From £34,3057
Big-selling plug-in SUV gets a light refresh in the face of new challengers to offer decent economy but only average driving dynamics

Our Verdict

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Top-selling plug-in SUV gets major revisions to styling and suspension as Mitsubishi bids to keep its market advantage

  • First Drive

    2017 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV 5h

    Big-selling plug-in SUV gets a light refresh in the face of new challengers to offer decent economy but only average driving dynamics
Doug Revolta Autocar
18 January 2017

What is it?

The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is, by the manufacturer’s own admission, the most important car it makes. Launched in 2014, the niche plug-in hybrid SUV became a sales sensation as the UK’s best selling plug-in hybrid and threw Mitsubishi to the forefront of the green revolution in big cars.

Since then, however, the company and the car have faced some setbacks. News of electric motorway charging stations becoming a paid-for service means that an 80% charge of the car’s 33-mile range battery costs around £6, and the government's plug-in grant has been halved. Meanwhile tax changes due in April mean that instead of being free from VED, it will cost £10 for the first year then £130 every year after that on vehicles that cost £40,000 and below, the bracket into which most Outlander PHEVs fall. Above £40,000, you can expect to pay around £440 a year.

But while the Mitsubishi's prospects as a private buy look to have been severely hampered, low CO2 emissions mean it's still a cheap company car option that undercuts any like-for-like conventional diesel rivals.

The car received a comprehensive update in 2016, but it’s been lightly refreshed again this year because it’s such an important model for its maker. The electric-only range has increased by one mile (yes, just the one) to 33 miles, while CO2 emissions have dropped by a single gramme per kilometre to 41g/km, along with an improved claimed combined economy figure of 166mpg. Elsewhere the suspension has been altered again with new dampers and rear bushes.

What's it like?

Differences from the 2016 model are minimal, but if nothing else that means you can still expect the same combination of high-riding SUV practicality matched with an impressive hybrid powertrain.

Push the power button and all you get is an eerie silence on start up, and moving along at low speeds it’s whisper quiet and relaxing to driveCrank up the speed, however, and road noise becomes more noticeable, and when it’s just the petrol engine powering the car it’s noisier still.

One difference in the new model is an EV Priority mode, which means that by pushing a button on the centre console you’re able to keep the car in electric mode only, provided there's sufficient juice in the batteries. Don’t expect to be able to do this for too long, though. While Mitsubishi claims the Outlander PHEV is able to cover 33 miles on electricity alone, our range indicator was claiming it had around 20 miles left when it was nearly full on our cold test route.

Likewise, the fanciful official combined economy figure is far more likely to be less than half the claimed 166mpg in the real world. Presumably emissions of CO2 suffer the same fate, but at least the on-paper figures mean it remains a great value choice as a company car.

In electric mode the initial burst of acceleration is impressive thanks to the instant torque, but because of the sheer bulk of the car it struggles to feel quick running on battery power alone. When the 2.0-litre petrol engine kicks in it helps make progress more brisk, but overall the Outlander still feels sluggish. At least the power is delivered smoothly through a CVT transmission.

You can decide via an array of settings when to recharge the batteries, when to use electric drive only and when to ensure all four wheels are being driven. But left to its own devices the powertrain will stick itself in hybrid mode and seamlessly switch between the petrol engine and electric motors. Regenerative braking is controlled via the paddle shifters on the steering wheel to help give the battery more juice.

The suspension has been revised but it’s only a slight improvement over last year’s update. It’s still caught out by bumps at low speeds and, predictably enough, there's some body roll through corners. It doesn’t feel as agile as rival SUVs such as the Nissan X-Trail or Skoda Kodiaq, but the Outlander’s steering is well weighted and quick.

It’s relatively easy to sort yourself a good driving position, but steering wheel height and reach don’t have a great deal of adjustment. Visibility all round is very good, though, and there’s plenty of space up front.

Top spec 5h versions, as tested, get a new Nappa leather interior, an upgraded audio system and some new safety technology, including lane departure warning, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control and auto high beam, while 4h models also get the new safety technology. Some of the plastics used in the dashboard don’t feel particularly high quality and the 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system is basic, but there's a lot of kit. We’d advise stickinh to the cheaper trims, which still get things like DAB, Bluetooth, a reversing camera and parking sensors.

Should I buy one?

By default, the Outlander PHEV remains the best plug-in SUV you can buy, but dynamically it remains average and it’s facing more adversity than ever. This light facelift doesn't change much but it remains an economical and practical choice if your load-lugging journeys only cover a few miles at a time.

If that's your scenario and you can charge it regularly, the Outlander's low running costs can make sense as a private buyYou still get some money off from the government grant, and other incentives include a five-year, 62,500-mile warranty and a free home charging point installed by Chargemaster. But families wanting to broaden their choice os SUV should also consider cars such as the Nissan X-Trail, Skoda Kodiaq or the diesel Outlander, all of which will offer similar day-to-day running costs

As a company car choice the Outlander PHEV is way ahead of its rivals thanks to its ultra-low benefit in kind tax of 9%, which means it undercuts any diesel equivalent.

