We've spent countless hours, and, collectively, many hundreds of days at the wheel of the cars on our shortlist of the TOP TEN Best Buys 2015.
There can only be one winner, and that winner, the car that the TMR team of writers, reviewers and contributors adjudges as the BEST BUY 2015, is Mitsubishi’s landmark plug-in hybrid, the Outlander PHEV.
This car, at $47,490, the world’s first plug-in SUV, brings EV technology within reach of family buyers.
Its brilliance is a versatility we have not yet seen in such an EV.
One, we commend its versatile drivetrain.
With a range of around 50 kilometres, charge it up daily, and you can drive this car day-in and day-out on electric power alone, using no fuel at all, or the very barest minimum.
And if you want to take it on a country drive, or even a long haul between capital cities, you need not think twice.
The petrol engine will keep the batteries charged for the run, and you’ll still return a diesel-equalling 6.0-7.0 l/100km (on one long run, we pitted it against a diesel Santa Fe; the PHEV returned the better consumption).
We tracked its consumption over a month of use on regional roads - away from the city. By assiduously plugging in each evening, and driving normally with regular longer runs away from ‘home’, we averaged 3.8 l/100km over the month.
And that’s using the PHEV in a regional location.
In the city, with shorter runs or used as the daily commuter transport, any driver will better that figure.
Two, its versatile packaging.
It may look a little drab, most seem to agree its slab sides and chin-strap front styling are not especially appealing, but no other plug-in hybrid will so easily swallow a family load, nor offer the general ease and all-round wagon usefulness of the SUV-sized PHEV.
If the i3 is capable and worthy - and it is - the vastly cheaper, more family-friendly and more versatile PHEV more so.
It offers space and capability in equal measure to its green credentials.
Three, its versatile performance.
The Outlander, the conventional models, perform well-enough on road. The PHEV performs far better. It feels more eager at the wheel.
The torque of the electric drive can be summoned in an instant, and, with the assistance of the 2.0 litre petrol engine when a sudden burst of speed is called for, the PHEV responds eagerly, whatever load it’s carrying.
And it is vastly quieter and more refined at the wheel than its conventional stablemates.
Thanks to the battery sandwiched below the floor, which both lowers the centre of gravity and assists in fore/aft balance, as well as dampening resonances through the chassis, the PHEV is limousine-like for refinement and balance.
Four, its value.
But buyers choosing this car are making a choice that puts ‘greener’ EV motoring at a worthwhile premium. Those buyers, and perhaps most of us concur, place a value on being a little more planet-friendly in their transport choices.
And, as we discovered, the PHEV becomes almost ridiculously cheap to run, provided you charge it daily.
The simple fact, also, is that the PHEV is vastly cheaper than the equivalent Holden Volt or BMW i3, and is certainly a more practical purchase than each of those two.
Where some conventional hybrids - the Camry Hybrid and various Prius models in particular - are cheaper, these cars perhaps represent a technology in transition and none have the PHEV’s capability of running day after day on EV power alone.
The plug-in hybrid, with an electric motor as the key drivetrain component, is arguably the way of the future and certainly where more manufacturers are now concentrating their efforts and investment.
So, this is our choice: The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV takes TMR’s BEST BUY AWARD 2015.
We congratulate Mitsubishi on the achievement of this car and commend it to you.
As we said in our Top Ten Best Buys verdict:
"The closer you get to this car, the more you will like it.
Its slab-sided styling may not appeal to everyone, but Mitsubishi’s PHEV is the best plug-in hybrid of the moment - and arguably, the best hybrid, full stop.
Like the Prius of a decade earlier, this car breaks new ground for families.
This very clever piece of advanced EV technology not only establishes a new affordable benchmark for sustainable motoring, but, by packaging these technologies into an SUV, Mitsubishi engineers have moved the goal posts significantly in driveability, ease-of-ownership, and practicality.
Anyone considering putting an electric vehicle in their garage should not feel daunted in any way by this car.
You can simply put it in ‘Drive’ and cruise around like in any conventional set of wheels. Except your fuel bills will be so low they’ll barely matter.
And everyone knows how to push a three-pin plug into a power point."
To a worthy winner, TMR’s BEST BUY 2015, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.
- Price Range: $47,490 - $52,490 (plus on-roads)
- Engine: 87kW/186Nm 2.0 litre petrol + two electric motors (137Nm front, 195Nm rear)
- Transmissions: No gearbox, just a single-ratio transaxle
- Fuel use listed l/100km: 1.9 l/100km (91RON) | tested: 2.1 l/100km. (Our 'tracked' average: 3.8 l/100km)