This could be the most affordable PHEV option in Europe if there wasn't a catch.
“Good things come to those who wait” is a saying that is particularly true in manufacturing. The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is a good example of that for more than one reason. First presented at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show, it is a 7-year-old project in an environment where most cars do not live beyond six years. Old, in this case, can also mean proven. And affordable. Allow us to explain.
Gallery: 2019 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV First Drive: Is It A Shocking Bargain?
Most engineers never buy a product that has been recently launched. They leave it to whom marketing teams like to call early adopters. They are the ones that pay more for the privilege of having it first not only in terms of price but also of possible defects. Whatever may go wrong with the starting production will blow in the hands of these pioneers. And engineers know that.
When years go by, blue-collar workers come with better ways to manufacture a car. Engineers conceive better parts and processes. Scale makes these parts cheaper and helps the price fall. A more affordable price makes production numbers grow. It is a virtuous circle of improvement only planned obsolescence brings to an end. When it doesn’t, we have vehicles such as the Outlander.
A brief introduction
Presented in 2012, the third-generation Outlander was a lucky one. Some months after its debut, it already boarded the boat of electrification with the Outlander PHEV at the 2012 Paris Motors Show. That is the option that still makes it look appealing in front of a continually renovating competition. Some of which still do not offer a plug-in option.
Despite being born from a struggling carmaker, bought in October 2016 by Nissan, it keeps on improving. The 2019 model year in Europe received a bigger battery pack. Instead of 12 kWh, it offers 13.8 kWh, a 15 percent improvement. The rear electric motor is more powerful, delivering 70 kW (94 hp) instead of the previous 60-kW (81-hp) unit. The front motor still has the same 60 kW the former PHEV offered. This video explains how the hybrid system works:
The previous iteration also had a smaller engine, a 2-liter four-pot that delivered 89 kW (119 hp). The current one is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that generates 99 kW (133 hp), but that is not really something appealing to EV fans. The more you avoid using the combustion engine, the better.
Having a familiar face is something that people avid for the newest car in town will surely avoid. The ones that do not care about that will have a vehicle that is still very pleasant to look at, even if outdated. The round lines of the Outlander do not match the square ones Mitsubishi chose to adopt more recently.
You feel the car’s age with more intensity in the interior. Its infotainment touchscreen is not exactly low, but more modern vehicles have it in a higher position. Unlike the exterior, there are straight lines everywhere, especially on the buttons around the central console. They help the Outlander look older than it actually is.
The design also demands that you have your windows closed when you use the windshield washer. If you do that driving and the windows are open, you’ll be washed along with the windshield.
Anyone in search of a roomy PHEV will feel this Mitsubishi is a good choice. A 6-feet tall passenger can sit behind a 6-feet tall driver, and not one of them will complain that they are squeezed in any way.
The dual-zone climate control helps couples with different perceptions of temperature – most of them – and there are air outlets for the back seat passengers not to fry on a hot day on the leather seats. Freezing on cold days is also something the car would not allow. Not only at the rear: The driver counts on a heated steering wheel for those situations.
The keyless system allows you to keep the keys in your pocket all the time to enter, turn on, and lock the car. It is almost a mandatory feature nowadays, we agree, but you always miss it whenever you get a vehicle that does not offer that.
Performance & Handling
The Outlander PHEV has a lot of power to ensure you travel at highway speeds with the ability to keep up the pace in any situation. Is there a long climb ahead? It will not slowly decelerate.
Whenever you need to take over, both the electric motor and the combustion engine push you with safety. In other words, you will not be pulling the steering wheel towards you in despair, in that common and instinctive attempt to make the car go faster. Just push the gas pedal, and everything will be fine.
Despite being an SUV, the Outlander is not a very tall vehicle. It looks more like a pumped-up station wagon that drives accordingly. The higher seating position does not recommend doing tight curves with it, but mostly for the feeling. The car itself would probably handle that with ease.
Seven airbags are part of what makes the Outlander PHEV a 5-star vehicle at Euro NCAP, tested back in 2013. IIHS tested it in 2019 and did not give it a Top Safety Pick rating, but it also did not go badly. Head restraint and seats, headlights, and ease of use for LATCH got the Average rating. All other evaluations resulted in a good grade.
Besides the airbags, the Outlander PHEV also offers blind-spot monitoring, pedestrian warning, lane-change assist, automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, and the standard tire-pressure monitor, traction and stability controls.
Technology and Connectivity
Despite looking outdated, the infotainment system is easy to use. It does not present pairing problems such as the ones Renault has with quite a few smartphones. Anyway, it does not offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto compatibility, which denounces it is not the most up-to-date system available.
Instead of being conceived to be efficient, the Outlander had to adapt to become a PHEV. It is heavy, at almost two tons – 1,880 kg, or 4,145 lb. It is still tall, which does not make it the most aerodynamic vehicle around. That said, the electric motor only helped it spend a little less gas than it would without the electric assistance.
That translated into short electric-only range on highways. Traveling between Porto and Lisbon, where we picked up the car, we would have to stop quite often to recharge to make the trip only on electricity. If that was even possible.
In 306 km of travel, you only have three charging points: Pombal, Setúbal, and Aveiras. And one of them was not working. Although the range increases if you drive more efficiently, the electric range is not enough for you to cover the distances until the closest charging spot.
Mitsubishi promises a 45 km range under WLTP – 57 km in the urban cycle. Even if you had the time to stop six times to recharge every 50 km, you would not have anywhere to do that.
Mitsubishi says the Outlander PHEV has an electric energy consumption of 169 Wh/km – also under the WLTP cycle. And that the combined fuel consumption is of 2 l/100 km, equivalent to 117.6 mpg.
Mitsubishi is currently promoting sales of the Outlander PHEV in Portugal, starting from €31.990. That is for the entry-level Intense derivative. The version we drove, the Instyle, would cost €34,990. But there is a catch. In fact, more than one.
The first is that the car is not offered with a single paint that does not add €329 to the price. So you will only manage to buy it for €35,319. If you are a company, and this is the main catch.
If you are a regular customer, the car would cost €53,000. With factory incentives of €8,215, you could end up paying €44,785. But, since a lot of people in Portugal work independently, as service providers, Mitsubishi advertises the price for company sales. And it may sell a lot that way.
The Outlander PHEV is the ideal vehicle for people that are not after the cutting-edge in terms of electric cars. It is for people that also need room and to save on gas, especially in countries with expensive fuel or distribution problems, such as strikes. If you have a company, or any other situation that allows you to buy it brand-new for less than €40,000, it may be a real bargain. Just be sure you will be satisfied with what it offers.