One Mitsubishi insider describes the Outlander compact SUV as the “silver bullet”, which has added glitter and lustre to the triple diamond brand’s image in New Zealand since its introduction in February 2006. It’s not difficult to see why.
The five-door wagon has racked up the best retail sales in the SUV sector for the past two years, and continues to sell strongly; the phrase retail sales meaning sales of non-rental vehicles.
Between January and the end of July this year, New Zealanders have bought 950 Outlanders – 250 more than have bought Toyota’s high-profile RAV4, and nudging double the number of Honda CR-Vs.
Hyundai is up there too with the Santa Fe, but the Mitsubishi is the strongest performer, and has been selling in the low 100s every month.
It has struck a chord with the fleet market where the 2.4-litre four is an attractive alternative to bigger-engined wagons with its combination of space, good performance and good fuel economy. Mitsubishi says Outlander drivers can achieve fuel in the high eight litres/100km and easily achieve the official 9.3 litres of 91-octane per 100km.
We didn’t manage either, our mainly inner-city running yielding a still creditable 11.4 litres/100km.
But a few days with the wagon reinforced the Outlander’s appeal, the favourable impression heightened by the vehicle’s smoothness and refinement.
It doesn’t feel like a biggish-capacity four-cylinder, offering an air of composed confidence more in keeping with a V6 powerplant.
At the heart of the Outlander is a 2349cc double overhead camshaft (DOHC), 16-valve, inline four-cylinder engine. Maximum power is 127kW at 6000rpm, and peak torque is 230Nm delivered at a highish 4100rpm. However, 170Nm is available from 1000rpm, ensuring smooth progress.
The Outlander is a brisk if not scintillating performer: Mitsubishi says it will accelerate to 100kph in 10.6 seconds.
In normal operation, the engine drives the front wheels through a continuously-variable transmission (CVT) whose innate efficiency helps the impressive fuel economy.
The CVT maintains engine revs at an optimum speed, adjusting the gearing to suit the conditions.
It’s controlled by a third-generation version of Mitsubishi’s INVECS fuzzy logic intelligent transmission control system.
A Drive Sport function lifts revs by 1500 to give a quick boost for passing moves.
The CVT has six change steps built into it and can be used as if it’s a manual.
The four-wheel drive system uses an electronically-controlled coupling that allows the driver to switch from two- to four-wheel drive and back on the fly. Drivers can select between two four-wheel drive modes – full-time or automatic – using a dial on the centre console. In the latter setting, the vehicle instantly delivers torque to any of the four wheels to counteract slip.
The electronic control unit (ECU) varies the amount of torque sent to the rear wheels depending on the slipperiness of the road.
In off-road going, the ABS anti-lock braking system applies a brake when a wheel loses traction, and redistributes torque to the wheels, which still have traction.
Active Stability Control is standard and keeps the Outlander from sliding sideways if the tyres lose traction on slippery roads.
The power-assisted rack and pinion steering is accurate and the car turns-in to corners well. Handling is benign with understeer well controlled.
The all-independent suspension – MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear – gives a supple ride.
Roadholding is good and the Outlander will maintain brisk open-road progress.
The engine’s inherent smoothness makes for relaxed open-road cruising, and a tight, 10.6-metre, turning circle makes the Outlander very manoeuvrable in tight spaces.
The seats are comfortable and the cabin is roomy and airy; being a Mitsubishi, storage spaces and cupholders are in plentiful supply.
The brakes – discs at the front drum-in-disc at the rear – deliver strong stopping ability.
Cargo capacity is good – 882 litres with the rear seats upright and 1691 with them folded forward – and the tailgate is split.
The top opens upward to give quick access to the cargo area, and the lower part opens downward, making it easier for large objects to be loaded. The lower tailgate can carry up to 200kg.
The Outlander replaced the rather quirky Airtrek in the Mitsubishi NZ line-up and is a much more attractive vehicle.
We liked its smoothness and blend of driving ease and refinement.
It’s quick enough, looks good and is capable of very good fuel economy – consumption in the mid seven litres/100km is easily achievable in constant open road running.
Its sales figures show it’s a vehicle with wide appeal and after spending a few days with one it’s easy to see why.
It’s an extremely pleasant vehicle and one that would be easy to live with. Certainly it’s one of the gems in the triple diamond line-up.