Before you delve into the rest of this review, you’ll be pleased to know that you’re not going mad and you don’t need to make an appointment with your optician – the Outlander does look almost identical to two mid-size French SUVs, the Citroen C-Crosser and the Peugeot 4007. This is because PSA, the French firm who own the Peugeot and Citroen brands, wanted to enter the SUV fray and when they heard that Mitsubishi was developing an all-new Outlander, the three of them entered into an agreement. The Outlander formed the core model, the Frenchies being derived from it – so much so that the three vehicles would be aesthetically inseparable from the outside were it not for their different faces. When the new Outlander first went on sale in 2007, its face was different to our test car’s, as Mitsubishi facelifted it to give it the firm’s new family face, akin to the ASX, or a stretched version of the EVO. Although the Citroen and Peugeot efforts look pretty good in my view, I still ultimately prefer the front-end of the Mitsubishi, which looks suitably aggressive and modern.
The fresh-faced Outlander isn’t going to set the world alight with its design and couldn’t really be described as sexy in the same way that the Range Rover Evoque could, for example – but in my view it certainly has much more appeal than the Qashqai, X-Trail and many other mid-size crossover SUVs. The sloping rear windows are the only things that break up the rather oblong-looking side profile, but I like the LED rear lights and think the latest Outlander looks great from the front three-quarters and face-on. The front has a ‘jet fighter’ air about it and is finished off well by the sleek headlights and recessed fog lights. Okay, the general look may be a tad plain especially as your eyes wander along to the rear, but it works well nevertheless and has the right image to back up its intentions. I thought the Shogun I drove in December looked great in Granite Brown, and so does the Outlander. It hides dirt and road grime very well, looks classy in various settings and goes especially well with a beige interior, although this may prove a mean feat to keep clean!
I was impressed from the moment I sat in the Outlander. The front seats are very comfortable indeed and are a very nice place to be, especially when clad in the lovely, soft-but-tough beige leather this press car was endowed with. The driver’s seat is fully electrically adjustable, including height-wise – but considering the price tag, it surprised me that the passenger seat was only manually adjustable. Support from the front seats is great, as is visibility across the long bonnet. The ride height itself didn’t feel all that high, though, making the Outlander feel more like a mildly-jacked-up estate car. This tallies with the Outlander being built on a car-based construction shared with the ASX and Lancer as it happens, unlike its hardcore big brother, the Shogun.
The quality of the dashboard and door cards is very good on the whole, going some way to justify the price tag and placate people who plumped for an Outlander as a compromise as they couldn’t afford more premium, luxurious rivals. Where other mainstream crossover SUVs have deployed cheap plastics, the Outlander uses faux-leather, which actually conned me as the real deal, so obviously looks and feels good with its elegant stitching detail. The metal-look plastics used on the doors and around the gear level are a bit cheap if you really scrutinise them, but I must say that they’re slightly higher quality than in some other comparable cars, so they’re not all bad. The conventional handbrake is a bit on the hard side but the leather steering wheel and soft leather gear lever really are comfortable.
Ergonomically, all the controls are by and large where you would intuitively expect to find them. But once again, the Outlander is yet another car which hasn’t positioned the trip computer toggle on the end of one of the stalks. Instead, Mitsubishi have stuck a button labelled ‘INFO’ onto the dashboard, somewhat obscured behind the right-side of the steering wheel. Only a tiny complaint, though. The actual multi-function trip computer display is excellent, with nice colourful bars for the engine temperature and remaining fuel range, with a live MPG bar and helpful hints as to when to shift up or down for improved efficiency.
An area in which I felt the Outlander unfortunately looked a bit cheap inside is when it came to the climate control system, which is controlled using three very chunky dials instead of buttons. Okay, it’s different and helps the Outlander’s dashboard stand out, but I never liked this style of blingy rotary controls when they were used in the original Lexus IS. The areas to the right and left of the hazard light button could be used better too, taken up currently by the airbag lights. Otherwise, although not as luxurious as say an Evoque or an XC60, the front of the Outlander is generally a very nice place to be.
