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Driven: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. Image by Mitsubishi.

Driven: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
How does the part-electric Mitsubishi SUV fare in country life?

   



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Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

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Good points: Facelift and improved interior smarten visuals, remains an intriguing hybrid proposition.

Not so good: Pricey, drivetrain not suited to long journeys.

Key Facts

Model tested: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GX4h
Price: from 19,749; Outlander PHEV from 31,749 (including 2,500 Government plug-in car grant); 36,428.99 as tested
Hybrid system: 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine mated to twin electric motors with plug-in lithium-ion battery pack
Transmission: all-wheel drive, single-speed reduction gear
Body style: five-door, five-seat SUV
CO2 emissions: 42g/km
Combined economy: 156.9mpg
Top speed: 106mph
0-62mph: 11.0 seconds
Power: 204hp combined drivetrain (89kW engine - 120hp at 4,500rpm - plus 25kW each for axle electric motors)
Torque: 385Nm combined drivetrain; 190Nm petrol at 4,500rpm, 137Nm and 195Nm (from front and rear electric motors) available instantaneously

Our view:

If you're interested in buying the Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle, or PHEV, then you're probably not bothered by its looks. For the record, the facelift enacted in 2015 for the 2016 model year has improved the Outlander markedly; it's a lot better on the outside, especially with that redesigned nose and the abolition of the chintzy 'clear' rear light clusters it used to be saddled with. But it's the improved interior that makes it more appealing, with some wood-effect trim and redesigned dials making it feel a lot classier than it did pre-facelift.

You're probably also not bothered that it costs the best part of 40 grand, although we'd counter by saying you could get a BMW X3 diesel for the same sort of money as this. Nevertheless, as a GX4h the PHEV comes with a shedload of kit (360-degree camera, navigation, cruise control, heated seats and steering wheel, 18-inch alloys, a sunroof and more) while Mitsubishi offers a five-year, 62,500-mile warranty and eight years/100,000 miles on the battery pack. It's also marginally cleaner now, the old PHEV recording 44g/km CO2 and 148mpg to this car's 42g/km and 156.9mpg.

No, the PHEV's USP is its potential fuel economy. Like any plug-in hybrid, when discussing its merits the conversation inevitably turns to 'what mpg are you getting out of it?' - and this presents a problem, because you have to explain at great length about how it's much better if you charge it regularly, how it would suit a certain type of owner/driver and not others, and so on. However, in the interests of rigorous critical appraisal, and because we spent a week with an Outlander PHEV little more than a year ago (the drive has changed very little since then), we're going to outline what it's like when trying to eke out its fuel and electricity reserves. For what it's worth, the car 'lived' in a rural location during its time on test with someone who works from home. Therefore it didn't undertake the 'charge it at home, commute to office/charge it at work, commute home' routine these PHEVs are best suited to. Here's what we found.

WEDNESDAY
The Outlander arrives with its 45-litre fuel tank full to the brim and the batteries at around 75 per cent charge. The trip computer shows a range of around 300 miles when a diesel SUV would be claiming more like 400-500. No need to run the delivery driver anywhere, so the PHEV's first task is to visit a nearby town. The route there is a rural one, but it does involve the evocatively named Snake Hill, and you soon find that steep inclines are the enemy of the EV. Nevertheless, using Eco mode (the throttle goes very long), the maximum regenerative braking effect for as much one-pedal driving as possible and almost all-electric motoring, the 13.3-mile return journey is done at 106.2mpg, with six miles of battery left in reserve. We even allowed ourselves to have the volts-draining heater on, given it wasn't a particularly warm day.

THURSDAY
The Outlander's not needed, so it goes on charge. All we've got is a three-pin 13 Amp domestic socket, which means a full charging time of five hours. Increase that to 16 Amps and it comes down to 3.5 hours, while a DC fast charge can give 80 per cent of battery power in just 30 minutes. We haven't got a DC charger, so four hours plugged into the mains it is.

FRIDAY
Our next journey is conducted in flagrant, anti-EV, wasteful comfort: the heated seats, heated steering wheel and climate control are all on. Thankfully one of our major A-roads has roadworks with a temporary 30mph zone blanketed by SPECs speed cameras. Horrific. But crawling along this for part of the route makes up for our energy use, and the 25.3-mile journey is conducted with 84 per cent EV driving for a final figure of 90.3mpg. The battery reckons it can go another five miles.

That would have been it for the PHEV for the day, until - in the early evening - we discover a need to pop out again. Over to the neighbouring village, 2.2 miles away. We try and conduct it all on the remaining battery power, but with the temperature at a chilly eight degrees C, as we re-enter our village on the way home, the petrol engine starts up. Nevertheless, the daily economy figure has climbed to 108.7 mpg. The Mitsubishi goes for a full five-hour charge once it's back on the driveway.

SATURDAY
Into Newark on a cool 11 degrees C day. At the start of the trip, we've got full juice in both barrels, if you'll forgive such clumsy phraseology. And if it weren't for a smoky old Renault Clio II holding us up on our local lane and requiring overtaking, we'd have probably done this 21.6-mile there-and-back trip without using a drop of petrol. As it was, parked up in Newark the car was showing 500mpg, and on the way back a brief burst of throttle on a hill saw us erroneously trigger the petrol engine again. Damn. So the final numbers are 391mpg and 96 per cent EV usage, although the battery is now flat, so back on charge it goes. The bar graph that displays the petrol is still 'to the top'.

