Engine options, speed, acceleration and refinement

Most electric (or part-electric) cars allow their drivers only a very specific power usage schedule. Not so the Outlander – which is one of the reasons why it gets such a high score in this section.

Flexibility is its key, rather than the overall statistics relating to its performance. Those are good enough: 0-60mph in 10.0sec and, if you’ve no battery oomph to call on and you’re away from a socket, 38.0mpg via petrol power generation only (or 32mpg on a motorway).

You can adjust the level of engine braking-like battery regeneration

But it’s the fact that the Outlander puts you in control that’s really crucial. Once charged, its batteries are good for a range of 25.5 miles (in our hands), and for most commutes that’ll do just fine.

But say you don’t want to do those electric-only miles straight after charging, because you’re travelling 100 miles, with journey’s end inside an ultra-low emissions zone? That’s fine. You can hold the charge in the battery, at any time, and run on petrol generation only.

Or, uniquely in our experience, you can even actively charge the batteries via the petrol engine, while you’re in extended mode or even while you’re parked.

Left to its own devices, the PHEV system is pretty impressive. In most driving you’ll not notice any intervention from the petrol engine while the batteries have a good amount of charge in them, even on the motorway.

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And when the petrol powerplant does pitch in, it does so almost seamlessly and with as gentle a hum as in a Toyota Prius, rather than the obvious thrum of a BMW i3. Acceleration and response are, as usual with electric motors, wonderfully smooth, too.

We’d rather have a longer electric-only range, but given that this car is as large and as cheap as it is, what it offers is quite acceptable.

Under braking, the point at which electric energy regeneration makes the transition to retardation via discs is well managed. You can vary the speed of throttle-lift regeneration via paddles behind the wheel, with the option of anything from total coasting to a meaningful impression of serious engine braking.

It’s a novel and more intuitive method of regeneration than a throttle pedal that always decelerates the car quickly when you lift off it.