What is it?
Britain’s biggest-selling plug-in hybrid car, the 2019-model-year Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, in mid-range '4h' form and driven in the UK for the first time. Prices start from under £35,000 for the car after the government's 'PiCG' purchase incentive for ultra-low-emissions cars.
The Outlander PHEV has just had the third model-year revision since its launch in 2014 and the most wide-ranging yet. The most important part of that revision makes the 2019-model-year Outlander WLTP-emissions certified – and therefore one of not-very-many of the current crop of PHEVs that are technically still on sale after the passing of the old emissions regime’s August registration deadline.
The Volkswagen Golf GTE is currently on a sales hiatus awaiting a re-certified version, likewise the BMW 330e – although discounted, pre-registered examples of both probably wouldn’t be difficult to track down in dealer stock over the coming weeks. Mitsubishi’s firm hope is to hoover up plenty of existing PHEV owners from other brands who are due to replace their cars soon, but would otherwise have to wait to get the updated version of their current car. It stands a reasonable chance of doing that if it can deliver cars quickly enough – since fleet drivers who are used to paying 13% benefit-in-kind company car tax aren’t likely to want to go back to paying more than double that with a conventionally fuelled car.
The recertification process has come at the same time as a new and more powerful petrol engine for the car, moving from 2.0-litres of swept volume to 2.4. An improvement in drive battery capacity has been delivered too, rising from 12kWh to 13.8. Gains on electric motor power of about 10% for both the car’s front-mounted engine/generator and its rear-mounted electric drive motor have been made. And a few chassis, suspension, steering, braking, styling and equipment updates have been made too, all aimed at making the Outlander PHEV more refined, better-handling, more upmarket-feeling and better to look at than it was.
Because the WLTP testing cycle is more demanding than the old NEDC lab test, of course, the Outlander’s key performance statistics for electric-only driving range, carbon emissions and fuel economy all look to have been made worse – the car now being rated for 28 miles of mixed zero emissions range (after a four-hour at-home charge) rather than 33, and lab-tested fuel economy having dropped to 139mpg from a figure north of 160. Neither comparison is like-for-like, though.
In fact, Mitsubishi’s contention is that, in real-world use, the new PHEV’s torquier petrol motor (which can automatically switch between Otto and Atkinson combustion cycles to save fuel under light load) and its improved electric powertrain make for a significantly more efficient and responsive driving experience.