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Mitsubishi Outlander review

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    Outlanders are basically rebodied Lancers. Both share the platform and some drivetrain components but side-by-side, you'd never pick it.

Neil Dowling road tests and reviews the Mitsubishi Outlander.

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  • Simplicity
  • Versatility
  • Economy
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  • Tinny Doors
  • Rear seats
  • Hard plastics

That strange person in bikinis on the beach is not an alien from the Planet Jaffa. It's just finished an application of cheap spray-on suntan.

That watch isn't an Omega, it's an Omegga and its impressive face hides a dodgy circuitboard glued to a piece of recycled cardboard. With a battery that will expire after a three-hour international flight.

And is that a real iPhone 4? The Chinese have a $175 look-alike that will even make a call, take a photo and store a contact list.

Up until about 18 months ago, if you wanted an SUV you would get a wagon with all-wheel drive.  Now there's the fake SUV - a two-wheel drive look-alike that is less expensive to buy and own compared with an AWD model, yet still makes you out to be an adventure loving, leisure-seeking family man.

VALUE

Australia's Compact SUV market is 80 per cent AWD and 20 per cent two-wheel drive. Yet only 18 months ago, 2WDs accounted for only 10 per cent.  The 2WD market continues to accelerate. Almost every player is in the game.

The reason is that the fake looks, goes and has almost all the features of an AWD but is $2000-$5000 cheaper.  The Mitsubishi Outlander for 2011 gets a 2WD model that costs from $28,990 as a manual which compares to its AWD sister at $33,240.

It is also slightly more economical on fuel and has the potential to be cheaper to insure, repair and service given it has 65kg less hardware.
The automatic version of the five-seater LS model tested is $31,490 plus on-road costs and is an attractive buy given its excellent safety, welcome versatility, spacious cabin, pleasant road manners and solid equipment list.  It costs about the same as the Toyota RAV4, for example, but has more standard safety and convenience features.

DESIGN

Outlanders are basically rebodied Lancers. Both share the platform and some drivetrain components but side-by-side, you'd never pick it.  First generation Outlanders were a bit soft in styling but the latest is distinctive and even striking, mainly because of the flat expanse of the angled nose.

Compared with a conventional small car, the tall stance and high seating position aid entry/egress, improve driver visibility and carry the perception of greater safety in a crash.  Cabin room is generous partly because of the vehicle's height but also because of the Outlander's boxy shape. The blunt tail also makes for a big and very useable cargo area.

But hard plastic and under-enthusiastic design across the dashboard cheapen an otherwise clever layout.  The nine cupholders, big personal storage areas, twin gloveboxes, three 12V power outlets, comfortable rear armrest and steering wheel controls are impressive standard features.

The Outlander has a couple of welcome surprises in its tail. The five-seater has remote buttons in the boot that automatically retract the second seat row.  These 60/40 split seats tumble forward. That instantly turns the family wagon into a vehicle with van-like cargo space.

The two-piece tailgate has a lift-up hatch and a fold-down section. The latter increases the cargo floor area, makes for an easier loading and unloading platform, and can become a seating position at picnics and when watching sports events.  All seats have fold-flat backs so the cabin can become one big sleeping area.

TECHNOLOGY

Mitsubishi's 2.4-litre petrol engine - the only offering in the 2WD - isn't highly sophisticated but is a reliable and durable powerplant.  Matched to the continuously-variable transmission (CVT) option as tested, it's unlikely to get intelligent drivers into too much trouble with the law.

The underpinnings are simple MacPherson struts up front with a multi-link system at the back that - in the transition to 2WD from AWD - has been relieved of the drive shafts and differential.

That makes more underfloor space and Mitsubishi has wisely used that to boost the fuel tank size to 63 litres from the AWD's 60 litres.  All five-seater Outlanders have a full-size spare wheel. This is good news. Proper spare wheels mean a relatively rapid change-over if there's a puncture and immediately restores the vehicle to its full dynamics.

Space-saver - or emergency - spare wheels are rated at an 80km/h limit, are short-term solutions and then require a full replacement.


SAFETY

That full-size spare wheel means you can confidently take this vehicle out of the city limits.  But that's not all. This has a five-star crash rating and comes standard with electronic stability control.  It has two airbags - which is rubbish - but Mitsubishi offers a full six airbag package for an extra $850. You are obliged to pay the extra.

DRIVING

Basically, driving Junior to school and picking up dinner at McDonalds won't show up any difference between the Outlander AWD and the 2WD.
Heat the action up a bit and you'll find the AWD a bit grippier on corners and showing less understeer.  Go bush and you'll find a new vocabulary as you explore the physical benefits of digging out a vehicle embedded in hot beach sand. So, NOW there's a difference!

The CVT is preferable to the $2500 cheaper five-speed manual version only because it's easier to drive in city conditions.  It's actually a decent auto because in comparison to a lot of CVT units (which are fundamentally a steel band spinning up and down two cones to create variable gearing) this one doesn't have much lag off the mark.

