Car reviews - Mitsubishi - Outlander - ES
Size, dash design, interior practicality, space, comfort, ease, smoothness, economy, warranty, manoeuvrability, grip, interesting nose and tail styling
Room for improvement
Needs more open-road power, feel-free steering, uninspiring handling, slab-sided styling
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22 Mar 2013
, Price and equipment
THESE HERE are austere times we’re living in, and doesn’t Mitsubishi know it.
Hit hard by economic downturns, the effects of natural disasters, and a lack of resources, the Japanese company has attempted to redress its ageing product portfolio as prudently as possible.
For the third-generation Outlander released late last year, that meant a total reskin, much improved interior, better quality, and lower fuel consumption.Yet much of the basic hardware underneath has been seen before.
Welcome, then, to the ZJ series – sober, mature, and composed – and with a fresh look that represents a radical departure from the angular old model.
Base ES 2.0 CVT equipment levels are competitive, with seven airbags, rear parking sensors, hill-start assist, cruise control, climate control air-con, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming with voice control, electric-folding door mirrors, alarm and a 16-inch steel wheels with full-size spare.
But the Outlander lacks a reverse camera that’s standard on the $1500 cheaper Honda CR-V 2WD VTi and Mazda CX-5 2WD Maxx equivalents.
Is it worth the extra outlay?
Proportionally we reckon Mitsubishi straddles the fine line between SUV and wagon crossover,while the front-end grille graphics and previous-gen Subaru Impreza Hatch-style tail-lightsadd some much-needed flair.
But as a whole, the Outlander looks are a bit homely. Maybe it’s the ES’ tiny wheels or the slabby sides. We fear the company is in the design doldrums.
The interior, however, is a huge step forward for the company.
Smartly modern, satisfyingly functional, and beautifully finished, the dashboard is a solid piece of quality engineering, embellished with rubber-feel surfaces matched to contrasting piano-black and brushed aluminium-looking trim. Classy.
Most people will find more than enough space up front, on seats that look flat but are really fairly comfortable and supportive despite lacking lumbar adjustment, while a high driving position, deep windows, and improbably massive door mirrors aid vision out while making the cabin feel invitingly airy.
Finding the ideal driving position is no challenge thanks to a steering column that tilts as well as telescopes.
Ahead of the driver are incredibly clear instrument dials, buttons that even a pre-Smartphone era adult can operate, ample storage options, and excellent heating/air-con performance. Our hot Melbourne summer proved no sweat in the Outlander.
Many latest-model vehicles have lights or graphics that are supposed to encourage more frugal driving, but only serve to clutter the instrumentation the Mitsubishi’s, however, features logical ECO barsthat are amongst the clearest we’ve experienced.
Large doors for seamless entry and exit, and an impressive amount of rear legroom, make the back seat area great for lugging growing families and grown adults alike.
Dreary monochrome plastics (which, being hard but not cheap, are bound to wear well anyway) aside, Mitsubishi’s interior designers have put a load of thought back there.
Reclining backrests (split 60/40) and a fairly decent cushion size mean that even long trips can be comfortable affairs, supported by a decent amount of headroom, more shoulder space than we anticipated, and a spot for feet beneath the front seats.
One map pocket, twooverhead grab handles, useful door bins and a pair of cupholders set within the centre armrest further enhance an already likeable cabin presentation.
However, the 477-litre rear load area is a sizeable 120L less than before due to a higher floor – although in reality we doubt anybody would be aware of the shortfall.
Plus, it can be extended to the front row by tipping the seat cushions forward and dropping the backrests (which include child-restraint hooks located handily behind them) flush with the floor – resulting in space for a pair of 180cm adults to sleep in. Total volume is 1608L (versus 1691L in the old ZH Outtie).
Flipsides? The inexplicable absence of a rear cargo blind not only means no hiding place for your luggage, it leads to increased road/tyre noise intrusion.Most entry level SUVs are currently trying to fleece buyers in this regard. Demand one. Also, no rear air vents are fitted either.
Still, bravo Mitsubishi. There is nothing even remotely intimidating about the Outlander’s insides. Its creators have delivered a vehicle that is like a big old comfy lounge chair – inviting and defatiguing.
But what about what lies underneath?
, Engine and transmission
, Remarkably smooth, the new 110kW/195Nm 2.0-litre with the optional CVT hauls the largish Outlander around town manfully, responding to pedal inputs with a natural ease that has a way of charming the passive driver.
Even with four adults on board, off-the-mark acceleration is strong, with the Mitsubishi picking up speed quickly enough to feel quite lively in urban traffic situations.
It is an impressive achievement really, since – let’s face it – a front-drive medium SUV wagon like this is really going to serve as a point A-to-B device.
