- Modern styling with a generous range of on-board technology
- Huge financial rewards for the business driver
- Sport mode sharpens up performance but the car also copes well with 4x4 demands
- Quite costly - it needs to be running in EV mode regularly to make financial sense
- That 139mpg sounds remarkable but would only be achievable if regularly charged and used on shorter trips
- Ride can be a little unsettling especially on uneven ground
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV has led the way in plug-in technology across the SUV sector and 2019 model picks up the baton and runs with it.
Boasting a front end with a redesigned honeycomb grille, new headlights, a rear lower bumper extension, a large roof spoiler along with two-tone 18-inch alloy wheels, the latest Outlander PHEV (it stands for plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) is guaranteed to grab the attention of bystanders.
The performance capabilities have been improved thanks to the introduction of a new 2.4-litre petrol engine and there’s a whole host of improvements such as better soundproofing, steering and larger disc brakes that result in a more refined and safer vehicle all round.
On The Road
Mitsubishi engineers have worked hard to fine-tune the latest powertrain beneath the bonnet of this Outlander PHEV and it has certainly paid off. The 2.4-litre petrol engine produces 135PS which is an increase of 14PS over the outgoing 2.0-litre powertrain. The torque has also climbed from 190Nm to 211Nm. In addition, the rear electric motor output has increased to 95PS and the drive battery gets a 10 per cent boost increasing the overall capacity to 13.8kWh.
This translates into superior performance figures with a 0-62mph sprint time of 10.5 seconds and top speed of 106mph.
We tested the Outlander PHEV 4h, which is the best-selling version, and despite all the technical wizardry of a combustion engine working with battery-driven electric motors, it drives exceptionally well. There is a constant stream of power on tap and the vehicle is happy ambling through busy town centres or picking up the pace out on the faster country lanes.
The acceleration through the automatic transmission is seamless and the car can be driven in EV-only mode for 28 miles (WLTP figures) and up to speeds of 84mph. Sport mode really sharpens up the throttle, makes the steering feel more alive and delivers more torque.
Since the Outlander PHEV was first launched in 2014 there have been regular improvements but the latest car seems to have evolved the most. A number of enhancements have been introduced to improve the ride and handling on the latest model. The front and rear shock absorbers have been revised to improve comfort levels at low speeds, while still staying composed at higher speeds into corners, where there is very little sign of body sway.
The power steering unit has been remapped to offer a more responsive, sportier feel and the driver can switch between three drive modes that alter the way the car handles and feels. There is EV Priority mode whereby the car is powered by the front and rear motors with energy sourced from the battery. The Series Hybrid mode also sees the car powered by the motors with the engine engaged to run the generator to charge the battery while driving - it switches back to EV Priority mode whenever possible. Finally, the Parallel Hybrid mode results in the engine powering the front wheels with the front electric motor assisting and the rear motors driving the rear wheels.
Despite all this powertrain wizardry, it’s reassuring to learn that the vehicle drives like any other SUV. It’s not quite so agile or dynamic as some competitors from the VW Group stable, but the price-tag is certainly more appealing.
The road holding is beautifully balanced and when you fancy a little more excitement switch across to Sport and that certainly livens everything up.
This is an area that Mitsubishi has looked to address with the outgoing model often receiving criticism for being too noisy and a little fidgety across rougher road surfaces. This model boasts more comfortable and supportive seats, and front and rear shock absorbers do a fine job of ironing out the road creases. It feels more grounded and composed with only a small amount of engine, road surface and wind noise filtering through into the cabin at higher speeds.
The interior of the Outlander PHEV is also far classier than its predecessor with new switchgear, a smarter instrument cluster, the addition of ventilated seats in the back and more practically positioned USB ports to stay connected on the move.
There are lots of soft-touch surfaces and whereas the previous model was starting to look a little dated and jaded round the edges, this Outlander PHEV is bang up to date. There are leather upholstered seats with power adjustment along with heating and cooling functions, plus improved bolster support. By driving the outgoing model followed immediately by the new it was quite evident that comfort levels have improved considerably.
In The Car
Behind the Wheel
The driver benefits from an elevated driving position so gets a good view of the road, but the vehicle could do with a little more steering wheel and seat height adjustment - after all buyers do come in all shapes and sizes!
