Features
29 oct 18

First Drive – Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV MY19: the affordable diesel SUV alternative

Mitsubishi could not have chosen a better timing to launch the enhanced Outlander PHEV. SUV sales are still climbing, diesel is declining, and the WLTP is taking its toll in ICE land. By increasing the capacity of its battery, the new Outlander PHEV safeguards its fiscal advantages while becoming an attractive alternative for 4x4 diesel SUV buyers.

Since the first generation of Mitsubishi’s plug-in hybrid Outlander was launched in 2013, the relatively small OEM managed to sell 100,000 units in the EU. The majority went to Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the UK. It was the first car that meant a breakthrough for the Japanese brand in European fleets, which adopted the Outlander PHEV for its attractive fiscal properties all wrapped up in a likeable SUV outfit.

First EV, then ICE

The basic concept of this electrified SUV is one that focuses on the electrical part rather than the internal combustion engine. That makes the Outlander entirely different from its competitors – if there are any to be found in this segment. Whereas rivals from Volvo and Volkswagen add a battery to an existing engine, Mitsubishi started with the electric powertrain and then added a combustion engine.

One that is more efficiency than performance focused – yet another differentiator. In this respect, the Outlander is closer to the Toyota Grand Prius+, but the latter remains faithful to a non-pluggable 1-kWh battery, limiting its electric range to just a few km. The Mitsu can travel 54 km on a single charge (NEDC 2.0), thanks to is 10-per cent bigger energy storage unit (13.8 kWh).

Its new 2.4 petrol engine mainly acts as a generator to feed the battery, but it can also give an extra push while accelerating. Its maker claims it has more torque and creates less noise – something we can confirm after a 110-km test drive in the Dutch Limburg province. We drove 70 per cent on electricity and burnt 4.3 l/100 km on mainly scenic and winding roads, incidentally.

40 g/km under NEDC 2.0

All these improvements translate into an impressively low CO2 rating of 40 g/km under the NEDC 2.0 system. Talking in WLTP terms, that’s 46 g/km. By way of comparison, the Volvo XC60 T8 emits between 48 and 54 g/km (NEDC 2.0), depending on the tyres chosen.  

The revised engine, but especially the bigger battery can take credit for this. It takes 5.5 hours at a 230V/ 10A household socket to charge it (4 hours if you have 16 Amps). This Mitsubishi has a USP up its sleeve: today, it is the only PHEV that can be DC fast-charged. You do have to find a ChaDeMo charger to use it, though. In theory, you can drive on e-power alone for 89 days in a row. On the 90th day, the ICE will come on to activate the catalyst, so it keeps its functionality.  

If you don't use motorways intensively, have access to charging infrastructure and are a committed charger, the Outlander PHEV can be an alternative to the Hyundai Santa Fe, the Kia Sorento, the Skoda Kodiaq and the VW Tiguan Allspace, to name a few. None of the latter offer a hybrid powertrain - which seems strange in today's world. These Korean and Germanic competitors do have a trump up their sleeve: the availability of 2 extra (jump) seats in the boot. The Outlander PHEV is only available as a 5-seater.

Quieter, smoother, but not premium

Our test drive taught us that Mitsubishi has taken customer feedback to heart. When you put your foot down, the combustion engine no longer howls and whines as much as it used to. Also, the seats offer better support. The dashboard makes a better impression, but the look and feel are still very unimaginative and – dare we say it? – American. That, together with mediocre ergonomics and an infotainment system that doesn't compare to the latest competition, is the Outlander's main weakness.      

Also on the minus list is the rigid equipment policy. We were surprised to see that AEB does not come standard – that’s inexcusable for a €33k car and automatically means the loss of a fifth star under EuroNCAP’s 2018 rating system. The reason why we do like the revamped Outlander is that it has taught itself some more European driving manners. Also, the emphasis is clearly on comfort and on electric driving. It's the electric motor that gets assisted by the ICE, not the other way round - and that's how it should be in an eco-car.

PROS

  • More European driving characteristics
  • Up to 54 km of e-range, 40 g/km under NEDC 2.0
  • Comfort and eco-oriented: ICE supports "e"
  • DC fast charging available

CONS

  • "American" dashboard, interior look and feel
  • Restrictive equipment policy, AEB not standard
  • Connectivity and infotainment not up to date
  • Not available as a 7-seater

North-American success

Mitsubishi has been shipping its Outlander PHEV to America since 2017 - not a day too soon, looking at the sales surge of the brand since the start of 2018. Especially Canada seems fond of the non-premium plug-in SUV. Like in Europe, there was a gap on the market to be filled.

 

Authored by: Dieter Quartier