on surfaces varied enough to tell how this medium-size seven-seater should conduct itself over here.
What is it like?
There aren’t any glaring ergonomic gaffes on this car. You wouldn’t expect there to be on something developed in Japan, but when certain European rivals still come with the odd displaced handbrake and reduced glovebox, it’s worth applauding a job well done when we find one.
Although greatly improved, the Outlander’s cabin is less than a match for many of those Europeans on material richness or upmarket ambiance, but the company faithful probably prefer the car that way: functional, unaffected, but still comfy and robust. We’d agree with ‘em. The ‘open book’ fascia looks modern and the trims, accents and switchgear feel solid.
There is no such thing as a UK suspension set-up on a Mitsubishi; unlike with certain other Far Eastern brands, UK cars get the common European chassis tune. Back-to-back experience of a Japanese-market Outlander confirms that Euro ones are significantly more roll-resistant, but sacrifice commendably little in terms of ride compliance.
The new Outlander is definitely one of the more comfortable SUVs in the class, just as the old one was. It has a new twin front suspension subframe, lighter arms in the multi-link rear end and new strut top mounts up front, and all seem to contribute to the relaxing calm that inhabits the cabin.
The car’s outright performance levels aren’t outstanding, and it won’t tempt people away from Ford Kugas and BMW X3s on driver involvement. Although it steers accurately and accelerates briskly enough, there’s little to pique your interest here. You turn the wheel or flex a pedal, the car responds – not particularly quickly, keenly or with much in the way of character, but with consistency and competence, and nothing to take a dislike to. Mechanical refinement is good, and both wind and road noise seem well contained.
Should I buy one?
Maybe – but the chances are most won’t even consider the car. In a class packed with fresh metal, 'comfy’ and ‘competent’ probably won’t be enough to create big interest for the Outlander. Particularly when, to these eyes, the car’s styling is too derivative to set it apart.
We’ll take nothing away from a thoroughly respectable effort, though, especially at this early stage. Mitsubishi has done a decent job here, and has ensured that one of its key models remains if not outstanding, then at the very least competitive. Those who know this car will end up rating it quite highly – and so they probably should.
Mitsubishi Outlander 2.2 DiD GX4 4WD
Price: £30,000 (tbc); 0-62mph: 9.7sec; Top speed: 124mph (tbc); Economy: 50.4mpg (tbc); CO2: 146g/km (est); Kerb weight: 1590kg (est); Engine type, cc: 4cyls in line, 2268cc, turbodiesel; Power: 148bhp at 3500rpm; Torque: 280lb ft at 1750-2500rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual