The fastest growing mainstream vehicle brand in the UK in 2013 is Mitsubishi Motors.
Sales so far this year have increased by 42.4% helped by a 25% increase in demand for the new Outlander 4x4 range. In 2014 the brand will celebrate their 40th anniversary of UK and European sales.
But we are only talking about relatively small numbers. Last year their total all-model UK sales were only 12,000 units and in this year they are on course to increase to a healthier 16,000 registrations. Mitsubishi’s 4WD models will account for 70% of their expected sales this year with the new third generation Outlander on target to achieve 2,300 UK sales in just six months since its launch.
But in 2014 this figure will grow considerably following the introduction in the Spring of an Outlander petrol/hybrid/plug-in electric version with CO2 emissions of just 44g/km and up to 148mpg. This means no VED road tax costs, company car drivers will pay just 5% Benefit-in-Kind tax and perhaps best of all this multi-seat model will be exempt from the Congestion Charge making it ideal business or family transport in London. Prices are yet to be announced but indications are this version will not cost much more than the top of the current range 2.2 DI-D GX5 Auto priced at £33,999.
Currently the new Outlander 2.2-litre DI-D turbodiesel large five or seven seat SUV offers fuel economy improved by 19% and CO2 emissions by 16% over the previous generation version due in part to it being 100g/km lighter than the previous model.
The range line-up is relatively simple, one 2.2-litre, four-cylinder 148bhp, direct injection turbodiesel engine with selectable ‘eco’ mode with 6-speed manual or automatic transmission options with a low ratio mode depending on the specification grade chosen. All use an electronically controlled on-demand 4WD system with 4WD, 4WD eco and 4WD Lock modes. Most of the time during on-road driving the system in 4WD eco mode uses just front wheel drive with the 4WD mode being engaged when extra grip is needed.
The base GX2 version has five seats and it is in the range to meet the demands of fleet customers and specialist customers such as Police forces, the Environment Agency and the National Grid. The GX3, GX4 and GX5 versions all have seven seats as standard and are popular with retail family buyers and business user-chooser customers. Prices range from £23,699 to £33,999. The main competitors are the Honda CR-V, Mazda CX5, Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe.
The top of the range Outlander GX5 has automatic transmission as standard and that was the specification of my test vehicle. Even the entry-level Outlander GX2 version is well equipped and comes with automatic lighting; cruise control, single-zone air conditioning; City Crash Provision; Hill Start Assist 60/40 rear seats and electric windows. As you go up the range the equipment list gets longer so the top GX5 addition wants for nothing. Included are adaptive cruise control; a forward collision mitigation system, lane departure warning, powered tailgate, automatic gear shift paddles, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a full array of airbags and a computer/info/sat-nav integrated system. Unfortunately, although offering a comprehensive display of vehicle information, the sat-nav screen is on the small side compared to the new generation of ‘tablet’ sized screens now being introduced and the system is fiddly to operate. The GX5 variant is also expensive although there are usually finance offers available to soften the blow.
Although the interior is well equipped it is a bit bland with various shades of black leather and trim with the fascia and door panels having black carbon-fibre trim inserts. The standard fit electric sunroof helps to lighten the interior. The seats are comfortable and the front ones are heated. The seven seats arrangement is obviously going to be popular as family transport although the legroom for the two individual rear folding seats is limited and with all seven seats in use there are only 128-litres of load space and 591-litres with five seats in place. With the second and third row of seats folded away the load space goes up to 1,022-litres, not the largest in its class but useful none-the-less as is the electrically operated tailgate on the GX5 version. For the record the braked towing capacity for all Outlander models is 2,000kg.
The latest version of the 2.2-litre, four cylinder , DOHC, common-rail direct-injection turbodiesel engine has a power output reduced from 175 to 148bhp which appears to make very little difference in outright performance and is all about lowering emissions and providing better fuel economy. For seven seat new model Outlanders the 360Nm (265lb ft) of torque is slightly reduced but delivered from just 1,500rpm instead of 2,000rpm which makes it more responsive acceleration from low speeds. The engine has a ‘clatter’ sound to it at tickover and under hard acceleration. Under load engine vibrations are transmitted to the interior through the steering wheel.
Top speed is 118mph with a zero to 62mph acceleration time of 11.7 seconds. Officially this version will return 48.7mpg in the Combined Cycle but my test driving period covering my usual journeys using motorways, A/B roads with some town driving returned a disappointing 35.5mpg and all that was done with eco settings for the 4WD and engine settings. The CO2 emissions have a headline figure 138g/km but that only applies to the five-seat GX2 version. The GX3/4 versions with the manual gearbox go up to 140g/km and with the new tougher and more durable 6-speed torque-converter automatic box the figure rises to 153g/km for GX4/5 models. That is down from 189g/km for the previous generation twin-clutch auto models. This means VED road tax is now £175 every year instead of £475 for the First Year rate then £260 for year two onwards costs of the last Outlander. Company car drivers will also benefit with their BIK tax now 25% instead of 32%.
Being lighter in weight the latest Outlander feels more agile and consequently the steering sharper up to mid range speeds. At higher cruising speeds the steering is too light. The suspension has been altered to improve stability. In fact it is one of the most comfortable mid to large SUVs available with the system shrugging off the impacts from potholes. The 4WD system with Yaw Control gives considerable grip and traction during cornering but with the softer suspension there is some cornering bodyroll. However most customers are happier with ride comfort than rigid handling.
MILESTONES. Mitsubishi Outlander 2.2 GX5 Auto 5-Door, 7-Seats. Price: £33,999. Engine/transmission: 2.2-litre, 4-cylinder, direct injection turbodiesel, 147bhp, 265lb ft of torque from 1,500rpm, 4WD via a 6-speed automatic gearbox. Performance: 118mph, 0-62mph 11.7 seconds, 48.7mpg Combined Cycle (35.5mpg on test), CO2 153g/km, VED road tax £175, BIK company car tax 25%. Insurance group: 22E. Capacities, 7-seats, boot/load space 128 to 1,022-litres, braked towing weight 2,000kg. Warranty: 3-years/unlimited mileage. For: Smart exterior styling, practical and roomy with 7-seats, well equipped, lower running costs and taxes over the previous generations, comfortable ride, exceptional low CO2 fuel and tax efficient petrol/electric hybrid model will be added to the range next year. Against: Price of the GX5 version, despite its high specification, is too expensive, dull cabin, steering too light at higher speeds, fiddly sat/nav controls. Miles Better News Agency