The Mitsubishi Outlander diesel is the lesser-known sibling to the Outlander PHEV. Whereas the latter stands out as one of the few mainstream plug-in hybrid SUVs available, the oil-burning version finds itself in a much more crowded - not to mention competitive - part of the market.
As with the PHEV version, the diesel Outlander was lightly refreshed for the 2017 model year. Its MacPherson front strut and multi-link rear suspension was fettled to lend it a greater degree of surefootedness on the road, and greater attention was paid to reducing noise in the cabin.
Where the PHEV and the diesel start to differ, though (past the obvious point of their powertrains), is in the practicality stakes: the former is offered strictly as a five-seater, while the latter can seat up to seven.
Pricing the difference: Mitsubishi Outlander diesel vs PHEV
You’ll part with £25,955 for the entry-level version of the Outlander diesel (or £28,769 for the cheapest seven-seater). We drove the seven-seat 4 Diesel Auto 4WD version, which costs £34,055. By comparison, the PHEV range starts at £35,330 – although that excludes Government grants available for plug-ins, and doesn’t take into account cheaper company tax rates.
The PHEV model might offer the ability to travel 33 miles on electricity alone, but the 145bhp, 266lb ft 2.2-litre diesel engine isn’t uneconomical, either. Combined with four-wheel drive and an automatic transmission - as our test vehicle was - it’ll manage a claimed 48.7mpg on the combined cycle. A comparable Nissan X-Trail will do 47.9mpg, while a Skoda Kodiaq is good for 49.6mpg. The Outlander, then, is by no means outstanding, but it is par for the course.
Driving the Mitsubishi Outlander diesel
Being merely par for the course on paper will never really cut the mustard, though. To stand out in a crowded class, there’s a need to perform out in the real world, and this is where the Outlander’s shortcomings start to make themselves known. For every thing that it does well, there’s a compromise that needs to be addressed.
The engine, for instance, pulls strongly and allows the Outlander to reach the national speed limit from standstill in a timely fashion; but you’ll need to be prepared for the grumbly racket that comes with any prod of the throttle. Even at a steady cruise, you can still pick it out from the accompanying road and wind noise.
Given its high-riding stance and considerable size, the Outlander was never going to stand out for its dynamism. Body roll through faster bends was always going to come with the SUV-shaped territory, and we can’t fault it too much for this.
The steering is well weighted and allows you to guide the Outlander with confidence, although there is a little play around centre. The ride isn’t bad, either, with the revised suspension working well to smooth out smaller imperfections in the road surface. Hit any sudden potholes or ruts, though, and you’ll know about it.
What's the Outlander diesel like inside?
Then there’s the cabin. As a means for transporting your average-sized family and all of their associated clobber, the Outlander diesel's cabin is tough to fault. The 591-litre boot is large and easy to access, and even with the third row of seats in place there’s still a relatively useable 128-litres of luggage capacity available. Head and leg room is abundant in the second row, and there’s a pervading sense that everything has been screwed together by a Mitsubishi team that is familiar with the abuse that young children can level on a car interior.
Yet the Outlander’s cabin isn’t the most materially rich place in the world, with plenty of cheap plastics making for an interior that isn’t as aesthetically pleasing as those in a Volkswagen Group SUV, Nissan X-Trail or Renault Koleos.
Then there’s the infotainment system, which is woefully out of date compared to those offered by rival manufacturers, although it still offers features such as satellite navigation, DAB radio and Bluetooth connectivity.
How the Outlander diesel fares against other seven-seat SUVs
The Mitsubishi Outlander covers the basics of being a large, seven-seat SUV well. It’s got the space and the practicality, it’s relatively comfortable and it won’t cost you a considerable amount more to run than its immediate rivals.
However, without the PHEV powertrain (and associated financial considerations) as a selling point, merely covering the basics isn’t enough to make the Outlander stand out. That's particularly true when you consider there are other seven-seat SUVs out there (such as the aforementioned Nissan X-Trail and Skoda Kodiaq) that offer nicer interiors, more impressive technology and greater levels of refinement for similar money.