The 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander is the third version of the medium-sized SUV, and a car that signals something of a fresh start for Mitsubishi.
To start with, the styling of the car is the first example of the company’s new design language. Expect the wraparound headlamps and slim grille with chrome-effect strips to progressively replace the edgy, angular styling on Mitsubishi’ other models.
More importantly, the Outlander represents a big step forward for Mitsubishi in terms of efficiency. Come next year, there’ll be a plug-in hybrid version, which Mitsubishi claims will emit around 50g/km of CO2. Impressive stuff.
Initially, though, the new Outlander will be available only with a diesel engine and four-wheel drive. Still, even in this form, there are some marked improvements over the previous car.
Better aerodynamics, a more efficient engine and significantly reduced weight (up to 100kg depending on model, despite more standard luxury and safety features) help to reduce CO2 emissions from 164g/km to 140g/km for manual models, while fuel economy has improved from 44.8mpg to 52.3mpg compared with the current car. That makes it one of the most fuel-efficient mid-size four-wheel-drive SUVs around.
CO2 emissions have fallen from 164g/km to 140g/km, while fuel economy has improved from 44.8mpg to 52.3mpg
What's the 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander like to drive?
The diesel Outlander has 148bhp and 280lb ft of torque, and even though it's no fireball when you rev it, it’s keen enough in low- and mid-range to keep life easy.
True, it transmits a few unwelcome vibrations through the steering wheel, but it stays pretty quiet if you keep the revs below 3000rpm.
In fact, you don’t hear much noise from anywhere; road noise is well suppressed on the motorway, and although there's some flutter from around the huge door mirrors, there's little wind noise at speed.
We've already driven manual versions and found the notchy, long-throw gearshift detracts from the Outlander’s mechanical refinement. Our UK drive, however, was in a version with Mitsubishi's six-speed automatic gearbox; it replaces the previous Outlander's twin-clutch transmission and changes ratios smoothly.
The ride is fairly relaxing, too: the Outlander's suspension has a more softly sprung character than many rivals', and it's generally forgiving over bumpy roads. That loping gait means that body movement isn't especially well controlled, so there's quite a bit of lean around corners, but the Outlander handles well enough.
There's always lots of grip and traction, even when the front wheels are the only ones being driven (in the default driving mode, the rear wheels get drive diverted to them only once the fronts lose traction). The steering is responsive, although it's disconcertingly light at higher speeds.
The 2013 Outlander showcases Mitsubishi's new design language
What's the 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander like inside?
This is where things start to get better. Most SUVs are used as family cars, and the Outlander has MPV-rivalling space and practicality.
All but the entry-level versions will get seven seats as standard. Those in the front get bags of room, and the three seats behind that also have generous legroom. Headroom on the car we drove was compromised slightly by the mounting for its sunroof, but only taller adults will feel the pinch.
Behind the middle row – on seven-seat versions – are two more seats that pop up from the boot floor. These are properly padded seats that are much more comfortable than the previous Outlander's flimsy metal and cloth rear-row contraptions. Headroom and foot space are tight, but there's decent legroom, provided those in the middle sacrifice a little of theirs by sliding their two-piece bench forwards (the runners have an impressive 25cm of travel).
All the rear seats fold down flat when you need to maximise luggage space, opening up an impressive 1022-litre capacity. You also get 591 litres in five-seat mode, and even with all seven chairs in place, there’s enough room for a few bags.
The other impressive thing about the Outlander’s cabin is the step up in quality compared with the previous car's. Where the interior surfaces were once hard and functional, many are now cushioned and pleasant to the touch. The piano black accents and metallic inserts also help lift things, and the interior design is smart, if rather unimaginative.
The front two rows of seats get generous space, but head and legroom in the third is restricted
Most of the dashboard controls are well laid out, but some of the minor buttons are tucked away out of sight, and the touch-screen sat-nav system – although an improvement on the previous Outlander's – feels rather dated and fiddly to use.
Most controls are well laid out, but some of the minor buttons are tucked away out of sight
Mitsubishi hasn’t yet finalised the precise specifications, but we expect entry-level cars to come with goodies such as air-conditioning, automatic headlights, cruise control, four electric windows, seven airbags and stability control. Mid-spec cars will probably add plusher trim, automatic wipers, Bluetooth and dual-zone climate control.
The top two trims are expected to get all the bells and whistles, including sat-nav, a parking camera and a premium audio system, along with advanced safety systems including lane-departure warning, radar cruise control and a collision-mitigation system (which applies the brakes automatically if it senses an impending crash).
Should I buy one?
The new Outlander won’t win any prizes for its dynamics, but it’s decent enough to drive and the well-presented interior, with all its space and versatility, make the car a tempting choice for those with big families.
Pricing will be crucial. Mitsubishi hasn’t yet finalised how much the car will cost, but has indicated a 2% rise over the outgoing Outlander. If that’s true, the entry-level five-seat model should cost around £23,500; that's around £3000 cheaper than the equivalent 4WD five-seat Hyundai Santa Fe.
The cheapest seven-seat Outlander is likely to cost around £26,000; £1400 or so less than the entry-level 4WD seven-seat Santa Fe. The Outlander should be cheaper to run than the Hyundai, too, with 6.0mpg better average fuel economy.
High-spec versions will cost as much as some versions of the excellent BMW X3, while there are lots of five-seat SUVs that are more stylish and better to drive. In its cheapest seven-seat, four-wheel-drive form, however, the Outlander has some appeal.
Our reviews are based on hard data and thorough testing in the real world.
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