First Drive: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
Thing is, with electric cars, we’ve heard all of this before. Every single one seems to be launched with the claim it is a ‘game changer’. The problem is it’s a game not many customers are playing. This time though, it might actually be different.
A full charge takes eight hours and costs a pound, although a three-quarters charge can be done in half an hour, and if you are especially light footed, you can drive about 30 miles before a petrol engine kicks in, although mid 20s is more likely. This will suffice for most commutes, and Mitsubishi reckons for drivers doing more than about 90 miles a day most days, a diesel is a better bet.
Perhaps the biggest fillip for this car is that the entry-level GX3h Outlander PHEV is on sale for £28,249 after the Government grant. This is the same price as the Outlander diesel GX3 auto, and rewrites at a stroke the expectation for what a significantly electric-powered car (and by that I mean not a hybrid with a three mile range) should cost.
Currently attracting a benefit in kind rate of 5%, Mitsubishi claims a 40% tax payer will pay just £665 in a tax year at this level, which over three years could equate to a saving of many thousands of pounds over competitors cars. Certainly it’s a calculation every company car driver in the market for a £30,000 car should be doing for themselves.
If the sums stack up for those looking to save money it is a no-brainer, but the issue Mitsubishi will have is getting on choice lists quickly enough to take advantage of its market-leading position. Word is that the part-electric Golf, out later in the year, will be similarly price-competitive to its diesel counterpart, and so Mitsubishi will need to move fast to get terms in place and test drives done so the Outlander can be picked by company car drivers. But it is an effort worth making: it’s a genuinely enjoyable car to drive and for once, and probably the first time ever with electric cars, the environmental and economic benefits are clear to see.
The residual values providers have made fairly robust predictions too, which should see it compare to the diesel version. Mitsubishi also says it can get hold of as many PHEVs from the Japanese factory as it wants, and as such has no hard and fast volume targets for the car. If it goes well, the sky is the limit.
So how does it drive? Perhaps the biggest surprise is driving cross-country. You realise that even in refined diesel cars you make quite a racket, unlike the silent Outlander where you hear birds singing and twigs cracking under the tyres. If this is the future of cars, then it’s welcome: a proper four-wheel drive SUV with a big boot (the batteries are hidden in the car’s chassis), five seats, it will tow and drive through mud, and barely any emissions.
Once the green energy is spent, the switch between electric and petrol is far smoother than in most hybrids. Using an iPhone app you can control the cabin's temperature remotely and, if it's still plugged in, that power comes from the mains so driving range isn't compromised.
It’s not entirely perfect though, as the suspension is a touch on the stiff side, no doubt to counter the weight of the batteries, and the cabin is made of rather brittle-feeling plastics, but they are about the only downsides.
The Outlander PHEV is a genuinely appealing alternative for company car drivers, especially those looking for big tax savings. It drives nicely and has a useful EV range.
Type: Petrol-electric plug-in hybrid
Price: £28,249-£34,999 (after £5,000 plug-in car grant)
Electric range: 30 miles
CO2 emissions (tailpipe): 44g/km
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