As per the Shogun, the colour, touchscreen sat nav, audio and telephone system sits at the top of the centre console in the Outlander and is generally easy to use, but the interface looked a little datedcompared to some other manufacturers’ efforts, as did the HDD sat nav. It all works acceptably though and although the quality of hands-free phone calls was a bit tinny at both ends, the 710W, 9-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio system with its gigantic subwoofer in the boot sounded great, so should help keep your children or music-loving adult passengers entertained.
Practically-speaking, the Outlander excelled in two further areas. Firstly, the front cabin features two gloveboxes, the upper being air-cooled and the lower being lockable. Winner! Also, the tailgate splits Range-Rover-style, allowing you to more easily load-in large items, or even use it as a seat if you want. Finishing off the practical package are the independently sliding and reclining middle row seats and the wing mirrors which auto-fold when you lock the car.
A true 7-seater?
Not really, no. The Outlander is definitely more of a 5+2 vehicle, with the ‘Fold2Hide’ rear-most seats being more suited to part-time use. They are fairly easy to erect using the straps you need to pull, but the actual seats themselves are quite thin, not offering much padding for long distances, and are rather bolt upright, with large headrests. Warranted, smaller children may love being positioned back there in their own special den, but as they get older, they would likely find the two rear seats pretty restrictive in various ways – as would less agile, older occupants. What is great, though, is that the middle row of seats folds electrically at the touch of a button in the boot, saving you having to walk from the boot round to the rear doors to fold the seats flat. Another very positive thing to note is that even Usain Bolt might be able to sit in the back of the Outlander, as legroom is very ample and headroom is pretty good too – so a high score for room in the back.
And out on the road?
The 2.2-litre turbocharged intercooled Direct Injection Diesel (Di-D) MIVEC engine fires into life quite discretely and is certainly quieter than others I’ve driven lately. Impressively, this is the first diesel car in the world to feature variable valve timing, which improves fuel consumption and increases power, whilst at the same time reduces CO2 emissions. The clutch is fairly good and feels very nice for the majority of the time, except perhaps when stuck in crawling traffic for over an hour, and the 6-speed manual gearbox was lovely. True, smooth gear shifting is often down to the driver, but certain gearboxes make it easier than others, and I really didn’t have any issues with the Outlander’s. Shifting was made more comfortable courtesy of the central armrest in the front, which slides forwards if you wish to use it for left-arm support. Ooh, and talking of the front armrest, the storage compartment it hides is suitably large and free of any annoying protrusions. It’s just a nice, simple, deep and oblong box, and also features USB, 12V and video sockets for all us gadget-obsessed folk of today. Visibility is good, aided by the large wing mirrors, ample windows and the reverse parking camera. It’s a safe car, too, with front, side and window airbags, plus M-ASTC Active Stability and Traction Control systems.
If you do decide to explore off-road in the Outlander, you’ll be reassured in the knowledge that its on-demand AWC system is derived from the firm’s legendary Lancer Evolution, so has real rallying foundations, giving Outlander drivers the confidence to take on all weathers with good traction, safety and stability, whether it be snow, ice, in heavy rain, on muddy, rocky terrain, or even for grippy performance in the dry.
On the move, the engine note really didn’t bother me. Sure, you know it’s a diesel, especially when in the lower gears, but once you reach speeds of 20mph plus, it settles down to a very acceptable sound in my opinion and almost sounded like some less refined petrol engines – which is a good thing when you consider that it’s a diesel, hulking a fairly large car around. The only noise that did annoy me was a fairly constant squeak from the boot, which I didn’t manage to pinpoint. This was obviously isolated to this particular test car, though. The Outlander performed well at both town and motorway speeds and handled winding country roads well too. Be honest, not many Outlander owners are going to throw theirs around corners like Carlos Sainz, so unless you really push it, you won’t notice too much body roll or the slight understeer – especially if you turn the BMW iDrive-esque knob by the gear lever so it’s set to 4WD Lock mode, which divides the power up to 50:50 between the front and back wheels. Just note that the suspension has a fairly hard and firm setup, which can make the ride sometimes a little uncomfortable on badly-surfaced town streets.
