Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (2013-present)

The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV plug-in hybrid SUV is efficient, well equipped and great value for money

Strengths & Weaknesses

Strengths 

Low company car tax rates
Well-equipped
Quiet to drive

Weaknesses 

Feels heavy and lumbering on the road
Only has five seats
Fuel economy poor on longer journeys

The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV was the first sport-utility vehicle (SUV) with a green conscience. Along with the tall, rugged shape of SUVs, which were initially developed for off-roading, this version of the Outlander added a plug-in hybrid system, so it’s powered by a petrol engine and two electric motors.

You can charge the batteries in this plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) - by plugging it in - which means that it can travel around 20 miles on electric power alone, using no petrol at all.

For longer journeys, the engine kicks in. As a result, it has an official economy figure of 156.9mpg. Emissions of 42g/km CO2 mean it’s free of road and company car tax (note that from 1 April, tax rates for new cars are changing), and can enter London’s congestion charge zone for free.

Finally, as a plug-in vehicle, it qualifies for the government’s £4,500 grant towards its purchase price – so there’s a discount before you’ve even asked for one.

All versions are four-wheel drive (electric motors drive the rear wheels). In combination with the model’s raised ride height and chunky styling, the Outlander has a modicum of off-road ability.

Direct rivals are few. There are the usual conventionally powered, and far cheaper, SUVs including the Nissan Qashqai and Mazda CX-5. Although it’s not a plug-in like the Outlander PHEV – meaning you can’t plug it in to a remote power source to recharge the batteries for electric-only driving – there’s the impressive new Toyota C-HR, too. Higher up the price lists, direct rivals do begin to emerge, among them the Audi Q7 e-tron and Volvo XC90 T8 plug-in hybrid.

It’s a heavy car so for all its combined power the Outlander is no ball of fire. Meanwhile, real-world economy gets worse the further you drive with the petrol engine running. On long journeys, you may only get 50mpg, which is no better than a diesel.

The hybrid system works well (quietly and smoothly) and the automatic gearbox provides seamless changes. The downside to all the electric power is the weight of the batteries required to store it. The Outlander PHEV is a heavy car that wallows and leans in corners, and which doesn’t feel that agile. Standard electronic stability control means it’s safe, though. The standard diesel model is better to drive.

There’s plenty of cabin space for five adults (the standard diesel version has seven seats) and the boot is large. The rear seats split and fold to create a usefully large load area. It’s a quiet interior mainly because the already quiet petrol engine is used to generate power for the electric motors, rather than drive the wheels directly.

It’s pretty drab-looking and low-rent, though, albeit exceptionally well equipped. There are numerous trim levels but the standard GX3H has 18in alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control and rear parking sensors. Our pick is GX4H with its sat-nav and suite of autonomous safety kit.

Last Updated 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017 - 17:00