UPDATED WITH A FRESH NEW FACE, MORE EQUIPMENT AND A NUMBER OF MECHANICAL REFINEMENTS, MITSUBISHI'S OUTLANDER REMAINS ONE OF THE FEW SEVEN-SEAT OPTIONS IN THE MID-SIZE SUV SEGMENT.
That alone should be enough to give it an edge against similarly-priced five-seat rivals. However, sales so far this year have been lacklustre.
Is that the car’s fault though? We spent a week behind the wheel of the top-spec diesel Outlander Exceed, and while there are a few flaws, it is packed with features and has a lot to offer family buyers.
In fact, though it is sitting in a market segment that is now getting costly, on a value-for-money basis it’s still near the head of the pack.
There's just one other high-spec diesel AWD seven-seat SUV retailing for under $50k, the ancient Holden Captiva 7.
Vehicle Style: Medium SUV
Price: $46,490 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 110kW/360Nm 2.2 turbo diesel 4cyl | 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.2 l/100km | tested: 7.1 l/100km
More than 131,000 buyers have jumped into a brand new medium off-road wagon so far this year. Out of a total market expected to tally around 1.15 million sales by the end of this year, that’s a significant slice of the pie.
What’s more, those buyers aren’t exactly scrimping on the purchases. Even among the non-luxury brands, sales are skewed towards the high-spec variants - just look at Hyundai, whose top-tier Santa Fe Highlander presently accounts for a little under half of all Santa Fes sold.
So while the Outlander diesel Exceed might be nudging the $50k barrier (or sitting atop it once on-road costs are added in), it’s still the model that more people are going to gravitate towards. So, is it worth the coin?
- Standard equipment: Keyless entry and ignition, dusk-sensing LED headlamps, cruise control, dual-zone climate control, power tailgate, rain-sensing wipers, power-adjustable driver's seat, heated front seats, trip computer, leather upholstery.
- Infotainment: 7-inch colour touchscreen display with sat-nav, AM/FM/DAB+ radio tuner, Bluetooth phone/audio connectivity and voice commands.
- Cargo volume: 127L in 7 seat mode, 477L in 5 seat mode, 1608L in 2 seat mode
We like the Outlander’s no-nonsense cabin presentation and high centre-stack, and the various material quality improvements brought in with the MY15 range revamp are welcome.
The glossy black plastic on the centre-stack adds a premium look (though is a pain to keep fingerprint-free), and key touch points like the steering wheel, gear selector, centre console lid and door armrests are upholstered in leather.
Perforated leather upholstery is another upmarket touch, and it feels durable enough for family duty.
What don’t we like? Well, there’s still a lot of hard, easily-marked plastics in use, and the front seats still aren’t the most supportive in the segment.
The third row is also cramped, and not suitable for average-sized adults on long journeys. Foot and knee room is in short supply, and the squab and backrests are flat and uncomfortable.
It’s also worth mentioning that the 60/40 split centre row has the 60-percent section on the kerbside of the car.
If you’ve got two baby seats in the middle (one on the road side and one in the centre), that can make it a pain to slide the seat forward to access the back row.
The roof-mounted centre seatbelt doesn’t help either.
That said, the second row is fine for two adults or three kids, and with the ability to slide forward you can liberate a little more space for those in the third row. The middle row backrest also reclines, which is handy for long road trips.
Besides the presence of a third row, boot space is another Outlander trump card. Boasting 477 litres with the third row stowed and 1608 litres with the second and third rows laid flat, the Outlander has more cargo capacity than many of its peers.
With all three rows deployed, there’s a space of just 128 litres behind the third row - enough for the weekly family groceries, but not much else.
Under-floor storage is also provided (along with a handy slot to stow the retractable cargo blind), and in Exceed trim the tailgate is power operated.
The feature set is generous on the Exceed, befitting its near-$50k pricetag.
