The Mitsubishi Outlander has been the Japanese brand’s midsized SUV offering since 2003.
It competes in a class featuring other highly popular models, such as the Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Nissan X-Trail, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4, and Volkswagen Tiguan.
Mitsubishi’s fourth-generation Outlander arrived in Australia in 2022, presenting as a roomier and classier offering than the third generation, and sharing a platform with the new Nissan X-Trail.
The Mitsubishi Outlander is offered in five trim levels, two powertrains (2.5L petrol and plug-in hybrid), with the choice of front- or all-wheel drive. It can also be specced as a seven-seater, if more realistically a 5+2 configuration.
Not all these combinations are available across all trim grades.
The plug-in hybrid, which combines electrification with a four-cylinder engine, is available in four trim levels and delivers an EV-only range of around 80km.
Unlike the previous Outlander, the latest PHEV is also offered as a seven-seater, giving it a strong USP in this segment.
2022 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV ES review
Entry-level model of the Outlander plug-in hybrid line-up makes its case for value and efficiency
‘Range anxiety’ may be the buzz-term of the EV age, but we’d argue that the challenges faced by electric car owners – at least those on a road trip, or who live in regional areas – can go deeper.
What about charger frustration, when you roll up with little left in the battery only to find the charger(s) occupied or out of order?
If the thought of these scenarios on long trips from home, away from the security of your own charger, have put you off an EV, then it’s possible a plug-in hybrid could be the solution.
A PHEV will give you a useful pure-EV range of around 80km, backed by a tank of trusty unleaded for when you need to travel further.
Here we’ll take a closer look at the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV in its most affordable ES specification to see if it really can make a case for the additional $18,590 it charges over its petrol-only counterpart.
It’s a hefty premium, so does it stack up, and does this base model of the hybrid line-up provide all the equipment you need? Or is it worth stretching to the Aspire grade above?
- How much is it and what do you get?
- How do rivals compare on value?
- Interior comfort, space and storage
- What is it like to drive?
- How is it on fuel?
- How safe is it?
- Warranty and running costs
How much is it and what do you get?
While a tag of just under $55,000 may not seem unreasonable for a plug-in-hybrid family SUV with this level of powertrain sophistication, it is a hefty $18,590 more than the petrol-only ES variant.
And remember that these models are, apart from their powertrains, no different, so it’s not as though there’s a load of additional equipment slotted in to ease the weight of that price difference.
Stepping up the range, a mid-spec Aspire will set you back $60,990 while the Exceed and Exceed Tourer models are $65,990 and $68,490 respectively (all before on-road costs).
What do you get with the ES?
So in stepping up to an Aspire, what does the additional $6400 get you?
The Aspire also gains an AC power supply for the Vehicle to Load function, with two 1500W, 240V three-pin outlets.
How do rivals compare on value?
There really is only one direct rival for the Outlander in ES spec, and that’s the Ford Escape PHEV, which launched here in May 2022.
Unlike the Mitsubishi, however, it’s only available in a single ST-Line PHEV trim level and is priced at $53,440 before on-road costs. So it’s roughly the same price as an entry-level Outlander PHEV but the Ford offers a richer spec for the outlay, including features like a head-up display and heated front seats.
Like the Outlander in ES spec, the Ford is strictly a five-seater. Unlike the all-wheel-drive Outlander, the Ford drives the front wheels only. Plus it can’t match the Outlander for battery capacity or range. The Escape PHEV’s 14.4kWh battery offers a WLTP-measured 56km of pure EV propulsion.
You can read our comparison between the Outlander PHEV ES and the Ford Escape PHEV here.
MG’s HS Plus PHEV may also figure in your cross shopping, starting at $47,990 driveaway for the entry-level Excite and moving up to $50,990 for the Essence. There’s value there, but the MG does lack the powertrain sophistication and EV range of the Outlander, so it’s not hard to see why the Mitsu costs more.
Finally, while it’s not a plug-in, any buyer in this segment really should have the Toyota RAV4 hybrid on their shortlist. Toyota’s hybrid system is only capable of storing a small amount of charge, so the engine is almost always running, meaning it lacks the refinement and response the Outlander delivers when operating in EV mode.
But RAV’s hybrid set-up does offer useful efficiency gains over pure petrol power, and most hybrid versions of the RAV4 only command a $2500 premium over the petrol equivalent.
Interior comfort, space and storage
I was frankly surprised at the level of cabin design and materials quality in the entry-level ES grade. It feels contemporary and well made, and there are no obvious ergo annoyances.
The driving position is excellent, the controls logically laid out, and the multimedia is quick and intuitive, with useful hard keys for commonly used functions. Wireless Apple CarPlay features, but Android Auto requires a cable connection.
