What is it? The Outlander PHEV is a plug-in hybrid version of Mitsubishi’s SUV
Key features: Strong eco credentials, no price premium over diesel, major tax savings for fleet users.
Having come through very challenging times, only just surviving the pressures exerted by speculation on the Japanese yen, Mitsubishi is looking to move on strongly – and the standard bearer for this programme is very much the Outlander PHEV; the plug-in hybrid version of the Outlander SUV.
PHEV stands for plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, a powertrain which matches in this case a 2.0-litre petrol engine with a pair of electric motors, one mounted on each axle. The Outlander is the first of a range of Mitsubishi vehicles to use the new powertrain, and a perfect vehicle in which to debut the technology.
The potential eco advances, including a quoted combined cycle fuel economy figure of 148mpg, will be looked at shortly, but the major headline is the Outlander PHEV’s price. As an electric vehicle it qualifies for the Government’s £5,000 plug-in car grant, and Mitsubishi has made full use of this to bring the car to market at a price that in terms of the entry-level GX3h model is no different to the stock diesel version of the car.
The more upmarket GX4h and 4s versions carry a £1,000 premium over their diesel equivalents, but Mitsubishi puts this down to them boasting extra equipment over their diesel siblings. What the PHEV very much does not have is the substantial price disadvantage that up until now has dissuaded many from buying an electric vehicle.
The Outlander PHEV will run in full electric mode for up to 31 miles, at national speed limits. Beyond this it will switch to series hybrid mode – the engine running but merely to generate power for the electric motors. At higher speeds, such as on the motorway, it switches to parallel hybrid mode, with the engine providing the majority of the propulsion.
This clever combination of modes is how the Outlander has clocked up its seemingly remarkable official fuel economy figure of 148mpg, along with CO2 emissions of a mere 44g/km. In real life, the economy achieved will depend even more heavily than usual on the use the car is put to – those doing many miles a day will see no advantage as after 106 miles the economy drops off markedly, eventually setting at around 35mpg which is worse than the diesel Outlander.
However anyone who uses the car on the average daily commute of 25 miles or less, and then charges it overnight (the cost of which will vary according to local tariffs but in most cases could be less than £2), could vastly exceed the 148mpg – on the launch some journalists were seeing mpg figures into the thousands…
The presence of the petrol engine also removes the other major fear of buyers – range anxiety. This vehicle will travel as far as any other, in fact Mitsubishi claims a potential cruising range of up to 512 miles.
When Mitsubishi created the new Outlander range – traditional diesel versions of which were launched last year – the PHEV was part of the plans from the start. So the vehicle has been designed to accommodate the hybrid powertrain, with no compromises to incorporate it. As a result in virtually all respects the PHEV is the same as a ‘normal’ Outlander – the electric motor battery is mounted under the floor, instead of the traditional location of the boot, so luggage space is not affected. The car also has no less off-road ability than the diesel version.
There are some minus points – the PHEV does tip the scales some 200kg heavier than the diesel, while its towing ability is also slashed by 500kg to 1500kg.
Apart from that the only minuses are typical of the latest Outlander range as a whole – a dull interior that Mitsubishi will struggle to sell to the BMW and Audi buyers it says it is targeting, and a centre console display that takes some mastering.
The technology is impressive, however, particularly a clever app which can be used to control the car’s charging schedule from a smartphone. On mornings of extreme temperatures it can even turn on the heating or air-conditioning remotely, several minutes before getting into the car.
Mitsubishi management admits to not being able to accurately predict the level of interest in the car, but it’s clear that a large proportion of its buyers could be in the fleet market. The petrol-electric powertrain slashes Benefit-in-Kind tax rates to only five per cent – or £56 a month for a 40 per cent taxpayer. The car is exempt from the recently tightened-up London Congestion Charge, and exempt too from Vehicle Exise Duty. And for Fleet managers it offers a 100 per cent write-down allowance in the first year.
Mitsubishi describes the experience of a fleet buyer choosing an Outlander PHEV as like getting a major pay rise and a new car – and it’s hard to argue against that statement.
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV – key specifications
Model Tested: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
On Sale: June 2014
Range price: From £28,249 (£5K government grant included)
Insurance group: 24E-27E
Engines: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder petrol plus twin electric motors. 4WD
Power (bhp): 200
Torque (lb/ft): 184
0-62mph (sec): 11.0
Top speed (mph): 106
Fuel economy (combined, mpg): 148
CO2 emissions (g/km): 44
Key rivals: Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid