Mitsubishi Concept PX-MiEV II review

* Mitsubishi plug-in hybrid driven * ASX with same tech from 2013 * Price from 28,000 (est)...

Mitsubishi Concept PX-MiEV II review

What is it? It might look like a regular Mitsubishi Outlander, but beneath the familiar body lurks the technology that will underpin a new range of plug-in hybrids.

Theres an 80bhp electric motor up front and another on the rear axle. Together these deliver permanent four-wheel drive and a range of around 30 miles in electric-only mode at speeds of up to 62mph.

The Concept PX-MiEV II also has a 134bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine that can generate electricity for the electric motors when the batteries run low or if you need maximum acceleration. At higher speeds, the engine sends power directly to the front wheels, too.

A full charge takes around four hours and Mitsubishi says the system - in an Outlander-sized car - should deliver around 170mpg and less than 50g/km of CO2.

The first production model to get this new powertrain will be the hybrid version of the ASX, which is due to go on sale in the UK in January 2013.

It will be closely followed by a hybrid version of the next-generation Outlander, which was previewed by the PX-MiEV II concept car at last weeks Tokyo motor show.

Whats it like to drive? The cars electronic brain automatically decides how best to balance economy and performance. However, you can influence its priorities and how sharp the throttle responses are by selecting from Eco, Normal and Sport driving modes.

Whichever setting you choose, the car generally swaps smoothly from electric-only to engine-assisted power. Things get a little jerky if you put your foot down hard, but Mitsubishi claims this wont be an issue once it has finished tweaking the software.

When youre driving in electric-only mode the car is eerily quiet, aside from a gentle whir from the electric motors, and even when the engine fires up refinement is impressive. Its only when you ask it to work hard that the engine starts to get a bit noisy.

The batteries and electric motors add around 200kg to the weight of the car, but performance still feels strong, particularly when youre in Sport.

Other aspects of the driving experience are impossible to assess at the moment, because the suspension and steering fitted to the prototype will not be used for production models.

Whats it like inside? This prototype is based on a current-generation Outlander, which means its a roomy five-seater.

A large display that shows how the powertrain is working has been bolted to the centre console. Production Mitsubishi hybrids will let you view similar information, but they will have screens that are properly integrated into the dashboard.

Similarly, the boot of our prototype was full of powertrain components, whereas these will be packaged beneath the floor on production cars.

Should I buy one? Its impossible to say until weve driven a more representative car, but the early signs are promising.

A plug-in hybrid such as this Concept PX-MiEV II would have a big enough range to cover a typical commute on battery power alone, yet it wouldnt be limited to fully electric cars' short, pre-planned journeys.

Sensible pricing will be crucial, of course, and here the strong Japanese yen could cause problems. However, while production models will be more expensive than their petrol or diesel equivalents, Mitsubishi says buyers will get back the additional outlay within the lifetime of the warranty.

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