If you’re shopping for a compact SUV, then you’re certainly spoilt for choice. Whereas this segment was limited to a handful of players a few years ago, it has since grown exponentially and is likely to continue in this vein for a good few years to come. For a brand such as Mitsubishi, which tends to keep a low priority in the South African market, the rise of the compact SUV segment represents an ideal opportunity to grow its foothold. After all, this Japanese brand is an expert in SUVs, and has a long and proud history of producing some very solid, comfortable passenger vehicles, too. What is a compact SUV if not a marriage between these two types of the automobile? Meet the Mitsubishi Outlander...
Handsome looks for Mitsubishi OutlanderYou may remember the first-generation Mitsubishi Outlander… It was a quirkily styled contender that enjoyed limited success in South Africa but which was nevertheless highly rated for quality and reliability by its owners. The new Mitsubishi Outlander is a very different-looking machine. The lines are modern, crisp and significantly more upmarket than before. Large 18-inch alloy wheels are housed within puffed-up wheelarches, lending the Outlander a sporty, masculine stance. But it wouldn’t be a Mitsubishi if there wasn’t at least one quirk to be spotted – in this model’s case the very individualistic rear lamps. Overall, it’s a handsome vehicle that also manages to look expensive. Good going…
For the most part the cabin continues the good first impressions, although it is perhaps a bit sombre at first glance. The facia plastics are predominantly black, and the seats are upholstered in fine black leather, too. Also contributing to the “darkness” is privacy glass but at least there’s a sunroof that can let in some light. Perhaps Mitsubishi could’ve added some more brightwork here and there to break the monotony. The build quality, however, is exceptional. Yes, the plastics are hard to the touch and there are perhaps a few more variations of finishes that is wise, but note the tightness of the panel gaps and the solid feel of all the fittings. The Mitsubishi Outlander is a vehicle that promises great longevity.
Comfort levels are very high, whether you are seated in front or the rear. This has much to do with the comprehensive standard specification, which includes even such niceties as heated seats, radio/CD shuttle, cruise control, electrically adjustable driver seat, heated/folding exterior mirrors and rear-park assist. The safety specification is also good, with four airbags and even an electronic stability control system (including traction control). Of course, gadgets help little if the cabin is cramped, but this is certainly not the case with the Mitsubishi Outlander – rear legroom is very good, and the boot can accommodate 774-litres worth of luggage.
City slickerThe Mitsubishi Outlander is up against some fairly powerful competition but, on paper at least, its 125 kW 2,4-litre four-cylinder engine looks to be up to the task. The torque output of 226 Nm seems a bit low, though, especially as it is also developed fairly high up the rev range (4 100 rpm). This could point to low-speed sluggishness. In theory, however, the continuously variable transmission (CVT) mated to the engine should address this issue, as such transmissions aim to spin the engine at the optimal engine speed, all the time. Does it work?
In short, no.
The expected sluggishness at low speeds is not too pronounced, but the Mitsubishi Outlander never feels particularly energetic, and the dreary drone of its engine becomes tiring after a while. Of course, you can use the six-speed sequential mode to shift into the programmed “steps” of the transmission, but it doesn’t really address the issue – the Mitsubishi Outlander is likely to be a more pleasant drive with a normal automatic ‘box. So why not fit one, you may ask? Well, CVTs are also claimed to be more efficient than normal automatics, but even in this regard we’re not convinced. The fuel consumption figure of 10,2 L/100 km is not too bad, but the reality is that a truer reflection of the engine’s average consumption would be a figure of around 11 L/100 km…
The Mitsubishi Outlander is equipped with an all-wheel drive system with three modes, the default of which sends power to the front wheels to improve fuel consumption. Then there’s also an on-demand four-wheel drive mode that will transfer power elsewhere when slip is detected at the front, and finally a setting to lock the power distribution into a 50:50 split. So, yes, the Outlander is not completely witless when faced with a spot of light off-roading. In fact, with a ground clearance of 210 mm, it generally performs admirably.
But Mitsubishi knows that off-roading is not really on the agenda for most likely buyers. For that reason the Mitsubishi Outlander has been honed for an exceptional performance on tar. Boasting a multi-link rear suspension set-up and a firm, but supple ride characteristic, the Mitsubishi Outlander exhibits passenger car-like stability and comfort. The cabin is also quiet, with road and mechanical noise not really intruding into the cabin at all.
Mitsubishi Outlander - VerdictThe new Mitsubishi Outlander is a very carefully thought-out contender. Mitsubishi has done its homework and is well-aware of the usage patterns of a vehicle such as this. Consequently, the Mitsubishi Outlander has been tuned to deliver a very good showing where it matters most (on the road), yet still retains a measure of off-road ability. In fact, if it wasn’t for the unimpressive transmission it probably would’ve shot straight to the top of this segment!
- Attractive design
- Standard features list
- Spacious cabin
- Build quality
- CVT box
- Fuel economy
Engine: 2,4-litre, four-cylinder, petrol
Power: 125 kW @ 6 000 rpm
Torque: 226 Nm @ 4 100 rpm
Wheels: 18-inch alloy
Top speed: 190 km/h
0-100 km/h: 10,6 seconds
Fuel economy: 10,2 litres/100 km
- Subaru Forester 2,5 XT Premium Sportshift : Somewhat awkward looking since its previous facelift, but in XT trim the Forester is a real flier that also offers what is probably the best ride/handling set-up of any compact SUV. But it’s thirsty and rather pricey.
- Nissan X-Trail 2,5 4x4 SEL Auto: The current generation X-Trail must be nearing the end of its lifecycle but continues to impress. It certainly has the power and off-road ability, as well as a charming cabin with lots of toys. But it lacks the polish of some newer rivals, including the Outlander.
- Honda CR-V 2,0 RVSi Auto: Honda’s CR-V has built itself an enviable reputation for quality and practicality, so although this particular model is down on power, it remains worthy of consideration. The standard features package is very comprehensive.