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Click to view picture gallery“Mitsubishi’s all-new
  Outlander is just the
  thing for crossing the
  boundaries between
  a Sports Utility Vehicle
  and a People Carrier.
  And seven-seats are
  always welcome...”

MITSUBISHI MOTORS ARE BEST KNOWN as a manufacturer of many and varied 4x4 vehicles, although the very high-performance Lancer Evolution saloons — which also have four-wheel drive — have given the range a 'hero' effect.

Their SUV/4x4 range has now been strengthened and updated with the arrival of the second-generation Outlander, which went on sale in the UK in March. The vehicle is much larger than the first Outlander — which was more of a 4x4 estate — and effectively replaces the aged five-seat Shogun Sport. The larger Shogun, of course, remains Mitsu-bishi's 4x4 flagship range.

This new Outlander crosses the boundaries between a 'people carrier' and SUV, because most versions have seven seats and offer selectable two/four-wheel drive. And it utilizes a completely new world platform designed in conjunction with DaimlerChrysler.

For the UK, there is an all-diesel three-model line-up: the Equippe, Warrior and Elegance, with prices ranging from 19,449 to 24,749. The Warrior version will take 60 per cent of Outlander sales, Elegance 30 per cent and the Equippe 10 per cent.

The first Outlander models all use a VW-derived 2.0-litre Euro IV direct injection intercooled turbodiesel engine with a power output of 138bhp and 229lb ft of torque from 1,750rpm. The transmission is a six-speed manual unit with three electronic, dial-operated modes: two- and
four-wheel drive, auto two/four wheel drive and 4WD 'lock'. The latter principally intended for use in deep snow or muddy conditions.

The Outlander will also be built in Japan for Peugeot and Citroen to use as, respectively, the 4007 and C-Crosser. They will be fitted with the more powerful, latest PSA 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine and go on sale in the UK this summer.

Mitsubishi will also have the PSA engine available to them, and their model is expected to be on sale later this year. At the same time, Mitsubishi will add a new 2.4-litre petrol unit to the Outlander line-up. This will only sell in very small numbers as most 4x4 owners — and even MPV customers — prefer the better fuel economy provided by diesel engines.

Mitsubishi expects to sell around 5,600 Outlanders a year in the UK: about 10 per cent of the market sector. They will primarily sell against the excellent Land Rover Freelander 2, the new Honda CR-V, Nissan
X-Trail and Toyota RAV4, but you could also include the highly-rated new Hyundai Santa Fe or the Kia Sorento.

However, the backlash against 4x4s on environmental issues (and in particular, for what is perceived to be totally unnecessary school
run usage) plus the increase in CO2 emission charges through the
road fund tax system, are all affecting sales in this sector of the 4x4 market.

People who live in the country or want a 4x4 for their work will con-tinue to buy these types of vehicles and pay the new high VED duty. But the 'yummy mummies' are showing signs of changing their alleg-iance to MPVs. These vehicles, such as the Citroen C4 Picasso, the SEAT Altea XL and the excellent Ford S-Max, still gives families the all import larger vehicle status without incurring the wrath of their peers by having an anti-social off-roader.

To off-set and deflect the effects of CO2 emission issues Mitsubishi
is marketing the Outlander in the UK on its high-equipment levels and, more significantly, on the fact that the vehicle has a footprint no larger than a Ford Mondeo, VW Passat or BMW 5-Series Estate. The CO2 levels are relatively low — around 183g/km — or, as they put it, 25g/km per person (based on the fact that the most popular models have seven seats). Mitsubishi says the same formula shows the
Toyota Prius hybrid emits 21g/km and the Honda CR-V diesel 35g/km. An interesting argument which only 'stacks up' if all seven seats of the Outlander are used regularly — and that is generally not the case.

Official fuel consumption is 40.9mpg for Warrior and Elegance models and that is spot-on with what I recorded with my test vehicle. In fact, on motorways at 70mph, it consistently returned 42.1mpg. The secret to this fuel economy is the very high final-drive gear ratio used by Mit-subishi. This is all well and good when the vehicle is used on motor-ways, but on normal A- and B-roads and in traffic, the 'tall' gearing made the Outlander very lethargic at low speeds until the turbocharger got up to speed.

Although the 2.0-litre engine has plenty of torque at low engine speeds, the high gearing robs it of some of the responsiveness you would normally expect from a diesel engine in first or second gears. Once underway, however, drop it into third gear to overtake slow traffic and off it goes. No hesitation. Again due to the high gearing,
I found myself driving in fourth and fifth gear on roads where sixth
gear would be the 'norm'.

Yes, the Outlander is fuel efficient. But it does have its performance drawbacks: the VW engine is quite harsh and sounds noisy and stress-ed at times. I know the PSA 2.2-litre engine is more modern, quieter and gives better performance and I feel sure these 2.2-litre versions due out later this year will be much better than the 2.0-litre ones, even if they are, perhaps, marginally less fuel and CO2 efficient.

Having the option of seven seats makes the Outlander pretty versatile. The legroom for the middle row of three seats is good, but the leg space for the rear row is minimal and only suitable for small children. Depending on the number of seats being used, cargo volume is very good, ranging from 541 up to 1,691 litres. The split rear tailgate has
a lower section within the bumper which folds down to give access to a low load carrying floor whilst the top half opens as normal.

When not in use, the third row of seats sits neatly folded into the floor. The second row folds and then tumbles forwards but doesn't fold away to form part of the load floor, which is not so clever if you want to carry long items because it effectively partitions the load bay. The Outlander is also capable of towing a braked 2,000kg.

Overall the Warrior version I tried is pretty well equipped with electric windows and door mirrors, central door locking, alarm, front and side airbags, air conditioning with climate control, a good audio system, leather-covered steering wheel and gearlever, privacy glass, cruise control and alloy wheels.

Unfortunately, and unlike other models, it has a colour-keyed resin guard in front of the lower bonnet — a modern version of the half bull bar. As such, I feel it spoils the look of the vehicle and I wonder how
it affects pedestrian safety.

That aside, the overall styling is neat and modern and looks very smart — except, of course, for that front bar. Other negatives are the price, a noisy engine, high gearing that — as already mentioned — dulls performance at low speeds and cramped rear seats. And it cannot compete with the Freelander if you want a proper mid-sized 4x4. However, plus points include the looks, handling, seven seats, equipment levels, fuel economy and an easy-select 4WD system. So, as a family-oriented soft-roader the sensible Outlander is perfectly okay. — David Miles

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Mitsubishi Outlander 2.0 DI-D Warrior 7-seat | 21,999
Maximum speed: 116mph | 0-62mph: 10.8 seconds
Overall test MPG: 40.9mpg | Power: 138bhp | Torque: 229lb ft

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