First Drive: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV 2015

The front exterior of the 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.
The front exterior of the 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.
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What’s new?

It’s a good time for all types of electric cars as diesel is going through some dark days, plus the crucial infrastructure is getting better all the time. No wonder then that the Mitsubishi Outlander is so popular, being one of the more affordable PHEVs (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) as well as one of the most practical.

The interior of the 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.

The interior of the 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.

Now there’s a substantially revised version ready for market with changes to the power train operation and the suspension as well as interior and exterior design. Equipment levels have been given a boost too and crucially the Outlander PHEV remains eligible for the Government’s £5,000 grant.

Looks and image

The previous Outlander had all the typical SUV design cues you’d expect, but there was something about its proportions that made it look unusually tall for its length. Clearly that was something taken on by Mitsubishi HQ because the new Outlander is longer than before thanks to redesigned front and rear bumpers. The new design is sharper too, giving the Outlander a more distinctive face and boosting the feeling of quality with revised lights and alloy wheel designs too.

The Outlander is also doing great things for Mitsubishi’s image in the UK as it currently dominates the PHEV segment and is helping to bring new buyers into the brand.

The front exterior of the 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.

The front exterior of the 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.

Space and practicality

The Outlander sits comfortably in the mid-sized SUV segment and is well equipped to offer useful space for passengers and luggage. The high driving position is appealing with a low-set dashboard offering a good view out, with more than sufficient head and legroom. It’s also spacious in the back, if not class-leading, while boot space is 463 litres - a little less than some rivals, but this is the flip side of carrying the extra electrical hardware.

Behind the wheel

The underlying hardware of the Outlander PHEV are as before, with electric motors front and rear combining with a 2.0-litre petrol engine to give a variety of hybrid modes. You can use the petrol engine as a range extender or as direct drive to the wheels, and run the batteries to give a power boost or save their output for pure electric mode. One change is the sharpening of the system response at low speeds, cutting the 0-25mph time by 50%.

Mitsubishi has also worked at improving the overall driving experience. Retuned suspension with stiffer underpinnings are a help, creating a more composed ride, while the handling is safe and secure for a car of this size and shape. But the Outlander PHEV’s biggest appeal is the flexibility of its power train, offering sufficiently brisk performance when required alongside super-frugal economy in the right conditions. It’s hard not to feel like you’re beating the system when you’re behind the wheel.

Value for money

All things considered, it’s hard not to see the Outlander PHEV as something of a bargain. It’s priced the same as the equivalent diesel version with the government grant included which means you can sneak into the GX3h model for a measly £29,249 and get 18-inch alloys, keyless entry and start, Bluetooth and a decent audio system, with a few extra toys thrown in for this latest model. Go the whole hog for £35,999 and there’s the satnav with reversing camera, powered tailgate, radar cruise control and even a heated steering wheel.

Who would buy one?

If there’s a car for the moment then the Outlander PHEV is pretty much it. It’s practical, comfortable and usable, making it perfect for family car duties, yet the higher-specification versions feel reasonably luxurious too. But it’s the potential for zero emissions running and spectacular fuel consumption over short journeys that makes it such an appealing prospect.