As standard, there’s a powered driver’s seat, reversing camera, parking sensors, digital radio tuner, Bluetooth phone and audio integration with voice commands, sat-nav, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry/ignition, LED headlamps and adaptive cruise control.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 110kW/360Nm 2.2 litre turbo diesel inline four
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic, on-demand AWD
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
- Brakes: Ventilated/solid discs, sliding calipers
- Steering: Power assisted, 10.6m turning circle
- Towing capacity: 750kg unbraked, 2000kg braked
The top-spec Exceed is available with two engines - either a 124kW/220Nm 2.4 litre petrol, or a 110kW/360Nm 2.2 litre turbo diesel.
The diesel is the one we tested here, and thanks to its more generous torque and use of a conventional six-speed auto (rather than the petrol’s CVT), it’s our powertrain pick.
It’s not the sprightliest of motors, but surprisingly smooth for a Mitsubishi diesel, has more than enough low-end pulling power and is paired with a likeable six-speed automatic.
It won’t excite you, but it doesn’t really do anything wrong either.
It’s well-suited to highway cruising, where it rarely needs to kick down and can waft along on its generous low-rpm torque.
Mitsubishi claims an average fuel economy figure of 6.2 l/100km, and our as-tested average of 7.1 l/100km (with mostly urban driving) is close enough for that to be believable.
All Exceeds are AWD-only, though, like most midsize-SUV owners, we didn’t venture far enough from the blacktop to give it a thorough workout.
Sound and vibration suppression has been improved as well, eliminating a lot of wind and tyre noise, not to mention damping the clatter from the diesel donk up front.
Refinement hasn’t traditionally been Mitsubishi’s strong suit, but the updated Outlander demonstrates the brand is taking steps to remedy that.
If only they’d address the steering, which is one of the vaguest in the segment - especially around dead centre.
It might seem unfair to mark down a family SUV for steering feel, but when keeping it straight on highways becomes a chore thanks to weak self-centering, that’s something that could irritate owners over the long-term.
Ride comfort could use some improvement as well, with a jittery ride over corrugated surfaces on the Exceed's 18-inch alloys.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - the updated Outlander achieved 35.58 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: ABS, EBD, brake assist, traction control and stability control are standard, along with a reversing camera and parking sensors. Seven airbags are fitted - front, front side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee.
The Exceed grade also adds radar-assisted active cruise control along with forward collision mitigation
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Rivals are many in this segment, and there’s no shortage of excellent choices out there. That said, the Outlander is one of few to offer a seven-seat diesel configuration in the mid-size SUV category, which gives it a unique selling point.
If the lack of seven seats isn’t a deal-breaker, Ford's Kuga Titanium has a real driver's car feel, as does Mazda's CX-5.
And, in a segment of good choices, Nissan's X-Trail adds a bit of extra off-road capability and Toyota's improved new RAV4 remains very solid buying:
- Ford Kuga Titanium TDCi
- Honda CR-V DTi-L
- Mazda CX-5 GT Diesel
- Nissan X-Trail TL AWD
- Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Diesel
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The current Outlander is quite improved on the previous generation and looks and feels the more fully-resolved product.
It doesn't have the excitement value or dynamic feel of the CX-5, and even Ford's Kuga, but it appeals in other ways.
It continues to be one of the few seven-seat midsize SUVs (the Nissan X-Trail is the other notable option, though it isn’t available as a diesel seven-seater), and the value-for-money equation is high.
The Outlander can also carry more gear than most other medium SUVs, and its flexible interior can transform from seven-seater family bus to cargo-haulin’ wagon with a minimum of fuss. Got a load of cardboard to take to the tip straight after church? No probs.
It’s at its most agreeable in Exceed diesel form, thanks to a powertrain/drivetrain combo that’s preferable to the petrol/CVT despite its added cost. The interior fit-out is also much nicer than the lower-grade models, though quality is still far from segment-leading.
In many ways it’s a better option than some large SUVs as well - namely the Holden Captiva 7, which is its only true price competitor.
If you’re after a highly-featured seven-seat diesel SUV that won’t cost you more than $50k, the solid conservative Outlander is one of the better options available.
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