The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is a roomy SUV that’s very economical for short journeys if you can plug it in to charge the battery – it’s just a shame it looks a bit drab and doesn’t drive that well
If you want a chunky SUV that combines practicality, a high driving position and great fuel economy around town, then it’s well worth considering the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.
The main difference between the Outlander PHEV (which stands for plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) and the normal diesel-engined Outlander is that the PHEV can drive emissions-free for around 30 miles thanks to its electric motors, which are backed up by a petrol engine for long-distance driving and when you run out of battery charge.
Those batteries underneath the boot floor mean you lose the standard Outlander’s seven-seat option, but the PHEV’s five-seat interior is still spacious. It’s not stylish or particularly modern though – all models get a slow and fiddly to use infotainment touchscreen, the cabin’s design is bland and the silver joystick you use to control the automatic gearbox feels cheap and plasticky.
Another surprisingly basic failing is the limited range of adjustment for the steering wheel, which can leave your arms feeling a bit stretched out if you’re tall and need to have the seat quite far back. Things in the rear are better – lots of shoulder and foot room means you’ll comfortably fit three tall adults on the rear seats, which also recline individually for extra comfort on long trips.
The PHEV’s boot is roomy too, despite the batteries robbing it of about 20-per-cent of the normal Outlander’s boot space. It’ll still hold a baby buggy or set of golf clubs, and you can easily carry a bicycle with both wheels still attached if you flip the rear seats down.
All the impressive high-tech hybrid stuff is hidden under the Outlander PHEV’s skin – inside and out it looks like any ordinary SUV
The Outlander PHEV’s unique selling point is what powers it – a 2.0-litre petrol engine and two electric motors driving all four wheels will let you drive for around 30 miles on electric power alone, after which you can drive on petrol power, use the petrol engine to recharge the batteries or just stop and plug the car in for more juice.
This combination of motors and engine is at its most efficient around town, where the petrol engine is barely used. You still won’t get near the official 166mpg fuel economy figure, but you’ll do far better than when you head out onto the motorway and get about 40mpg as the petrol engine does most of the work.
Stick to town driving and you’ll appreciate the smooth standard-fit automatic gearbox, although otherwise the Outlander PHEV is not particularly good to drive – the weight of the batteries means it can crash over bumps rather than smooth them out, it leans a bit in fast corners and the cabin is quite noisy at high speeds.
Safety should be good though – the Outlander PHEV earned a five-star Euro NCAP crash-test score in 2013. The tests have got stricter since then, but the safety kit added to the car in 2017 should help keep you safe.
What hasn’t changed over the years is the Outlander PHEV’s appeal as a large family SUV that’s very economical so long as you do short journeys and can charge it at either end of your trip. If you do longer trips, however, the Skoda Kodiaq is a more practical and likely more economical SUV.