The Mitsubishi Outlander is geared more for on- than off-road use, but does it come up with the goods?

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The first-generation Mitsubishi Outlander, introduced in 2001, failed to capture the imagination of the enthusiast or the UK buyer, but the second-generation 4x4 has proved to be more relevant since it first went on sale back in 2007.

This Mitsubishi has tapped into the search for a guilt-free SUV that has all the looks, drama and interest of an off-roader, but without the thirst and weight. No surprise, then, that the second-generation Outlander has proved more popular than the car it replaced.

This Mitsubishi has tapped into the search for a guilt-free SUV

Mitsubishi has geared the second-generation Outlander more for on- than off-road use and based it on the same platform as the Lancer, instead of using of its traditional off-roader chassis. 

The Peugeot 4007 and Citroën C-Crosser SUVs are also based on Outlander architecture, thanks to PSA’s joint venture with Mitsubishi. In the same way that the Suzuki SX-4 spawned the Fiat Sedici, Peugeot and Citroën’s versions of this car are little more than re-badged, re-nosed Outlanders.

This version of the Outlander is in its final year on sale before it is replaced by the third iteration of the 4x4, which was unveiled at the 2012 Geneva motor show.

Unlike this current car, which was built in Holland for most of its lifespan, the new Outlander will not be built in Europe following Mitsubishi’s decision to end production at its Dutch factory due to falling production volumes.

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Mitsubishi Outlander

At 4.6 metres long and 1.8 metres wide, the Mitsubishi Outlander is a similar size to a D-segment hatchback. It’s only 1.7m tall and weighs well under two tonnes. All good on the low-guilt front so far, then.

The Outlander sits on a new platform frame, Mitsubishi’s first-ever global platform, developed in conjunction with Daimler. The styling of the mid-sized SUV is inspired by the Pajero Evo 2 + 2 concept  unveiled by Mitsubishi in 2002. 

Mitsubishi admits the extent of the Outlander’s off-road abilities are limited to light tracks and towing things in poor conditions

The Outlander is suspended by MacPherson struts at the front and a multi-link arrangement at the rear. Ground clearance is 178mm and gives the car a modicum of off-road ability.

However, Mitsubishi admits the extent of the Outlander’s off-road abilities are limited to light tracks and towing things in poor conditions. The car’s approach, departure and ramp angles are 22, 21 and 19 degrees respectively, ruling out much more than unmade roads and light rocky paths.


Mitsubishi Outlander dashboard

Inside, fit and finish is reasonable and our testers liked the clean, modern appearance of the Mitubishi Outlander. On closer inspection, though, the attractive silver-finished elements are too obviously plastic. 

Nevertheless, it’s an easy-to-use cabin; there are three simple heater dials and the stereo is an easily comprehensible Rockford Fosgate unit.

The Outlander has an easy-to-use cabin

The front seats are big and wide and have enough lateral support. In fact, we’d have no complaints about the driving position, if it weren’t for the steering wheel’s lack of reach adjustment – you can only change the rake. 

Middle-seat passengers are less well catered for. There’s adequate legroom (the seats slide) but headroom’s tight. However, the seats do split and fold 60/40 and there’s a one-touch button in the boot that tumbles them forwards. 

Despite its compact dimensions, the Outlander comes with seven seats. The ‘Hide and Seat’ third row stows into the floor of the boot. It takes some shoving and hauling to get in place and is too cramped for anything but short journeys and short people. 

With all its seats in place, the Outlander’s boot has just over 200 litres volume but in five-seat form there’s 541 litres. Handily, the tailgate splits near the bottom of the door, Range Rover-style, and the lower half can support 200kg.


Mitsubishi Outlander front quarter

Choosing an engine variant from the Mitsubishi Outlander range is a relatively straightforward task, because the only choice is a 2.2-litre turbocharged, intercooled diesel. 

Or rather, two 2.2-litre diesels: the lump fitted to six-speed manual transmission versions of the Outlander is an enlarged version of the 1.8-litre unit found in the Mitsubishi ASX hatchback.

