By Paul Clarke
Model/Engine size: Mitsubishi Outlander GX4hs 2.0 PHEV Auto
Fuel: Petrol-Electric Plug-in Hybrid
Fuel economy combined: 156.9 mpg
100% useful: That’s the summary of what the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) has been like to live with on a day-to-day basis.
So why is this? Well, there are a number of reasons. Firstly, the Outlander PHEV is an electric car around town. So the school run, trips to the shops and other domestic duties can usually be carried out with zero tailpipe emissions. This means that you’re saving on petrol costs, you’re reducing CO2 emissions, and critically, you’re not pushing out emissions – NOx and particulates – that have a negative impact on local air quality.
All those environmental credentials are impressive in themselves, but the main benefit of the electric powertrain for the motorist is that the Outlander is just really good to drive. And that’s not just me saying that – my wife, who doesn’t like large cars, thinks the Outlander PHEV is “the best car ever”, as it’s quiet, refined, easy to drive, there’s instant torque, there’s no gear changing or clutch to be bothered with, and despite the car’s size, parking is easy due to the sensors being effective, and the reversing camera is really useful. The steering strikes a good balance between being light enough for city driving and being heavy enough not to ruin the overall driving experience. And the ride is comfortable most of the time.
All the above are genuine good points about the car, but the main thing about the Outlander is that it has been used as a workhorse – this wasn’t intentional, it’s just the role that it’s fitted into – and it has carried out this job highly effectively. Thanks to the huge amounts of space inside, it has provided transport for all sorts of things ranging from kids’ bikes to dogs – and often both. It has also been in service during a period when a move out of the house was necessitated by builders moving in – so it carried out duties as a removal van – a role which it again performed perfectly.
Perhaps the best example of the Outlander’s all-round practicality was the transport of three adults, two children, one dog and various sledges and rucksacks to a snowy hill in the Peak District. There aren’t that many vehicles that could average over 50mpg, emit zero emissions at low speeds, carry such quantities of people, animals and equipment, and negotiate snowy car parks with no problems.
But even everyday driving is better in the Outlander than in the average car. Most roads that I seem to end up driving on are full of potholes, and the Outlander, with its sensible tyre profiles and compliant suspension, soaks up the bumps with ease. The trade-off for driving a comfortable-riding SUV around town is usually the stigma associated with a ‘gas-guzzling 4×4’ – but this is an accusation that can’t be levelled at a 4×4 that can drive on electric power.
The Outlander PHEV also has one other trick up its sleeve – it can tow. Although we haven’t tested this, it has a towing capacity of 1500kg – which is very rare for an EV.
And there’s another subject that we need to report on: faults. The reason we haven’t reported on this so far is because there have been precisely zero faults with the car. And as at week 12 of our long-term test, that situation hasn’t changed. Not that this has surprised us – we weren’t expecting anything to break or drop off.
So what about niggles with the Outlander? Although the vehicle has genuinely proved to be 100% useful over 12 weeks in terms of practicality, surely some downsides will have come to light by now? We’ve already reported that our main recommendation for improvement on the next-generation Outlander would be an ‘EV lock’ button. We’ve been trying to drive on electric power as much as possible, but the petrol engine kicks in all too easily once on the move if the heating or ventilation is needed – and over a number of wet and cold winter months, the windscreen demister has been needed on numerous occasions – even if the cabin has been warmed up while the car has been charging. Thank goodness for the heated seats (and heated steering wheel) – these have helped to reduce the need for heating on cold winter mornings.
The driving position isn’t ideal for my personal preferences, as the steering wheel doesn’t come out far enough. We were very grateful for Mitsubishi telling us how to switch off the lane departure warning system for good, as these beeps were really annoying prior to that point, but we’re still left with the woman in the satnav, who shouts instructions at you in a very gruff manner. There’s a rumour that it’s possible to change this voice, but we haven’t fathomed out how to do that yet. And it has to be said that the satnav isn’t the best system around.
So overall the Outlander remains a vehicle that is extremely effective at merging the duties of an electric car with a hugely practical workhorse. It’s an extremely useful electric car, and is ideal for a household where there is already an efficient diesel car for long journeys, as the secret to happy PHEV ownership is using the vehicle as the maker intended – ie. as much driving for less than 20-30 miles between charges as possible, with occasional longer journeys if necessary. If you do primarily use the Outlander PHEV for longer journeys you’ll be disappointed with the fuel economy and you’ll be filling up with petrol very frequently, as there’s only a small fuel tank. And we’ve already established that the official 32.5 mile electric range has been hovering around 20 miles in real-life during the winter months – so this is down on what would be expected.
Is plugging in a charging cable for a few hours preferable to driving into a garage to refuel for a few minutes? Read our next report which looks at the subject of charging.
Before we sign off, another update on the Outlander’s fuel economy. The first time we reported on this subject we had averaged 60.6mpg after 8 weeks. After 10 weeks this had improved to 76.0mpg. After 12 weeks we’re down to 65.4mpg. The main reason for this is that we’ve had to move out of our house for the builders to move in and we’ve lost our home charging point, meaning that we’re currently having to use a charging lead and a ‘three pin plug’. But more about that in the next report…
Real-life economy: 65.4 mpg after 12 weeks
NEDC electric driving range: 32.5 miles
Real-life electric driving range: 20 miles after 12 weeks
Official CO2 emissions: 42 g/km
Green rating: VED band A (£0)
Weight: 1,845 kg
Company car tax liability (2015/16): 5%
Price: £35,999 (after the current UK government Plug-in Car Grant of £5,000).
Insurance group: 22E
Power: 200 bhp
Max speed: 106 mph
0-62mph: 11.0 seconds
Torque: 385 Nm