Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV SUV
Price £34,304 - £45,554
- Cheap for a hybrid
- Exempt from road tax
- Excellent fuel economy
- Batteries reduce boot space
- Looks same as standard Outlander
- Conventional model is better to drive
At a glance
“The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is a hybrid SUV that majors on its impressive fuel economy and CO2 emissions, yet its range of talents runs beyond efficiency alone.”
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) bucks the four-wheel-drive SUV trend: traditionally, you’d have to put up with high running costs and comparably low fuel economy if you wanted the high ride height and great visibility of an SUV, but that's not the case with the Outlander PHEV, which has claimed fuel economy of 158.9mpg.
If you’re considering an Outlander PHEV, you may well be looking at conventional SUVs like the Kia Sportage and Hyundai Santa Fe, yet if an economical plug-in hybrid is your priority, the Volkswagen Golf GTE and Audi A3 e-tron are worth considering. If you’ve got the extra cash, meanwhile, the Volvo XC90 T8 is an excellent plug-in hybrid SUV, even if it's roughly twice the price of the Outlander. Overall, the PHEV's impressive economy and clever power system make it a far more attractive car than the standard Mitsubishi Outlander.
The Outlander PHEV works slightly differently to a normal car. Under the bonnet there's a conventional 2.0-litre petrol engine that drives the front wheels, but also charges up a series of lithium batteries. These, in turn, power a pair of electric motors, one of which helps the petrol engine power the front wheels, while the other powers the rear wheels – making the Outlander PHEV a true four-wheel-drive car, capable of light-to-medium off-roading. The combined power of the engine and motors is 200bhp, while 0-62mph takes 11 seconds – hardly earth-shattering performance, but sufficient for everyday driving.
The Outlander PHEV uses its combination of petrol and electric power to return a staggering 158.9mpg, while CO2 emissions of just 42g/km mean you won’t pay a penny in road tax, nor be liable for the London Congestion Charge. In reality, few Outlander PHEV owners are able to match this fuel consumption, but you should expect over 50mpg, while 90mpg is possible if you mix petrol and electric-powered driving.
On longer journeys, the petrol engine either powers the Outlander PHEV's front wheels or acts like a generator, charging the batteries. At faster road speeds, meanwhile, the batteries and engine work together to power the car, while in electric-only mode the Outlander PHEV can run silently for up to 32 miles – although hills, cold weather and using systems like the air-conditioning will adversely affect this range. In addition to this clever arrangement, Mitsubishi has made the car's brakes ‘regenerative’. This means that when they’re applied, the energy generated by the braking force is fed back to the batteries, providing further charge.
Yet the cleverness doesn’t end there: the ‘plug-in’ aspect of the Outlander PHEV means its batteries can be charged using a domestic electricity supply. This takes about five hours from a standard wall socket, or three-and-a-half hours if you get an upgraded connection installed at your house. Dedicated charging points, meanwhile, are becoming more and more common at motorway service stations, shopping centres and the like; find one of these and you can charge the Outlander PHEV's batteries to 80% capacity in about 30 minutes.
If you use the Outlander PHEV for commuting and manage the round trip on electric power only, the engine won’t get a chance to recharge the batteries; fortunately, though, a full charge from your home supply will only cost about £1. This, coupled with a low 7% Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax rate, makes the Outlander PHEV an attractive prospect – especially as a company car – and goes some way to explaining why it's the best-selling plug-in hybrid in the UK.
There's no doubting the Outlander PHEV is a clever car but, despite all this advanced technology, it's reassuringly simple to use and drives much like a conventional SUV. There's a touch of body lean in corners and the extra weight of the batteries means bumps in the road cause more intrusion than is ideal, but other than that it's an enjoyable car to drive, as long as you’re not after a particularly involving experience. Due to the combination of petrol and electric power, the Outlander PHEV is automatic only – there's no manual gearbox available.
Inside, aside from a colour display illustrating how the engine and motors are working, the Outlander PHEV has a conventional – if somewhat unexciting – dashboard. It's comfortable, light and airy, while the switches for the heating and ventilation work as you’d expect, even if some of the plastics used feel a little low-rent. There's plenty of head and legroom for front and rear-seat passengers, while the 463-litre boot is reasonable, if not exceptional.
Mitsubishi offers the Outlander PHEV in five trim levels, staring with GX3h and rising through GX4h, GX4hs, GX5h and GX5hs. All cars come with alloy wheels, air-conditioning, keyless entry, cruise control and automatic wipers. There's also a clever smartphone app (standard on all but the entry-level GX3h model) that allows you to view the PHEV's charge status and pre-heat the interior, should you wish.
The Outlander PHEV scored the full five stars in its Euro NCAP safety assessments, so it should be a very safe car. It should also be reliable: despite its complicated nature, owners have reported few problems. Mitsubishi's 15th-place finish for reliability (out of 32 brands) in our 2016 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey is reasonable, although the manufacturer finished a disappointing 31st overall, with in-car technology being a particular bugbear; having struggled with the Outlander PHEV's sat-nav system, it's clear this is an area Mitsubishi needs to work on.
With prices starting at around £30,000 and low fuel bills, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is cheap to buy and run
Clever Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV never feels quick, but silent electric running is novel
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is quieter than the conventional car, but the interior is a bit drab
Hybrid technology in the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV barely harms practicality
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is very safe and should be reliable