by Brad Leach - 19/01/12
Mitsubishi has ramped-up the competitiveness of its Outlander compact SUV by adding a front-wheel-drive version to the lineup. Increasingly the family buyers in this segment are looking for the flexibility of SUVs but don’t require all-paw traction.
The fact is diminishing sales of large sedans is leading to increased interest in compactt SUVs like the Outlander and the 2WD LS models give Mitsubishi a much-needed option in this growing segment.
Mitsubishi isn’t short of artillery in the compact/mid-size SUV war. Outlander sits between the smaller ASX and larger Challenger to provide a three-vehicle attack to rival the other Japanese brands.
Conservative yet nicely-styled, the Mitsubishi Outlander is offered with seven seats and its dimensions aren’t overwhelming if you’re moving from a passenger car.
Practicality is the Mitsubishi Outlander’s strong point – a compact SUV well equipped to handle the rough and tumble of family life. Car Showroom tested the Outlander LS in 2WD guise.
Addition of a standard reversing camera for 2012 – an undoubted safety tool in any vehicle – strengthens the Mitsubishi Outlander’s appeal to family buyers.
VR and VRX model Mitsubishi Outlanders score the 169kW/291Nm 3.0-litre V6 engine and the rest, including our 2WD test car run the 125kW/226Nm, 2.4-litre four-cylinder.
Driving though a CVT automatic transmission our Outlander got the job done with a minimum of fuss and reasonable refinement.
Toyota’s RAV virtually matches the Mitsubishi Outlander with 125kW/224Nm from its own 2.4-litre and they’re virtually identical in the fuel consumption measurement (9.5l/100kms for the Outlander and 9.6l/100kms for the RAV4.
Inside the Mitsubishi Outlander is both modern and practical. Families will like the space and convenience clever design provides.
Like the entire current Mitsubishi lineup, Outlander provides a handy working environment for the driver. Instruments are conventional gauges, but good use of colour for the readouts and graphics mean they’re easier to read than many rivals.
And we also liked the seats which provide nice sculpturing for good support and the usual Mitsubishi sporty leather-wrapped steering wheel (although it could do with reach adjustment to fine-tune a better driving position).
Audio is a six-speaker CD system.
Moving rearwards is where the Mitsubishi Outlander shows its great flexibility. The Car Showroom juniors were very comfortable in the second row seat, however when they weren’t around the seat split folds 60:40 for load carrying versatility. And when you need to max-out the cargo, a clever one-touch system sees the seat tumble forwards with ease.
With the seat folded, Mitsubishi Outlander delivers 1607-litres of cargo space (983-litres when in-place) – very impressive for a compact SUV. Equally impressive is the two-piece tailgate – the lower section cuts into the rear bumper for a low loading lip to ease access for cumbersome items.
Mitsubishi Outlander 2WD delivers a towing capacity of 1500kgs.
While not the newest design in this segment, Mitsubishi Outlander holds its own with a modern look that doesn’t intimidate first-time SUV buyers. It’s this user-friendly exterior which scores points with the school mums set.
At the front, the Mitsubishi Outlander has some cues to the Lancer with the latest Mitsubishi ‘family’ grille and nice, modern headlights. The side view is similarly modern with curved wheel-arches, a slightly rising line for the large glasshouse, the distinctive rearward-sloping C-pillar and nice 16-inch alloy wheels.
And we liked the clean look at the rear with a very efficient design for the tail-lights and the clever split tailgate affording a slick design.
The holiday period allowed for an extended test of the Mitsubishi Outlander in its real-world environment – loaded with the Car Showroom family and accoutrements for a camping trip. We also put the Mitsubishi Outlander over our usual test route.
Mitsubishi’s 2.4-litre petrol engine delivers its 125kW/226Nm with nice refinement and while we’re still not huge fans of CVT automatics from the driving dynamics point of view, there’s no doubt Mitsubishi’s version is well sorted and matches the best of them for power delivery and refinement.
Where earlier models of the Mitsubishi Outlander lacked ESC, its addition makes the overall package much better especially when the going gets damp.
Around town the power steering and generally light controls made for easy maneuvering and good all-round visibility plus the standard reversing camera made for parking ease.
Over our high-speed mountain roads test loop the 2WD Mitsubishi Outlander did exhibit some noticeable body roll when pushed hard and early onset of understeer meant turn-in at the limit wasn’t as sharp as say the Volkswagen Tiguan or Mazda CX-7. Against that, the Outlander did absorb mid-turn bumps with aplomb thanks to nice compliance and high levels of sound insulation.
With sales growing, lots of manufacturers are flooding the compact SUV market with handily-equipped, sharply-priced and great-to-drive new models. Mitsubishi Outlander matches most but, some offer a better quality look/feel for their interior and are sharper tools in the twisty stuff.
Family life is tough on cars – kids and their paraphernalia really dish-out some treatment, especially at holiday time with sundry camping gear, beach appliances, sporting goods and luggage being loaded and unloaded. Our Mitsubishi Outlander handled this test with ease and gave the impression it could do so for many years.
And for many families that ruggedness and longevity are crucial components in the new car buying process.
And don’t forget mums on the school run are big-time buyers of compact SUVs like the Mitsubishi Outlander. For many the smaller overall size (compared to say the full-size Mitsubishi Pajero) is another big factor.
Add the new-for-2012 reversing camera and really, the Mitsubishi Outlander has a lot to offer buyers in this league.
Toyota RAV4 leads this segment’s sales race and is available in 2WD priced from $28,990. No doubt about the RAV4’s credentials but it may be a little ‘too much SUV’ for some buyers looking for something softer (like the Outlander).
Nissan offers both the made-in-England Dualis (from $24,990) and slightly larger Japanese-sourced X-TRAIL (from $28,490) in 2WD. Dualis looks nice and drives well but you’ll need the X-TRAIL (also a handy drive) to match the Outlander’s cargo space.
Mazda CX-7 2WD is stickered at $33,990 and delivers a lot of car for your coin. CX-7 is the drivers’ car in this league with super sharp on-road dynamics.
And when it comes to driving dynamics, Volkswagen’s Tiguan steps up to the plate. The 2WD Tiguan will set you back $28,490, comes with superb Volkswagen quality but doesn’t have the cargo capacity of the Outlander.
Hyundai’s ix35 boasts modern looks, now runs a six-speed automatic transmission and is very sharply priced from $26,990.
For us, Kia Sportage has the headline-grabbing looks in this field and the 2WD model at $26,220 is super-sharp value.
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