Road Test: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GX4hS
Like the Vauxhall Ampera, it's been a long time coming. Mitsubishi showed the PX-MiEV concept car back in 2011 and launched the car in Japan shortly afterwards, enjoying demand so strong that it had to double production to keep up. It arrived in Europe last year but, with substantial incentives for plug-in hybrids in Holland, the Dutch market soaked up most of the initial volume.
To give you some idea, of the 8,197 Outlanders imported into Europe last year, 8,009 were sold in Holland. Now it stands to enjoy the same success in the UK, thanks to a unique approach to pricing.
Thanks to a £5,000 plug-in car grant, the Outlander PHEV’s pricing is identical to the 2.2-litre diesel automatic. It means drivers can take advantage of the full suite of whole-life costs benefits for the new technology without having to offset it against the P11d price of the car itself. Other manufacturers take note.
So where’s the catch? The Outlander PHEV does have a reduced range, so there’s no entry-level GX2 trim as in the diesel and the drivetrain means there’s no space for a third row of seats. Otherwise, it’s the same car, and Mitsubishi even has a commercial version in the works – a chance to further shake up the market.
There isn’t even any sacrifice in terms of usability. The drivetrain offers fully electric four-wheel drive via two motors, one at each axle, with a simulated diff lock for rough terrain. Take the Outlander PHEV off road and it’s really only ground clearance that stops it creeping silently and confidently over muddy ruts. That’s true of most crossovers, though.
A 2.0-litre petrol engine will kick in to offer extra power for steep climbs, and provides a backup once its battery range of 30 miles is exhausted. Drivers can expect around 25 miles in real-world use, and it can reach 75mph on electric power which makes fuel-free motorway commutes a possibility if the destination is within range.
Once the battery is depleted, the Outlander PHEV drives like a normal hybrid, switching the engine on and off depending on the power required. It’s so quiet that it’s hard to detect there’s fuel leaving the tank, save for the mechanical whine under heavy load which is typical of Japanese petrol engines. Mitsubishi claims the engine will return 49mpg with the battery drained.
Mitsubishi has also been very sensible in terms of charging. Plug-in hybrids offer the biggest benefits over their conventionally powered counterparts when they’re run on electricity as frequently as possible. The Outlander PHEV has two charging ports, supporting domestic charging in around four hours or a rapid charge in less than half an hour, compatible with the Electric Highway points located at service stations up and down the country. Using the Charge mode on the centre console, the car can also charge its own battery while driving, though expect this to affect fuel economy.
Aside from the lack of a seven-seat option, there’s no alteration to luggage space. The square back end makes the Outlander a capacious load carrier and the rear bench folds flush with the boot floor, creating a large and very usable space.
Hybrid and electric vehicles can involve a lot of number-crunching to work out if they make financial sense, but the Outlander PHEV will be a no-brainer for a lot of those in the market for a large and tax-efficient family car.
Mitsubishi’s four-wheel drive heritage has long been associated with performance cars and pickup trucks. With government incentives, a clever approach to technology and high practicality on its side, the Outlander PHEV stands to put the manufacturer firmly on the fleet radar.
Type: Petrol-electric plug-in hybrid
Electric range: 32.5 miles
CO2 emissions (tailpipe): 44g/km
Charging port: J1772 AC & CHAdeMo DC