2012 Mitsubishi Outlander review
* New Mitsubishi Outlander SUV driven * Diesel power and four-wheel drive only at launch * 50g/km plug-in hybrid to follow next year...
The 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander is the third version of this medium-sized SUV, and a car that signals something of a fresh start for Mitsubishi.
Why? Well to start with, the styling of the car is the first example of the companys new design language. Expect the wraparound headlamps and slim grille with chrome-effect strips to progressively replace the edgy, angular styling on Mitsubishis other models.
More importantly, the Outlander represents a big step forward for Mitsubishi in terms of efficiency. Come next year, therell be a plug-in hybrid version that Mitsubishi claims will emit just 50g/km of CO2. Impressive stuff.
To begin with, 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 have from 164g/km to 146g/km, while fuel economy has improved from 44.8mpg to 50.4mpg compared with the current car. That should make the Outlander a more palatable proposition for many SUV buyers.
The 2012 Outlander showcases Mitsubishi's new design language
What's the 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander like to drive?
The Outlanders diesel engine has 148bhp and 280lb ft of pull, and even though its no fireball when you pile the revs on, its keen enough in the 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 dont 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, wind noise isn't overly intrusive.
The notchy, long-throw manual gearshift detracts slightly from the Outlanders mechanical refinement, but the automatic gearbox (available on mid-spec models and standard on high-spec models) changes ratios pretty smoothly.
On the down side, the auto doesnt make the car as relaxing as it should, because it holds onto low gears for a little too long. Also, bear in mind that it drops average fuel economy down to 46.3mpg.
The firm ride isnt that relaxing, either. It feels unsettled over most surfaces, and bigger bumps can really thump through the rear suspension.
This firmness does mean the body stays reasonably controlled in bends, and theres 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 only get drive once the fronts lose traction).
The steering means you wont have a great deal of fun, either; despite being heavy around town, its disconcertingly light at higher speeds.
What's the 2012 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.
Those in the front get bags of room, and the middle three seats also have generous head- and legroom.
Two more seats pop up from the boot floor, and although headroom is tight for adults, theyll have 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).
Getting into the third row in the first place takes some contortionism; the middle-row seats tilt and slide out of the way to let you in, but they dont go quite far enough.
Still, all the rear seats fold down completely flat when you need to maximise luggage space, giving you an impressive 1022-litre capacity. You also get 591 litres in five-seat mode, and even with all seven chairs in place, theres enough room for a few bags.
The other impressive thing about the Outlanders cabin is the step up in quality over the previous car. Where the interior surfaces were once hard and functional, many of them are now cushioned and pleasant to the touch.
The piano black accents and metallic inserts also help lift things, and the interior design looks smart and fresh.
The Outlander doesn't match the best SUVs on outright class, but its pretty good overall, and better than many of its closest rivals.
Finding a comfortable driving position should be easy, too, because the seat has height adjustment and theres a good range of rake- and reach steering wheel adjustment.
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 has complex menus and small, hard-to-hit icons.
The Outlander should also have generous amounts of kit, although Mitsubishi hasnt yet finalised the precise specifications.
We expect entry-level cars to come with goodies such as air-conditioning, alloy wheels, cruise control, four powered windows, remote locking, seven airbags and stability control, while second-rung cars will probably add leather and dual-zone climate control. The range-topper will have 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 wont win any prizes for its dynamics, but its 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, though. Mitsubishi hasnt yet finalised how much the car will cost, but has indicated a 2% rise over the outgoing Outlander. If thats true, the entry-level model should cost around 23,700; that's about the same as the cheapest current seven-seat Hyundai Santa Fe.
The Outlander will be cheaper to run than the Santa Fe, too, and has an 8.9mpg better average economy, but an all-new Santa Fe is due in late 2012.
What Car ? says...