Of course, being the entry level ES grade there are some budget bits you’ll endure, like the urethane steering wheel and a no-name audio system that’s acceptable, not exceptional, but otherwise this model does a decent job of masking its range-opener status. No friends or family will jump in and silently judge you for buying the base model.
Yes, the seats are manually adjusted, but the fabric trim is attractive, and they’re well shaped and deliver decent support.The door bins are ideally shaped to hold a one-litre water bottle, and the centre console storage is generous.
2022 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV boot space
The boot of the Outlander PHEV ES holds 485L – adequate for the segment, but not class-leading – and provides four tie-down points, curry hooks and a lever at each side that flips the 40/20/40 seatbacks to take capacity to 1478L. There’s a 12V outlet, but no spare wheel – you get a tyre repair kit instead – but there is a dedicated storage space for the charging cables beneath the floor.
Legroom in the back is fine for adults, even if the relatively low base can leave taller frames a bit short on under-thigh support – obviously not an issue if it’s kids back there, or young ones in child seats or boosters. Rear passengers get air vents, but no USB ports, so brace for sooking and demands to share the cable plugged in up front.
What is it like to drive?
Before we get to the driving, a simple explanation is needed of the complex hybrid system that powers the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.
There’s an electric motor on each axle; the front with 85kW and 255Nm; the rear unit rated at 100kW/193Nm. Supplementing the electric drive is a 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine running in the more efficient Atkinson cycle and providing 98kW/195Nm. Total combined outputs are 185kW/450Nm, way more robust than the petrol model, which produces 135kW and 245Nm.
There are four modes to operate the motors and engine: ‘Normal’ which uses petrol or electric drive depending on torque demand and the battery’s state of charge; “EV”, which maintains electric-only driving until the battery is depleted; “Save”, which focuses on using the engine for power to conserve the battery for later, and “Charge”, which fires up the engine to act as a generator and recharge the battery.
So what’s it like to drive? Initially, much like an EV, which is great. Below around 70km/h the powertrain is calibrated to favour electric drive, with the petrol engine used to power the generator to replenish the battery or boost electrical output when heavy acceleration or load calls for it
So around the suburbs and city there’s that near-silent, muscular step-off that’s a hallmark of EVs generally that makes them so responsive and satisfying for urban driving. No CVT dithering, no lag, just a solid surge of acceleration every time you squeeze the throttle.
In normal driving conditions, up to around 70km/h, you’ll rarely wake the 2.4-litre petrol engine until the battery’s state of charge requires it, even if the drive selector is not switched to the dedicated EV drive mode.
The merging of combustion and electric is beautifully seamless, with no uncouth shunting or raucous roar.
Above around 70km/h, when conditions demand the petrol engine fires up, the merging of combustion and electric is beautifully seamless, with no uncouth shunting or raucous roar. Unless you go wide-open throttle, it happens at a speed at which the tyre and wind noise tends to mask it anyway, so some drivers may not even be too aware of what the powertrain is actually doing.
On a motorway cruise the petrol engine will drive the front wheels directly, with the front and rear electric motors’ role to capture excess kinetic engine and send it into the battery, or to add torque at the front or rear axle on demand.
Only under load at open-road speed does the system struggle a little. If you’re overtaking uphill at around 100km/h, the engine has to work hard and lets you know all about it. It becomes pretty vocal in the upper reaches, and the rate of acceleration tails off abruptly.
There are six different stages of regenerative braking, five of which are controlled by the paddles behind the steering wheel. The sixth and heaviest regen mode is activated by pushing a button on the centre console.
This deploys enough recuperation to quickly slow the car right down to jogging pace, although a brake application is still needed to come to a complete stop. So, no, it’s not true one-pedal driving.
Dynamically the Outlander PHEV does a mostly admirable job masking the additional 340kg it carries compared to the petrol version. The steering is light, a bit snoozy either side of centre, but mostly free from kickback. It may lack road feel, but it gives the ES a calm demeanour that’s perfectly in keeping with the family-SUV brief.
Driven with a bit of enthusiasm, the instant torque and all-wheel-drive traction make it actually quite satisfying on flowing B-roads.
The ride can be caught out by sharp edges, but the chubby 18-inch rubber contributes to an overarching sense of absorbency and mostly keeps bums isolated from what’s going on at road level.
The softish damping can allow a bit of fore and aft pitching over longitudinal undulations, but this rarely undermines the Mitsu’s broader composure.
And driven with a bit of enthusiasm, the instant torque and all-wheel-drive traction make it actually quite satisfying on flowing B-roads. It’s less overtly sporting than its Ford Escape rival, but if you find yourself without kids or dogs in the car and a winding bit of blacktop beckoning, the Outlander PHEV ES may actually surprise with the pace at which it’s happy to tap along.