But for the times when the Outlander is actually called up to live up to its name and go beyond the confines of suburbia, a loaded example will seem slow to pick up speed at speed, sluggish during an overtaking manoeuvre, and downright underpowered if both of the preceding procedures also involve a hill, more than two passengers, and the air-con on.
Mashing the accelerator hard beyond about 100km/h, the CVT downshifts to a point where the engine will wailat 6500rpm, as it struggles to maintain the chosen momentum, undermining any sense of refinement.
Hovering a little over the 9.0L/100km mark over a week’s worth of mostly urban commuting makes the Mitsubishi’s fuel economy commendable for a medium SUV, with that figure climbing to around 11 when we stuck the boot in.
Giving economy a hand is a weight drop to 1610kg, smoother aerodynamics, and the company’s Eco Drive Assistant technology that runs the engine and air-conditioning system more efficiently.
Ride and handling
A fairly tight turning circle is the first hint where Mitsubishi’s dynamic thinking is at with this base FWD Outlander CVT.
Brilliantly easy around the city and handy for small parking spots, this is a set-and-forget sort of vehicle that feels instantly familiar.
Rental firms ought to buy these in the thousands just for this reason alone.
The suspension set-up is quite soft, so most bumps are absorbed effortlessly, making the Mitsubishi one of the more comfortable vehicles in its class, especially around town.
But amp up the speed, and the steering – though sharp enough for most peoples’ tastes – becomes more vague than a Federal politician when asked to explain his or her extra-curricular expenses. There simply is not enough feedback for the driver to feel connected to the car, the road, or the action.
This, combined with plenty of body roll through turns, means that there is just not a jot of joy to be garnered cornering enthusiastically in this thing.
That’s probably not too much of a concern for most customers, but the lack of sufficient throttle response to power out of a situation might be. We wonder whether saving up for the more powerful 2.4-litre version might be a more prudent move.
At least a propensity for persistent road grip is notable, underlining the Outlander’s engineers’ safety and security priorities whilst developing the ZJ. Strong brakes, too, are a further bonus.
But there’s no escaping the sheer mediocrity of the chassis – and for a Mitsubishi, that’s just not good enough. It feels as if this Outlander is new on top but much older underneath. Dynamic sophistication just isn’t the ES FWD 2.0 CVT’s forte.
Finally, while ground clearance is fine, the long overhangs and lack of low-range gears, 4x4, and no diff locks, means that gravel roads are the best this Mitsubishi crossover can achieve.
, Safety and servicing
Five-year’s worth of unlimited kilometre warranty, with fixed-price servicing included, are real Outlander benefits, while the newcomer achieves a commendable five-star ANCAP crash-test rating.
Remember the good old Magna wagon? Dynamic, refined, comfy and tough, it was an Australian engineering triumph of which we may never see the likes of again.
Well, Mitsubishi’s new SUV is nothing like it.
In ES guise, this is more like a raised Camry wagon – an unexciting yet competent family car that does not deliver a morsel more than what you would expect.
Yes, it shines for reliability, dependability, practicality, and comfort, plus the dash – like the projected running costs – looks good, but that’s about all.
We could be talking about your auntie here.
Unfortunately for Mitsubishi, the equivalent CX-5 is all that plus more youthful and dynamic,the CR-V gives you heaps of metal for the money, and Ford’s upcoming Kuga 1.6 turbo promises toadd even more enjoyment to the mix.
Yet the base Outlander is nevertheless a likeable crossover/wagon, with a no-nonsense approach to modern family-car motoring for these tough times.
, 1. Mazda CX-5 Maxx 2WD 6AT, From $29,880 plus on-roads, Nothing right now touches the Japanese compact SUV for all-round capability, driver enjoyment, and good looks, even if the 2.0-litre four-pot needs plenty of revs to perform. It’s great value.
Toyota RAV4 GX 2WD CVT, From $30,990 plus on-roads, Like the Mazda, Toyota’s pioneering crossover demands a heavy right foot for sufficient oomph, but the basics are all there – good handling, supple ride, and a spacious interior.
3. Honda CR-V VTi 2WD 5AT, From $29,790 plus on-roads, Now better value than ever, Honda sales are finally recovering and the CR-V is leading the charge.
Not for drivers, the base VTi package nevertheless prioritises comfort and versatility, in an appealing package.
MAKE/MODEL: Mitsubishi ZJ Outlander ES CVT
ENGINE: 1998cc 4-cyl DOHC petrol
LAYOUT: FWD, transverse
POWER: 110kW @ 6000rpm
TORQUE: 195Nm @ 4200rpm
TRANSMISSION: CVT auto
TOP SPEED: 190km/h
SUSPENSION f/r: Struts/Multi-link
STEERING: Electric rack and pinion
BRAKES f/r: Discs/discs
PRICE: From $31,240 plus on-roads
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