All the dials, readouts and switchgear are well positioned for driver usability and there is plenty of kit to explore along the way. Techno treats on our 4h model included the likes of heated seats, smartphone link via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a reversing camera, dual zone climate control, a 360-degree camera, leather upholstery with powered adjustment for the driver’s seat, a heated steering wheel and plenty more besides.
The range topping 5hs model which will be a limited run, boasts the likes of premium leather seats, matching door and armrest upholstery, a premium Alpine audio system, heated rear seats, LED mood lighting and a number of other premium features.
Much of the layout of the latest Outlander PHEV remains the same but the instrument cluster has been modernised and there are some extra buttons for the Sport and Snow modes.
Space & Practicality
To compete for sales in the ever-growing and densely populated SUV sector, a car needs to offer good levels of storage and be ahead of the game on the practicality front. The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is not exactly the class leader in this department, but it does very well.
There is enough rear legroom for two or three adults at a squeeze and the boot is well sized to accommodate luggage with a capacity of 463 litres plus 35 litres of underfloor storage. This limit increases to 1,602 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats dropped down. The boot has a low lip which makes loading heavier items a single process and the boot opening is nice and wide. A powered tailgate is another plus factor when approaching the car laden down with bags - this is standard on 4h models and above.
The front passenger seat can be folded down too, although not completely flat, but it is easy to transport longer items hassle-free.
Elsewhere there are a number of convenient storage options scattered throughout the vehicle, including front and rear door bins, front and rear cup holders, a central bin beneath the front armrest, a drop-down sunglasses compartment, pockets in the backs of the front seats, a decent-sized glovebox and additional storage bins in the sides of the boot.
The Outlander PHEV may be used for towing and has a 1.5-tonne limit.
Due to the elevated seating position, getting in and out of the Outlander PHEV would prove easy for anyone with any mobility issues and there is easy access to child seats too.
Charging the vehicle takes four hours from a standard charge point or 25 minutes for an 80 per cent capacity on a rapid charger.
The official combined fuel efficiency figure of 139mpg could only realistically be achieved if the car was used for shorter commutes and could be running for a majority of the time in electric mode.
In fact, the Outlander PHEV is not the car to choose if longer distances and regular motorway journeys are a common occurrence whereby a straightforward combustion engine-powered car would prove more economical and suitable. If, however, shorter commutes and then the occasional longer trip are likely, then the PHEV should be considered, especially if it’s being chosen as a business car. That’s because it could be regularly charged and the low carbon emissions figure of just 46g/km results in the lowest possible BIK rate of 13 per cent.
When it comes to Vehicle Excise Duty costs, the first-year charge would be just £10 and then it would be charged at £140 each following year.
Despite all the attractive financial gains for business drivers it’s interesting to learn that 54 per cent of sales this year have been to retail customers.
The insurance rating for the Outlander PHEV ranges from 26 to 31. Our test car was rated at 31.
Quality & Reliability
Mitsubishi owners tend to be a very loyal fanbase and that is partly thanks to the reliability of its long-established vehicles such as the Outlander and Shogun over the years. The fact that the Outlander PHEV was the best-selling plug-in vehicle in 2015, 2016, 2017 and for the duration of 2018 is testament to its popularity and outstanding reputation.
The switchgear within the latest Outlander PHEV has been upgraded and the seats have also been improved for comfort and durability. It has a very sturdy feel to it and should survive the test of time.
The only optional extra on our test car was a Protection Pack costing £249 and that introduced a reversible boot mat - one side is carpet and the other a wipe-clean rubber, which is ideal if you are transporting muddy or grubby items.
The car comes with a five-year, 62,500-mile warranty.
Safety & Security
The 4x4 Outlander PHEV is packed with safety features and keeps the same maximum five-star Euro NCAP rating as the outgoing car.
The introduction of larger front disc brakes has improved stopping power and the Snow mode increases the grip on slippery surfaces.
Safety features include automatic headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, a reversing camera, seven airbags, LED daytime running lights, LED fog lights with LED high beams and a 360-degree camera with rear cross traffic alert.
But, you need to step up to 4hs and 5hs to see the introduction of lane departure warning, automatic high beam, adaptive cruise control, plus blind spot warning system with lane change assist.