Yes, there is some annoying over-revving of the engine at times but overall the Mitsubishi transmission is as good as any conventional automatic. You can also lock in its six preset gears and drive it like a manual if you're bored.  Ride comfort (save for the over-hard rear seats) and quietness on the highway is surprisingly good. This counters an initial impression that the tinny sound of the doors opening and closing presumes that the wagon is lightly constructed.

I liked the steering wheel controls - including standard cruise - and simple ventilation dials and the ease with which it all worked.  But I really liked the cabin configuration, its versatility and the fact the rear seats are higher than the front so children have a better outlook.

And that family-friendly appeal - and not the all-wheel drive system - is the Outlander's strength, making the 2WD version a logical choice.
specs

MITSUBISHI OUTLANDER LS 2WD


Origin: Japan
Price: $31,490
Engine: 2.4-litre, 4-cyl
Power: 125kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 226Nm @ 4100rpm
Fuel: Std unleaded
Fuel tank: 63 litres
Economy (official): 9.0 litres/100km
Economy (tested): 9.3 litres/100km
Greenhouse: 212g/km (Corolla: 174g/km)
Transmission: CVT auto, 6 preset ratios, sequential; front-drive
Brakes: 4-wheel discs, ESC, ABS, EBD, brake assist
Turning circle: 10.6m
Suspension: Front _ MacPherson struts; Rear _ multi-link, coils
Wheels: 16-inch alloy, 215/70R16 tyres; full-size spare
Length: 4665mm
Width: 1800mm
Height: 1720mm
Wheelbase: 2670mm
Ground clearance: 215mm
Weight: 1510kg
Tow (max): 1500kg
Boot (seat up/down): 882/1691 litres (Corolla: 450/1121)
Warranty: 5yr/130,000km, 5yr roadside assist; 10yr/160,000km on drivetrain
Service: 15,000km

Rating: 8/10

RIVALS

Hyundai ix35 2WD Active ($28,990) _ 7.5/10;
Kia Sportage Si 2WD ($27,990) _ 8.5/10;
Mazda CX-7 2WD Classic ($33,990) _ 8.5/10;
Toyota RAV4 CV 2WD ($30,990) _ 7.5/10

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 12 comments

  • I have 73,000 klm on my Outlander now and it is still as good as new.I replaced the tyres at 65,000 klm.It is still used as a television camera car and loaded with about 150 Kilos of gear.I had a few marks on the seats and a wet cloth was all I used to clean them.Nothing has dropped off yet but I have warn a hole in carpet on the side of the wall next to the break pedal.I have a few stone chips on front of the car.All of this is normal wear and tear.I still am happy with the car and would recommend a used one.I will keep this car another 12 months and hope the new Outlander will be built with a split tail gate.

    Rob Reibel of Tasmania Posted on 22 December 2013 11:11pm
  • Thanks for your regular feedback Rob Reibel. I’m looking at an SUV for my family of 2 small children that has adequate boot space. I’m looking between ford territory and Outlander as I too find the other SUV’s too sporty like and therefore less boot space.

    Shelley of Perth WA Posted on 11 November 2013 10:31am
  • This my 3rd note on my Outlander and its now done 30,000 klm and is used as a television camera car.It ends up in lots of locations and i like to get the camera as close to the story as i can because of all the gear.This is a good off road car it will climb and bounce off most rocks and stumps.I did complain about the lights but it was my fault for not reading the hand book.And its still in the glove box,not read.The dealer said i can tilt the lights up and down in the car.It fixed the problem of the lights pointing down on the road,I still enjoy this car after 12 months of driving all over Tasmania.I would say to any one that wants a car this size go and drive one.They just go so well and i cant break this one.I cant wait to see how it will go in the snow.

    Rob Reibel of Tasmania Posted on 24 June 2012 5:29pm
  • Have had the AWD model for the past month. Nice to drive, comfortable and good handling - on and off road.  Rear leg room not bed (managed to get a 6’4 guy in there without amputating his legs!).  Only complaint is the black cloth seats - shows every hair and speck of dust - am off to source some seat covers.

    Scarlett of Sydney Australia Posted on 03 March 2012 6:52pm
  • We test drove 3 SUV’s today first the great wall well I wouldnt even spend the money, we also tested the Jeep Compass not bad inside quite comfy but engine very noisy when you go to overtake and not much pickup we then tried the outlander and it was fantastic to drive over the other SUV’S very quite and smooth back seat a little bit hard but hay thats for the kids.But impressed.

