The classic cars from the ‘70s and ‘80s you want to save from extinction the most
Mitsubishi Outlander review (2012 onwards)
What - Mitsubishi Outlander
Date - June 2012
Where - Mainz, Germany
Price - £23,500 - £32,000 (est)
Available - November 2012
Key rivals - Hyundai Santa Fe, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV-4
Summary - New, greener Outlander marks out Mitsubishi's new direction. Will anyone notice?
MSN Cars' best 4x4s
Read more Mitsubishi car reviews
We like - Tonnes of space, comfortable, refined and economical. Interior quality improved
We don't like - Occasionally unsettled ride, not as good to look at as its predecessor
The Mitsubishi what? Fair enough - it sells in tiny numbers in the UK and Mitsubishi's ambitions for the third generation Outlander are still pretty modest over here: the British importer is targeting a 25% sales increase, to 4,000 cars per year. The new Outlander isn't the most hotly anticipated car of 2012 then.
However, it's the first mainstream volume production car to be engineered from the drawing board with internal combustion and plug-in hybrid tech in mind, boldly going where no other medium-sized crossover has gone before. So it's a significant car for the company, signalling a greener direction which Mitsubishi calls 'the next frontier'.
Solid, simple and safe is how Mitsubishi describes the new car
Solid, simple and safe is how Mitsubishi describes the new car's design philosophy and, aestheticallyspeaking, that's bang on. Eyeing up the slab-sided Outlander won't elicit pangs of desire, bereft as it is of visual tension and the Evo-style nose of the outgoing car. However, lacking rugged off-roader appeal it may be, but those pebble smooth edges are at least functional - contributing to a 7% reduction in drag compared to the old model.
With just the 4WD 2.2 turbo-diesel model on offer to UK buyers for now, the new Outlander range should be a breath of fresh air for the terminally indecisive. A plug-in hybrid with, remarkably, sub-50g/km CO2 credentials is on the cards, but doesn't arrive until 2013, so it's the 148bhp 2.2 turbo diesel we're testing here.
It's a big car, the Outlander - a size up from Mitsubishi's Qashquai-rivalling ASX crossover - but thanks to a diet, 100kg lighter than the old one. And with turbo boost tweaked for better low down torque, the outwardly hefty Outlander can be hustled along at a decent lick without really breaking sweat.
In typical diesel fashion though, the lion's share of grunt arrives in an urgent spurt between 1,700 and 2,500rpm. If you want to press on, it's best to keep the 148bhp unit on the boil, which means frequently stirring the six-speed manual 'box on twisty, undulating roads. It's not the quickest shift action, but it's accurate enough.
The six-speed auto makes for smoother progress, despite over-zealous gearbox software which down-changes keenly at the merest hint of right pedal - a touch tiresome in the ebb and flow of A-road traffic. It's possible to claw back a degree of control using the steering wheel paddles, but there's a notable performance penalty for choosing the self-shifter, being 1.5 seconds adrift of the manual in the sprint to 62mph.
Mitsubishi engineers have been busy improving the Outlander's refinement and NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) with a host of tweaks, including new engine mounts, thicker glass and sound deadening. And it shows - it's a hushed cabin to spend time in, with engine and wind noise well suppressed. Only a bit of turbulence around the Outlander's large wing mirrors intrudes at motorway speeds.
Ride and handling
Given the quasi-MPV remit, B-road thrills aren't the order of the day here - the Outlander's raison d'être being to cart a family about in comfort. And the new car makes a decent stab of it.
The ride is largely comfortable and well-damped
The ride is largely comfortable and well-damped, with decent body control - up to a point. Lumbering into a corner too quickly leaves you in no doubt as to the size of the thing: it'll heel over noticeably. But it's still a relatively relaxed, composed drive, passive rear steer helping pull it cleanly and securely through tighter radius corners. The electric power steering, while accurate, is characteristically devoid of feel and a touch light: a bit more weight would inspire confidence at speed.
Things unravel a bit on broken surfaces and transverse motorway ridges, where the ride can feel unsettled and fidgety. That could prove more irksome on UK roads than on the German launch route - but we'll have to wait until November to drive the new car over here.
Mitsubishi isn't a brand dripping with prestige - its stock-in-trade has always been unpretentious, utilitarian cars in the mould of the L200 and Shogun. Plasticky interiors have tended to go hand in hand with this - but the new Outlander bucks the trend with a smart cabin featuring plenty of soft-touch surfaces. Some cheap materials remain, but it's a cut above the old car.
There's a third row of seats as before
By definition, crossovers are mongrels: part MPV and part off-roader. The latest Outlander has the MPV side of the equation nailed - it's vast inside, with a van-like 1,022 litres of space when the rear seats are folded. Engineers have also managed the clever packaging trick of making it more spacious than the outgoing car, while occupying the same footprint.
There's a third row of seats as before, which fold into the floor - but this time with more legroom for the rearmost passengers. Access to the back row isn't particularly easy unless the second row is either folded flat or pulled right forward, but up front, driver and passenger are spoiled for space - shoulder room is great, with cubbys and storage a-plenty.
Launch cars were typically loaded to the roof rails with equipment - including lane departure warning, collision mitigation, touchscreen satnav and leather. Mitsubishi hasn't revealed UK specs yet - but the trim choices are likely to mirror the current line-up, which ranges from entry-level GX2 to GX4 spec. The bells-and-whistles GX5 is likely to come in at £32k-plus, a touch more than the current top-spec GX4.
Given its new planet-hugging direction, it's no surprise Mitsubishi is pushing the economy credentials of the new Outlander, and a combined figure of 50.4mpg (for the manual version) is competitive for the class, particularly given the size and equipment levels on offer.
Thanks to the more slippery shape, plus weight-saving and engineering measures like 4WD Eco mode (which only sends power to the rear wheels in slippery conditions), CO2 emissions have also dropped to a more attractive 146g/km, which puts the Outlander several bands lower than the oil-burning Honda CR-V and Hyundai Santa Fe for company car tax.
We're not sure why Mitsubishi isn't going to offer the more economical 2WD version over here, though. Off-road ability isn't vital in the crossover sector and even stronger economy would help give the Outlander a showroom boost.
The MSN Cars verdict
Mitsubishi set out to make a greener, more refined and better quality Outlander for their third assault on the medium-sized crossover market - and it's largely succeeded. Subjectively at least, the new Outlander doesn't have the rugged looks this market sector superficially values, but the driving experience is decent, despite not being the last word in dynamism. The Outlander's trump cards are huge interior space, refinement and impressive economy.
|Need to know|
|Engines, diesel||2.2-litre turbo diesel|
|Torque, lb ft||280|
|0-62mph, secs||9.7 (manual) 11.2 (auto)|
|Top speed, mph||124|
|Mpg combined||50.4 (manual) 46.3 (auto)|
|CO2, tax||146 (manual), 159 (auto)|
related stories on msn
Latest Cars videos
On the road with the landmark Lambos for special golden anniversary drive.
Date 13/05/13, Duration 4:26, Views 8234