Road test: Sensible Outlander avoids the outlandish

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IF cars could have middle child syndrome then that would be the fate of the Mitsubishi Outlander diesel.

Sandwiched between the Outlander PHEV Plug-in Electric Hybrid and the tough Shogun off-roaders, it must truly be the neglected child of the Mitsubishi range. It’s not a status the car deserves because it’s good at what it does – providing family transport for seven at what passes for affordable prices these days.

Even better is that under Mitsubishi’s scrappage scheme you can get another £3,500, including VAT, off the list price if you have an ageing car for trade-in. It’s worth thinking about because the Outlander is the third generation model to carry the name and has a stunning 4×4 pedigree. In fact Mitsubishi has sold more than a million of them since 2001, proving its strong presence in the global car market.

Buy one and you could be comfortably rubbing shoulders with landed gentry at the Mitsubishi-sponsored Badminton Horse Trials or become associated with England Rugby stars currently part of a major sponsorship deal with the car company that’s putting a huge amount into player development around the country.

Gloucestershire, the company’s base, is home to both Badminton and the Gloucester premier league rugby team so the connections are obvious ones to make; more so as rival marque Land Rover sponsors Princess Anne’s Gatcombe Park horse trials just down the road from Mitsubishi’s Cirencester HQ and put a fleet of Discovery Sport models at the disposal of the Rugby World Cup teams when the event was based at Twickenham.

But even in these days of “celebrity” there are better reasons for buying the Outlander diesel. Principle among them is the third row of seats in the boot, where the PHEV has its battery stowage. Another good reason might be its ability to tow two tonnes – the PHEV can only manage 1.5 tonnes and that might not be enough for a heavy horsebox, twin axle caravan, or boat.

The downside is that only a spacesaver spare lurks under the car, insufficient wilderness insurance for a true off-roader.

Family budgets might also appreciate that at a whisker more than £34,000 the Outlander is considerably less than the Land Rover Discovery, which has list prices starting at around £10,000 more but is slightly larger and tows 3.5 tonnes. The Outlander lies between the Discovery and Discovery Sport on dimensions and shares its pricing roughly with the latter. So the Mitsubishi brings greater size but less badge kudos. Sadly that may have more influence than it deserves.

It also now looks a little old-fashioned compared with some rivals, so buyers need to decide whether sharp, sometimes outlandish, looks or tough credentials are more important. If it’s the latter then the Outlander should sway the argument.

Its shape is sensible and boxy although when it came to fitting a large item into the boot the curved shape of the opening restricted what would fit. But probably more of interest with this Outlander is the usefulness of the seven seats.

Inside the Mitsubishi Outlander

The middle row needs nudging forward to make space for the pair of seats in the boot to be raised. Doing so doesn’t restrict the leg space for the middle row so tall passengers can comfortably sit behind tall front seat occupants. However, the third row is best suited to children as the legroom, and the all-important clamber in, are best suited to agile yet small people.

Quite a few off-roaders suffer from exaggerated pitch and wallow because of long travel suspension or a harsh ride through efforts to stiffen up the springs. Mitsubishi has found a middle route, a seemingly perfect compromise that keeps everyone happy. Switching between 4×4 modes is also easy, completed by push button and demanding even less effort than the now familiar rotary dial favoured by many makes.

The test car had a 2.2 litre diesel engine coupled to a six speed automatic gearbox, a combination that works well. The car feels spirited to drive despite its meagre 147 bhp and handles well if you give it some welly – it’s practical enough to drive in your wellies, too. The downside is that fuel consumption never seems to better an average 37 mpg so don’t deceive yourself with dreams of reaching the quoted 48.7 combined figure.

Instead, rest content in the knowledge that you have a medium size SUV from a maker with a reputation for tough and durable off-road hardware. That is, after all, what this car is all about.

Maurice and Annette Hardy

Car: Mitsubishi Outlander 4 2.2 DI-D Auto

Does it fit your ego…

0-62 mph: 11.6 secs

Top speed: 118 mph

Bhp: 147 @ 3500 rpm

Torque: 265 lb ft @ 1500 – 2750 rpm

…and your wallet…

Price: £34,055

Combined: 48.7 mpg

CO2 emissions: 154 g/km

Best bits: does all that it says on its SUV tin

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