    Sandra White of BRISBANE Posted on 16 February 2012 2:27pm
  • My outlander has now done 18,000 klm as a television camera car and has been driven on beaches,bush tracks and lots of long drives in all weather.I use AWD when its wet and on the dirt roads around Tasmania. I think this is the best work car I have driven. It feels safe and the auto copes well with a heavey load on all roads.It has just had a sevice at DJ motors here in Hobart and was only $230.00 and it will only need one every 12 months fixed at that price for 5 years. It has better fuel economy than our 2010 Mazda 3. The Outlander about 8.5 ltr per 100 klm.I only have one small problem and thats with the head lights. They could be brighter on hi beam.I will try and get them tilted up a tad and it could help.I am still happy with this car and will keep you posted after the next service.

    Rob Reibel of tasmania Posted on 01 February 2012 11:41pm
  • Haven’t bought one yet, but recently hired a 4cyl AWD CAME DOWN to drive from Cairns to Gold Coast over 3 weeks (as a test drive) taking it all over the place and where I wasnt supposed to as well. It was great in all aspects,heaps of room compared to other SUV’s,comfortable on long stretches of the Bruce Hwy, great economy, handled the steep winding hills of the Atherton, I took it up Castle Hilll at Townsville, drove back down in manual hardly using the brakes, dirt roads were no problem, definately the pick of the bunch.

    Brian of NSW Posted on 16 January 2012 9:59pm
  • I’m seriously considering purchasing the Outlander in the new year, it seems value for money with heaps of room. I have also looked at the Forester, CRV and the Toyota, however the Outlander seems to be the better package. Thank you for your feedback.

    Chris Djekic of Wentworth Falls Posted on 11 December 2011 8:40am
  • Wanted an SUV which was functional, economical and safe and ended up with a short list of four. Outlander, X Trail, Rav4 and Honda CRV. The X-Trail was my first choice however after visiting the owners forum soon changed my mind. Rav4 was good but I didn’t like the one piece opening tailgate. Honda was also good but did not have positive 4x4 lock, also hand brake is actually a foot brake. Rear space restricted because of the sloping back. After several months reviewing I finally settled on the Outlander. Very happy with my purchase getting 8.3L/100 on a mixed trip, CVT transmission if great as is the storage at the rear due to Outlanders ‘box’ like shape. Fully adjustable front and rear seats gives great leg room for passengers. Positive 4x4 lock is an absolute must for those boggy situations. Tows my 5m boat without any problems. Rear split tail gate is good which is able to be opened without hitting the boat unlike Rav4 or other one piece tailgates. With a 5 star safety rating what else could you ask for. I purchased a LS 2.4 CVT automatic without all the bells and whistles at a really good price. Happy motoring!

    Dojamajo of Brisbane Posted on 10 September 2011 11:04am
  • I use my Outlander as a television camera car, I built a shelf in the back to load lighting, and tripod and camera gear into. Because of the high boot height I can use all of the space. The fold down tailgate makes a great work bench and I can stand under the lift up tail gate to get out of the weather. The option of 2WD, all WD and diff lock is handy too. It has plenty of grunt to tow a13 foot boat loaded with gear. And I can fit two full size road race bikes in the back standing up and complete. It is the all round car for my wife and 3 tall boys they enjoy the car too. The car is value for money great warranty, one service a year with a fixed price $250 and it looks good, not the same as the other makes. I would buy the same again.

    Rob Reibel of tasmania Posted on 12 August 2011 10:39pm
  • I actually considered the Outlander when I was in the market for a car taller than a station wagon. Just like Erik, I’ve no urgent need to cross the Simpson Dessert anytime soon so a 2WD is good enough. Finally, it came down to Toyota RAV and Mitsubishi Outlander. My head tells me the Outlander is the one (with alloy rims, fuel consumption meter, 10 yr warranty on transmission plus 5 yr on vehicle and split tail gate) but my heart tells me I could not live with the body shape (the awkward C pillar and grille). I bought a RAV and I am half thinking if I’ve made a mistake. LOL

    StevenL of Melbourne East Posted on 03 May 2011 7:27pm
  • Now that station wagons are a small hatch like vehicle with reduced headroom and storage area due to the over use of European sports designs, 2 wheel drive SUVs such as the Outlander are really the only option. Sportage and i35s have gone the same way with a total reduction in carrying ability so this has pointed me in the direction of the Outlander. With the seat height for older hips and knees, ‘boxier’ shape to keep head room where it should be (off your head) and the large carrying capacity, it is a versatile car.  The two piece tail gate is a bonus and a selling point for me with a window that rear opens.  Handy for family pets. The review is informative, but I think the reviewer missed the point as to why the two wheel drive SUVs are popular, and that is because there is no longer a family station wagon left on the market to do the job.  Basically all manufacturers have gone ‘sporty’ leaving a huge gap in the market.I don’t have the need for a 4WD or an AWD, I just need a decent sized car, and the Outlander fits the bill.  Thanks Mitsubishi.

    Erik Krauklis of Bulleen, Victoria Posted on 28 April 2011 8:35pm
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