The Mitsubishi Outlander has no low-ratio gears

Introduced to the model range for 2011, the Di-D engine features MIVEC (Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing Electronic Control), and makes some fuel consumption and power delivery improvements over the previous engine. Power increases from 154bhp to 174bhp, and CO2 drops by 12 per cent on all manual transmission variants across the range to between 162-169g/km.

The newer 2.2 offers plenty of power but a combination of awkward gearing and uneven power delivery too often leaves you outside the narrow torque band. This means you end up changing gear more often than in other better set-up cars.

For now though, a six-speed manual is the only option. And it’s good, with a smooth, positive shift and progressive clutch feel.

Outlanders fitted with the SST twin-clutch automatic transmission are equipped with the older Peugeot-derived powerplant that produces 154bhp and 189g/km of CO2.

Typically for the class, the Mitsubishi Outlander has no low-ratio gears, but the car can be locked in 50:50 four-wheel drive via a selector on the dashboard. Other modes are 4wd – in which power is apportioned to the rear when the front wheels lose grip – and 2wd, an exclusively front-wheel-drive mode.



Mitsubishi Outlander rear cornering

The Mitsubishi Outlander rolls considerably in corners, but progressively and linearly, while the steering is nicely weighted and not without feel. At its limit the Outlander simply starts to understeer before ESP intervenes to rein it in.

It’s all safe and predictable, but it’s not as dynamic or engaging as its best rivals. A Toyota RAV4 feels more overtly keen to be driven, a Land Rover Freelander is happier to change direction and a Honda CR-V is far more adept, engaging and enjoyable overall. 

A CR-V or Freelander both feel much more sophisticated

The Outlander does brake well though; its 60-0mph time of 2.69sec is on a par with any other car in the class and its brakes resisted fade well (albeit in cold, wet conditions) at our test track. 

But it’s at its best on asphalt. The ride is generally composed: soft enough to maintain comfort, but sufficiently well damped to retain body control on more demanding roads. It’s a compromise that generally works, though the low-speed ride could be better. It’s about equal to a Hyundai Santa Fe, but a Honda CR-V and Freelander both feel much more sophisticated.


Mitsubishi Outlander 2007-2012

The Mitsubishi Outlander comes in three trim levels – GX2, GX3 and GX4 (GX1 is a commercial vehicle trim-level) – and either two- or four-wheel drive.

The top-specification GX4 variant comes with 18in alloys, auto-leveling HID headlamps, satnav, electric sunroof, reversing camera with parking sensors, rain-sensor controlled windscreen wipers, leather seats for the first and second rows, heated front seats and a Rockford Fosgate audio system.

The Outlander is well equipped at the top end of its range

The two-wheel-drive-only variant – only available in mid-level GX3 spec – was added to the range in 2011 and offers a cheaper entry-level option.

The 2WD Outlander returns a claimed combined consumption of 46.3mpg, emits 162g/km of CO2 and sits in VED band G, equating to a first year’s charge of £165. By contrast, a 4WD version equipped with the same trim level returns 43.5mpg, an emits 169g/km, which means it sits one VED band higher and will cost you an extra £100 for the first year’s tax.

The Outlander is well equipped at the top end of its range, but rivals such as the Land Rover Freelander and Honda CR-V are better to drive and in some cases better to sit in. The Mitsubishi’s seven seats and equipment count are not enough to offset the difference in ability.


2.5 star Mitsubishi Outlander

At its cheapest price the Mitsubishi Outlander is an honest soft-roader that isn’t without appeal, but at the more expensive end of the model range it’s not really a contender.

The main problem is that the Outlander is one of those cars that, at one point, was recommendable but the class has moved on.

The Outlander was at one point recommendable, but the class has moved on

Its on-paper merits fail to outweigh the real-world flaws, and with such accomplished competition, the Outlander is hard to justify next to the similarly priced rivals.

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Mitsubishi Outlander 2007-2012 First drives