A soft-roader to put Mitsubishi back on track
Road Test: Mitsubishi Outlander:Mitsubishi is one of the brands that banked on an electric revolution. Its i-Miev electric car was meant to demonstrate the car firm was at the cutting edge of a motoring revolution. So far it has proved to be a costly exercise which has failed to gain consumer traction.
Unlike the global giants, Mitsubishi doesn’t have the clout to pursue multiple strategies, so you have to wonder whether the money and effort spent on the electric cars would have been more wisely invested in improving its conventional car offering and letting those with deeper pockets lead the electric charge.
The good news is that it hasn’t been completely left behind in terms of regular fare. The new Outlander, for example, boasts the sort of weight-saving efforts that many other big name brands are trumpeting from on high. And it throws the spotlight on a brand that has been languishing in the background for some time.
The Japanese firm’s soft-roader model never quite caught the public’s gaze, and with a plethora of rivals taking to the road in recent years it got lost in the crowd. It was a shame, because the brand has strong off-road credentials.
Mitsubishi represents different things to different people, but for me its strongest DNA has always been in the off-road market, with the likes of the Pajero and L200 double cab rather than overpriced electric i-Mievs. Its city cars have always looked like they belong at the budget end of the market, whereas its off-roaders have an honest ruggedness that reassures you that they’ll take care of you if things get rough.
The Outlander should have built on this DNA from the start, but it always seemed a little limp in its off-roading compared to the Pajero and its ilk, while it never had the on-road credentials to cut it against more sophisticated rivals. Lacking star qualities on-road and off-road. it sort of languished on the hard shoulder.
This new version addresses those issues, although it too is more designed for dirt tracks than rocky mountain passes. The four-wheel-drive system on offer spends most of its time as a two-wheel drive on tarmac but will engage the rear wheels when towing, driving in frosty weather conditions or on those rare occasions when you go off-road. We got to experience some of its four-wheel drive prowess during the week and while we weren’t brave enough to pit it against steep inclines, it coped with tyre-swallowing mud treks very well.
The test car didn’t come with a hitch, but the official figures for towing capacity suggests that this is where owners will really benefit from the four-wheel drive system, over and above any plans for crossing rough ground.
It’s got the rugged looks but there’s a lot more polish to this version than to its predecessor. The interior is simple, lacking some of the premium-level finish of the likes of the Honda CR-V, but admirably intuitive and easy to use. There’s a nice driving position, and from the moment you get in there’s a reassurance you normally get from driving much larger SUVs.
The decision to offer the same comfort features on every Irish version is worthy of praise, and it’s a well-equipped offering that includes dualzone air-conditioning, cruise control and Bluetooth.
The four-wheel-drive versions also come with a third row of seats, claiming to be a seven-seater. Frankly, it’s not – this is a five-plus-two. Even in the second row of seats headroom starts to become an issue, and by the time you manage to get into the third row it’s a ridiculously tight squeeze. It’s fine to have them in reserve for a very rare short journey, but if you need seven seats for family motoring then a proper people carrier is your only answer. This will not suffice.
There is better news in terms of the driving dynamics. The Outlander does wallow in corners but there’s enough positive feel to the car that it becomes rather fun to drive. It’s not fast, but the 2.2-litre diesel seems well able to propel this car. It also boasts impressive emissions that will mean savings when it comes to motor tax, even after the recent punitive budget. Emissions for the two-wheel-drive entry model are a very credible 126g/km, while the four-wheel-drive version increases that by just 14g/km, which is remarkable.
Relatively low emissions
The chief selling-points of this car are going to be its rugged looks, its equipment levels and relatively low emissions. Those are enough to drive it into our shortlist of soft-roaders. The new Hyundai Santa Fe is probably its closest rival, also offering a similar third row of seating and softer, more urban-oriented styling. The Hyundai has a firm following already and that will secure its sales position at the top of the full-size soft-roaders in the coming years. But the Outlander is worth a test drive and is competitively priced. With its arrival the Mitsubishi brand is suddenly back on the map.
The lowdown Mitsubishi Outlander
2,268cc 16v four-cylinder intercooled turbodiesel engine putting out 148bhp at 3,500rpm and 360Nm of torque from 1,500rpm with a six-speed manual transmission .
0-100km/h 10.2 seconds, max speed 200km/h.
combined 5.4l/100km (52.3 mpg).
140g/km (motor tax €280 from January 1st).
Only one well-equipped version offered with standard features including: cruise control; Bluetooth connection and voice control for phone and audio; dualzone auto air-con; electric windows; alloy wheels; front foglights; roof rails; ABS with EBD and Brake Assist; front, side and curtain airbags; driver’s knee airbag; hill-start assist; active stability and traction control; third row of seats with four-wheel-drive versions.
Hyundai Santa Fe Executive 4WD 2.2D €41,995; Toyota Rav-4 4WD 2.2 D-4D Sol €36,445; Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0TDi 140bhp 4motion Sport €35,490.
€36,950 (from January 1st)