This is the new Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. It’s a new plug-in hybrid version of the company's Mazda CX-5 rival, and it's powered by both a 2.0-litre petrol engine and two electric motors, the second of which powers the rear wheels, giving four-wheel drive capability.
You can plug the PHEV in, charge up and use its electric power alone for short trips, and then rely on the petrol engine to take you farther afield. According to the official government figures, this makes the PHEV capable of 148mpg, but even Mitsubishi is throwing a pinch of salt at this because of the unrealistic way the official tests are conducted. Real-world mpg is still pretty impressive, though (more on that later).
The Outlander PHEV should, in theory, be ideal for anyone who does mainly shorter trips, with the occasional longer journey thrown in. Anyone who regularly bashes the motorways will be better off with the standard diesel Outlander, however, and that’s exactly what Mitsubishi's dealers will be telling potential customers.
Mind you, company car drivers will see a sizeable tax benefit from the 44g/km official CO2 output, while regular visitors to Central London will enjoy exemption from the Congestion Charge.
What’s the 2014 Mitsubushi Outlander PHEV like to drive?
On the face of it, there's little to differentiate the PHEV from a regular Outlander. The PHEV has an automatic gearlever that slots into D, you push the accelerator pedal, then off you go.
Pull away and the differences start to become obvious, as you glide along silently. You can, in theory, do up to 70mph on pure battery power. However, this will deplete the battery far quicker than the maximum 32.5-mile range that Mitsubishi quotes.
It's far better to let the car work out the optimal power source to use. It flits imperceptibly between petrol and electric power, and even when running, the 2.0-litre petrol engine is impressively quiet and vibration-free.
Even when the batteries are out of charge you should still get a reasonable fuel economy return; the PHEV averaged 39.2mpg in our True MPG tests.
You can also press a button that forces the PHEV to hold its charge for a more appropriate time – useful, say, when you need to do a motorway jaunt before going to the city. You can even use the petrol engine to top the battery up to 70%.
You can also determine the level of brake regeneration, which boosts battery power, using the otherwise wasted energy from stopping. There are five settings, which can be selected using the steering wheel-mounted paddles – on its most severe setting, you can achieve maximum regeneration but there is a pronounced feeling of ‘engine’ braking. It's best used in this mode around town, when you are more likely to brake often, with the other end of the scale more suited to motorway driving.
In other respects, the PHEV drives much like a regular Outlander, feeling stable and refined at motorway speeds and handling well on twistier roads. The extra weight of the batteries low down in the car means that it even feels that bit more stable around corners than the standard car, with less body roll evident in corners. On the downside, the ride is a little choppy, and because of the silence of the powertrain at low speeds, you're more aware of other noises.
What's the 2014 Mitsubushi Outlander PHEV like inside?
There are other SUVs with better quality cabins and more user-friendly layouts. However, the Outlander PHEV gets a lot of the basics right. The driving position will be comfortable for most and it affords a commanding view out of the front and decent over-the-shoulder visibility, too.
All of the major controls are conveniently placed and easy to use, even if the infotainment system doesn't look as well integrated as in some rivals.
Mind you, the screen does have easy-to-read graphics (unique to the PHEV), displaying info such as pure electric range and whether you're being propelled by electric power or the petrol engine. It's great, because you find yourself incentivised to drive as economically as possible.
Elsewhere, there's plenty of space for five. Unlike regular versions, though, there isn't a seven-seat option; an electric motor robs the space the third row would otherwise be located. Mind you, boot space is near identical and generous with a flat entry lip and under-floor storage.
Should I buy one?
The biggest thing in the Outlander PHEV's favour is its price, because it costs exactly the same as an equivalent automatic diesel model to buy. With most other similar technologies, such as the diesel-hybid Volvo V60, the price is so high it wipes out most of the company car tax advantage you gain from the ultra-low CO2 output.
The Outlander, though, is a seriously good proposition if you are paying company car tax as it commands only a 5% premium. Even the cleanest diesel cars are charged at 13%.
Being able to use only electric power for short journeys will also pay dividends if the bulk of your useage is for shopping and school runs too, assuming you have easy access to a charging point.
If you meet the criteria for a plug-in Outlander, then, it's a seriously tempting proposition.
What Car? says...
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
Engine size 2.0-litre petrol plus two electric motors
Price from £28,249
Torque 249lb ft
0-62mph 11.0 seconds
Top speed 106mph
Fuel economy 148.0mpg (official combined)