How is it on fuel?
Well, if your daily usage is less than around 80km and you plug it in each evening, you may well ask, what fuel?
Officially Mitsubishi says the Outlander PHEV ES consumes 1.5L per 100km, but that figure is taken with a fully charged battery providing the first 80 or kilometres, so should not be be used as real-world guidance.
Consumption of the Outlander PHEV when the 20kWh battery is ‘fully discharged’ (which it never really is) is officially rated at 6.7L/100km, but that’s very dependent on driving conditions. Urban driving provides plenty of opportunity for regenerative braking to help top-up the battery charge, supplementing the engine’s job of powering the generator.
At the other extreme, highway driving will see the engine doing the real work. Our own Alex Inwood noted this recently, having run both a petrol Outlander and the PHEV model for extended periods.
“On the highway, the PHEV, with battery ‘depleted’ is actually thirstier than the regular petrol Outlander,” wrote Inwood. “Our interstate trip for the family holiday in the PHEV took exactly the same route as a drive in the petrol Outlander a month or so earlier and the side-by-side comparison was illuminating.
On the Hume and across the backroads towards Young, the petrol-powered Outlander hit its efficiency sweet spot and returned around 7.5L/100km. The best the PHEV managed on the same roads was 8.0L on the way up and 8.3L on the return leg.”
So here’s the take-out. Keep it charged and burn no fuel for the first 80 or so kms. Around-town driving with a depleted battery should see it consume fuel in the mid-sixes, moving into the low-eights on a long highway run.
The Outlander PHEV ES has a 56L fuel tank, up from 45L in the old car, and will take 91-RON fuel.
As for the recharging process? On a regular 240V socket, the PHEV takes around 9.5 hours to reach a full charge, so easily achievable overnight. Charging from an AC wallbox at home drops this to 6.5 hours. DC fast charging is also available via a CHAdeMO port that delivers an 0-80 percent charge in 38 minutes. The cables required for both forms of charging are included as standard across the PHEV range.
How safe is it?
Just like the rest of the Mitsubishi Outlander range, the PHEV ES carries a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
It received scores of 83 percent for adult occupant protection, 92 percent for child occupant protection, 81 percent for vulnerable road user protection, and 83 percent for safety assist.
Standard safety equipment levels in the ES grade include:
The airbag count includes a front centre airbag which deploys between the front passengers in the instance of a side impact to hopefully prevent head clashes.
However, Outlander Aspire adds reverse AEB, rear cross-traffic alert, and surround-view cameras.
The lack of these in the ES may be enough for some buyers to put a hard pass against it and go straight for the Aspire.
Warranty and running costs
Minor services for the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV ES cost $299 while a major service ranges between $599 and $799.
Like all new Mitsubishis, the Outlander PHEV is covered by a market-leading 10-year factory-backed warranty, providing it’s serviced at an authorised dealer. If you chose an independent service outlet, the warranty is five years.
However, be aware that the battery pack in PHEV models carries a lesser warranty of eight years or 160,000km. The fine print states that Mitsubishi guarantees the battery against excessive degradation and will only replace it if its useable capacity dips below 66 percent over that eight-year period.
When distilled down to dollars, the few plug-in hybrids sold in Australia have a hard time justifying the price difference over their conventional internal-combustion alternatives. The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV ES is no different.
Viewed purely through the lens of what you pay at the dealer versus what you're likely to save at the pump delivers an equation that is not exactly compelling. Crunch the numbers and it takes an awful long time of ownership and big kilometres to claw back the additional outlay made at purchase time.
But if you care enough about the driving experience, and the chance to reduce tailpipe emissions, you’ll see value in the Outlander PHEV. Compared to the ICE equivalent, it’s a much more responsive, quiet and satisfying SUV to drive, especially in the cut and thrust of urban traffic.
But the base ES does lack some creature comforts and safety assistance equipment plenty of buyers expect, and while the $6400 step up to the Aspire isn’t small, it does add a fair list of desirable kit that really elevates the whole package.
So if you want the EV driving experience but you frequently travel several hundred kays from home and you’re averse to the whole public recharging thing, the Outlander PHEV is a plug-in that’s easy to recommend.
And if you can stretch one rung above the base ES, there is value to be had.
2022 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV ES specifications
Things we like
- Strong EV performance around town
- Decent EV range for class
- Mostly comfortable ride
Not so much
- Price premium over petrol version
- Chassis can be prone to pitching
- Hybrid fuel saving not significant on highway
- Lacks some safety features
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