First Drive

2016 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV review

Mitsubishi’s plug-in sales hit has had an update that not only sharpens its performance, but makes it look a whole lot better, especially in the cabin

Words BySteve Cropley

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In just two years, Mitsubishi’s Outlander plug-in hybrid has been a staggering success in the UK, selling even better here than in Japan, presenting local private and fleet buyers with an enticing financial proposition, and winning the somewhat non-conformist Mitsubishi marque a prominence it hasn’t had in the UK for decades.

What’s the secret? There are several. For one, it’s an SUV, and demand for these is sky-high, and still rising. For another, it’s a plug-in hybrid, which means it qualifies for the government’s Β£5000 subsidy to buyers of electric cars.

Third, the decision was taken to sell it (after taking into account the Β£5k) at the same price as the regular Outlander diesel β€” whose sales, as a result, are barely a third of the PHEV’s.

In addition, the Outlander PHEV’s impressive official fuel economy and CO2 emissions figures mean it attracts a benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax rate of just 5%, a deal that's attractive for company car drivers. Company car tax for a 40% tax payer can be as low as Β£685 a year, which β€” as Mitsubishi is quick to point out β€” is a major saving on regular rivals like the BMW X3 or Honda CR-V.

Finally, because you can charge the batteries on your drive overnight, the first 25 miles or so of your driving is much less costly than it would be burning conventional fuel, so you save money again. Mitsubishi claims many of its users exceed the electric range only rarely.

Outside, the Outlander PHEV styling has been tweaked to include LED headlights and daylight running lights and new bumpers. The bumpers add about 40mm to the overall length, which makes the whole car look lower and sleeker than before.

What’s the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV like to drive?

Given the exotic nature of the powertrain β€” a conventional four-cylinder 2.0-litre petrol engine and two battery-driven electric motors, one front and one rear β€” it’s remarkably conventional.

There is no gear-shifting, just a seamless transmission of power. You can drive without doing anything special: the onboard "brains" will decide when the electric motors should contribute to your progress, or convert themselves into generators to recharge the battery when its charge has nearly run out.

If you want to, you can decide (via console switches) when to recharge the batteries, when to use electric drive only, and when to ensure all four wheels are being driven.

On the road, the Outlander is easy and relatively pleasant to drive, with good visibility because of its elevated driving position. It feels quick from standstill thanks to its electric power, and its steering is quick and well-weighted. Some of the ride deficiencies in the previous model have been fixed by revisions to the suspension for 2016, but the PHEV is still caught out by larger bumps.

What’s the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV like inside?

Major fascia revisions to make the whole cabin "more European" work very well. The whole thing feels simpler, classier, airier and more modern.

Even in the most basic GX3h trim, equipment is impressive, with niceties like climate control, cruise control and keyless entry.

The mid-spec GX4h adds a DAB radio and comprehensive, screen-based functions, but you have to go to the GX4hs for stuff like self-levelling headlights, an all-round camera and lane departure warning.

The Outlander PHEV’s ambience is greatly improved by its interior redesign. Like its predecessor, it has decent, if not class-leading, cabin space without being too big outside for a happy life in a UK urban environment. The seats are comfortable after a long drive, and fixtures and fittings have a pleasant durability about them.

Should I buy one?

If economic motoring in a practical, good-quality SUV is your objective, and you’re happy with life in a hybrid, then it’s hard to see a decent argument against the Outlander PHEV. It also comes with a five-year warranty, and the marque has a good reputation for reliability.

Others in the class are a little quieter when cruising on the motorway, with a slightly better ride overall, but the Mitsubishi’s financial advantages, especially for company car drivers, are hard to overlook. The Outlander PHEV deserves further success after this latest refresh.

What Car? says...

The rivals

BMW X3

Volvo XC60

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Engine size 2.0-litre petrol + electric motors

Price from Β£29,249

Power 200bhp (combined)

Torque 284lb ft (combined)

0-62mph 11.0 seconds

Top speed 106mph

Fuel economy 156mpg (combined)

CO2 42g/km

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Mitsubishi Outlander

What Car? SaysRated 2 out of 5
Owners sayRated 4 out of 5

The Mitsubishi Outlander wins no prizes for refinement or interior quality, but the hybrid’s potentially low running costs will appeal to SUV buyers.