SUNDAY
Eternal optimists that we are, we decide to host an impromptu Bank Holiday barbecue, so a trip to the shop about six miles away is required. I complain that 25kg of finest Marfonas in the boot will ruin my fuel economy experiment, but I do what every good husband does: what I'm told. I do this trip in total electric driving, the car reckons the mpg figure is infinite, and there's still 11 miles of power left in the battery at the end. It does involve driving like a short-sighted octogenarian priest, though, leading to the embarrassment of holding up an elderly gent in a gold Rover 75 Tourer. The shame. Back on charge the Outlander goes, but it only needs about two-and-a-half hours this time.

MONDAY
Later in the day, we're facing a 119-mile drive to Stansted Airport. So we switch into 'Save' mode for local trips in order to preserve the battery. Once we're back home, we've covered 23.1 miles with 49 per cent EV driving at 38.8mpg. The fuel tank still looks full, but there's no time to charge the Outlander before heading out again. The first 10 miles of the jaunt to Stansted are country lanes before getting on the A1. Still in Save, at the A1 roundabout the daily trip computer - which hasn't reset from the earlier trek - increases the EV driving figure to 58 per cent, the economy going up to 55.2mpg in the process. Now the PHEV is showing 10 miles of battery range and 326 miles to empty in total. The temperature is between 12 and 15 degrees C, the weather is showery at times and we decide to run down the A1(M), A14 (shudder...) and M11 in a mix of Charge/Save.

It's here where the Outlander PHEV looks less impressive. The Outlander's 2.0-litre petrol on-board 'generator' is not a particularly sophisticated internal combustion engine. If you use Charge to re-juice the battery, it becomes even heavier on fuel. Holding a steady 70mph-ish cruise down to the airport, by the time we arrive at our hotel for the night, the car's showing 34.7mpg for the day, 30 per cent EV driving and 150 miles of fuel/battery range. The electric power has only climbed back to 12 miles by this point, so trying to charge the battery pack has wasted fuel for no real benefit.

TUESDAY
Someone forgot to set their alarm. Cue a frantic 4.9-mile drive from the hotel airport to the departure lounge for our early flight to France, a drive which was emphatically not conducive in the slightest to fuel economy. With 72 per cent EV driving, this maniacal performance depletes some of the battery power, dropping electric range to 16 miles and the car's total to 145 miles. As the car park the PHEV is now in is closer to home, we've got 115 miles to do later in the day, when we've returned to the UK. We should be covered.

By the time we head off north in the early evening, the temperature is 13 degrees C and we only use the battery power to get the short distance back to the M11. Then we make a big mistake. We click for Charge, instead of Save, and so about an hour or so later, as we're coming off the A1 to go through the middle of Newark, the fuel light's blazing brightly. Luckily, our EV mode stupidity means we've got enough battery power to do the 12 miles home in zero-emissions running. Strangely, on the far side of Newark and with the engine clearly off, the fuel gauge drops to 'cleaned out' status. So when we arrive home, we've got three miles of EV capacity and three dashes where the vehicle's total range should be. The 114.7-mile trip has seen 38.8mpg overall, and it's our last journey in the PHEV.

THE OUTCOME
So, it's a tale of two fuel chitties: it was the best of economy, it was the worst of economy. Use the Outlander PHEV as you're supposed to - regular charging, short journeys, clever use of the various EV modes - and the 156.9mpg fuel claim is not as science fiction as it seems. For those first 110 miles of local driving, right up to the point we hit the A1 on the Monday evening, we'd done 165.3mpg on average. And that doesn't include the 12.5 miles of 'infinite' motoring we did to fetch the spuds. This, remember, is a tall, heavy (1,845kg) vehicle with permanent four-wheel drive and a load of EV equipment on board; thus, that's a truly phenomenal figure.

Long journeys, though, are a PHEV killer. The remaining 231 motorway miles were done at 34.4mpg, bringing our weekly figure down to a still-brilliant 99.85mpg. But if you've bought the car on the basis of the 156.mpg quote, then a 22 per cent return of 34.4mpg is going to look like the Outlander PHEV is catastrophically broken in some way. However, we'd still give the 2.0-litre, non-turbo petrol Mitsubishi a caveat, because even at 34.4mpg, here are some of the weekly consumption figures we've had from a variety of diesel SUVs recently: Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 TDI, 30mpg; Mercedes GLC 250 d, 38.6mpg; Hyundai Santa Fe, 34.1mpg; and a Jeep Renegade 1.6 MultiJet diesel, 43.8mpg.

We like a lot of what the Outlander PHEV does. It's very clever, big and spacious inside, has never looked better and with regular charging it can even exceed 160mpg. As a side note, we charged the PHEV six times for 24 hours in total during a week, five of those times and 21.5 hours at our expense, with 51.6kWh of battery replenished, which equals 6.75 for 110 miles. If you do any regular 50-mile-plus trips whatsoever, you're probably better off with a cheaper, more economical diesel SUV instead. The Mitsubishi plug-in hybrid is therefore a flawed work of genius.

Alternatives:

Honda CR-V i-DTEC: If you want the best economy, avoid the 4WD auto CR-V - which is very expensive - and stick with a front-wheel drive model. The Outlander has the better interior, though.

Mercedes-Benz GLC 250 d: Even in top AMG Line trim, this brilliant Mercedes SUV doesn't broach the 40k barrier as standard. We'd have it over the PHEV, no question.

Toyota Prius: Hybrid family motoring at a cheaper cost than the Mitsubishi. It looks like someone has partially melted the Toyota's body, however.


Matt Robinson - 21 May 2016



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2016 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV drive. Image by Mitsubishi.2016 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV drive. Image by Mitsubishi.2016 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV drive. Image by Mitsubishi.2016 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV drive. Image by Mitsubishi.2016 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV drive. Image by Mitsubishi.

2016 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV drive. Image by Mitsubishi.2016 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV drive. Image by Mitsubishi.2016 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV drive. Image by Mitsubishi.2016 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV drive. Image by Mitsubishi.







 

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