By Paul Gover.
Australia will be flooded with plug-in hybrids in coming years as the world prepares for an all-electric future.
Battery-electric power comes next, followed by hydrogen-fuelled cars that make their own onboard electricity, but PHEV is the first step on the path.
Most of the carmakers who say they will ‘electrify’ their fleet by 2025 are talking about plug-in hybrids, not true battery cars.
So we come to the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, which was a pioneer in 2014 and has been updated with a bigger 2.4-litre engine and more equipment in 2020.
It’s far from the most modern of family-sized SUVs, but it’s still good enough for a lot of people and makes a statement with its power cable plugged into a socket.
Bragging rights are good, with claimed fuel economy of 1.9 litres/100km in a class where anything under 12 litres/100km is good for around-town driving.
The Outlander is quieter than before, and a little more modern in the cabin. The price is up a little, but offset by the extra equipment in the ’20 model and actually cheaper than it was in 2014.
The ride is good, compared with rivals from companies such as Nissan, but it’s not nearly as sharp in the handling as an SUV from Kia or Hyundai after their impressive local suspension tuning programs.
The Outlander starts as a fully-electric SUV and will run for around 50 kilometres on a full battery charge, but that’s a bit deceptive. If you’re good at the regenerative-braking system, using it instead of the mechanical brakes for slowing, it will hold a charge for a lot longer and a long downhill can even recoup all the energy used on an uphill climb.
Space is good for five people, and back-seat tweenagers now have a pair of USB ports in the back of the centre console for their electronics. The boot is not huge, and is compromised by the underfloor box for the charging cable, but it will work for most people.
The dash is a little more modern with a large infotainment screen, and the finishing work is good, but the driving position is a bit too high and there is not enough adjustment for reach on the steering column.
Still, with sales of Toyota’s hybrids booming and plug-ins also coming down the line, the Outlander is a solid and sensible chance to ride the electric wave.
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
Price: from $46,990
Position: Plug-in hybrid SUV
Plus: electric range, green thinking
Minus: ageing basics
THE TICK: Only just