The Outlander drove perfectly well in 2WD mode, but when I selected 4WD Lock mode, it did feel more planted on the road, with improved traction and stability in twisty corners. Mitsubishi have cited the Outlander 2.2 DI-D manual’s combined fuel economy as 43.5mpg and I was certainly impressed, as I managed to regularly achieve 41mpg when driving sensibly. Even when deploying my right foot more aggressively, I still managed 38mpg, which isn’t bad considering its size and weight. These figures were generally in 2WD mode, though, and reduced by about 1mpg when the car was set to 4WD Lock.
Throttle lag does make swift gear changes sound overly revvy, so it’s doubtful that you would often choose to achieve the Outlander’s quoted 9.8 seconds to reach 62mph, or indeed experience its top speed of 124mph. But with 174bhp, the MIVEC engine will be great for trailer or caravan owners and should leave the majority of its drivers relatively impressed. And with over 95% of the Outlander being recyclable, it will leave the green-minded with a sense of satisfaction too. By comparison, the 162g/km CO2 emissions from the 2.2 litre diesel 4WD Outlander are 15g/km less than the 2.2 litre diesel KIA Sorento I tested last week.
If you’re on the hunt for a discrete, unpretentious, frugal, mid-size crossover SUV for your busy suburban family or for life in fairly tame rural surroundings and you want a bit of luxury without going over the top, the Outlander could well be for you. Friends, neighbours and others will regularly ask you why it looks the exact same as the Peugeot and Citroen except from the front, but once they sit in the front or middle row of seats, they will likely be fairly impressed. As will you, by the economy that can be achieved from driving it efficiently. The Outlander balances a mild dose of real off-road ability and winter safety with estate-car reality, so has wide appeal in that regard. Build quality should prove very good from the Mitsubishi and it certainly beats the Qashqai hands-down in the looks department in my opinion. But with quite a lot of competition out there from the likes of Land Rover, Nissan, Hyundai, KIA and others, you’ll just need to make your own mind up as to whether the close-to-£30k price tag is worth it for this GX4 specification model. I certainly think it’s worthy of consideration, but if you want to spend a bit less and aren’t as bothered about luxury and gadgets, check out the GX2 and GX3 spec Outlanders too.
© Oliver Hammond
Motoring Writer, Road Test Reviewer & Car Consultant
Specification of Mitsubishi Outlander 2-2 DI-D Manual GX4 Tested
Engine: 2.2 litre (2,268cc) electronically controlled direct injection diesel
Max Speed: 124mph
0-62mph 9.8 seconds
Max Torque: 380Nm @ 2,000 (Nm/rpm)
Quoted MPG: 34.9 Urban, 50.4 extra urban, 43.5 combined
Emissions: 169g/KM CO2
VED Band: H
Insurance Group: 12E
BIK Taxation: 27%
Length: 4,665mm, Width: 1,800mm, Height: 1,680mm, Wheelbase: 2,670mm
Luggage capacity: 1,691 litres with the seats folded, 220 litres with 7 seats erected
Gross Weight: 2,410kg
Max Tow Weight: 2,000kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 60 litres
18″ alloy wheels with premium finish
ABS with EBD
Bluetooth hands-free kit
Leather shift knob & handbrake lever
Upper dashboard & door trim stitched leather-look trim
Front dual airbags
Height adjustable driver’s seat
HID headlamps with washers and auto-levelling
Adaptive Front lighting System (AFS)
Mitsubishi Active Stability and Traction
Hill Start Assist (HSA)
Rear spoiler with LED stop lamp
Electric folding door mirrors with side indicators
Front and rear electric windows
Climate control air conditioning
Central locking including tailgate
Rear parking sensors
Windscreen wiper rain sensor
Chrome door entry guards
Leather-faced seats (front & 2nd row)
Heated front seats with powered driver’s seat
HDD satellite navigation system
Rockford Fosgate 710W audio system (9 speakers)
12 volt accessory sockets
One-touch folding 2nd row seats
Fold 2 Hide 3rd row seats
iPod / MP3 AUX port / USB connection
Side and curtain airbags