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV 5h

Price £41,399 (after government grant); Engine 4 cyls, 1998cc, petrol, plus two 60kW electric motors; Power 120bhp; Torque 140lb ft at 4500rpm; Gearbox CVT; Kerb weight 2105kg; 0-62mph 11.0secTop speed 106mph; Economy 166mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 41g/km, 9%  

Join the debate

Comments
16

18 January 2017
I've heard that most owners don't ever plug them in. They simply enjoy the tax advantages while burning fuel like any other petrol SUV. I feel me that pretty distasteful to be honest, and it makes a mockery of the tax system.

18 January 2017
scrap wrote:

I've heard that most owners don't ever plug them in. They simply enjoy the tax advantages while burning fuel like any other petrol SUV. I feel me that pretty distasteful to be honest, and it makes a mockery of the tax system.

It depends on the companies reimbursement system, ones that just pay fuel actually lower the incentive to charge as you get nothing for the electricity you put in. Ones like mine that pay me the same HMRC rate per electric or petrol mile give a big incentive to charge as electric miles are cheaper so I get to keep the change.

18 January 2017
scrap wrote:

I've heard that most owners don't ever plug them in. They simply enjoy the tax advantages while burning fuel like any other petrol SUV. I feel me that pretty distasteful to be honest, and it makes a mockery of the tax system.

Not correct. If you dont plug it in, it uses fuel like a petrol Hybrid SUV. The car still collects energy where it would otherwise be wasted. A petrol only SUV would be less efficient.

And whilst they are mainly chosen as CoCars due to the tax system, remember that for each one of these registered its almost certain its one less diesel out there as a result. I wish more people chose them

19 January 2017
Why do you wish more people drove them ? Whats wrong with a new diesel that meets the latest emissions standards ? I think you may have read lots of headlines, put 2 and 2 together and come up with 35 - a 2017 diesel car is deffo a better option for the environment than one of these.

19 January 2017
scrap wrote:

I've heard that most owners don't ever plug them in. They simply enjoy the tax advantages while burning fuel like any other petrol SUV. I feel me that pretty distasteful to be honest, and it makes a mockery of the tax system.

Every time you plug one in you save about the equivalent of 4 litres of fuel, a fiver. Maybe if the company pay for ALL your fuel but I don't believe that people who pay for their own personal fuel chuck a fiver away every night. Where's your science please

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

19 January 2017
Yes but how much do you waste by dragging round 300kg of batteries ?

23 January 2017
Probably less than you'd think. Regenerative braking can recover a lot of the energy that is put into accelerating the batteries to speed, or driving them uphill. Extra weight is much more of a penalty in cars without batteries than in cars with batteries!

18 January 2017
Trouble with a review like this is that time with the car is too short to really understand it. Hence the reference to CVT gearbox in a car that has no gearbox at all actually! The 20 mile electric range you saw displayed is really just an estimate by the car how long the battery would last based on how the car was LAST driven before stopping. If you set off and drive more nicely it may well go much further. "seamlessly switch between the petrol engine and electric motors" nope, unless your going very fast the electric motors are still pushing you, at other times the engine is both pushing the front wheels directly and generating electricity to the motors via the battery. Sometimes the engine drives the wheels without the motors chipping in but usually only briefly if its optimal for efficiency at that moment. The 5H is loaded with kit most people won't be bothered with, its there for well off company owners to max out on and write off the cost on the tax. Most people will buy the still well equipped lower spec. models. The petrol engine is only noisier when giving it full power, but nowhere near as bad as any diesel SUV under hard acceleration, the rest of the time its often impossible to tell if its even running or not without looking at the displays. It does have plenty of failings, and I wish there were more options, but as you accept, there is nothing out there offering the space/boot/cost/low tax to touch it yet, which I find surprising.

19 January 2017
The reviews of these hybrids are often critical of cvt gearboxes that the cars haven't got, all the Toyota hybrids get criticism of it but haven't actually got a car. I'd love to know what sort of economy an owner gets from one and what sort of electric only range they get as the magazine reviewers always slate the figures.

23 January 2017
In mine (2014 model) I reckon on about 25 miles realistic electric only range, although it does depend on driving style, terrain and temperature. Air conditioning makes a noticeable difference, and brings the range down to maybe 20 miles or so. My long-term average mpg is almost exactly 60, which could probably be equalled by some non-hybrid vehicles. But it depends very much on journey length. I do a mix of local (nearly 100% electric) trips and occasional long motorway journeys. On a long journey without access to charging, I usually get about 37 mpg. There was a spell of a few months when I didn't do many long journeys and averaged 115 mpg between successive fill-ups. For some people, particularly if this was a second car used exclusively for local journeys, that sort of mileage could be their long-term average.

In very cold weather such as now, the car almost refuses to operate in electric only mode, as it wants to run the engine for the first mile or two to create heat for the cabin and defrosting. Using the smartphone app to instruct the car to defrost the windscreen and heat the cabin while the car is still plugged in on the driveway solves this problem (and is also a brilliant time-saver on a frosty morning).

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