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Click to view road test review picture galleryMore ‘bling’ and more
  bhp — Mitsubishi’s
  new Outlander
  Diamond has that and
  more, including a
  torquey new 2.2-litre
  turbodiesel. If you want
  the ‘real-deal’ in
  sensible SUVs, start

FOR BUYERS PUT OFF FROM OWNING a multi-seat SUV/4x4 by the forthcoming 400 Road Tax (to be levied on so called gas-guzzling models from 1 April 2008) and the new higher 25-per-day London Congestion Charge (due later this year for vehicles emitting over 225g/km of CO2), then the latest Mitsubishi Outlander 2.2 DI-DC Diamond with five-doors and seven-seats could be just the answer.

Until recently the Outlander was available with the choice of a 2.4-litre petrol engine with a CVT automatic transmission and a VW-sourced 2.0-litre DI-D turbodiesel unit with high-geared manual transmission. Neither engines are particularly suited to this SUV vehicle due to its high gearing — adopted to achieve lower exhaust emissions.

However, Mitsubishi now has access to the PSA Peugeot-Citroen 2.2-litre turbodiesel powerplant that has more power and, importantly, more torque — so it copes much better with the high gearing. This 154bhp 2.2-litre unit puts out 194g/km of CO2 — that's well below the 226g/km that incurs the 25-per-day London Congestion Charge. It also gives this Outlander an annual road tax bill of 'just' 205.

On the 'bling' front, the Outlander Diamond variant, which is only available with the 2.2-litre diesel engine, has lots of extra exterior chrome. There is a chrome sports mesh front grille, chrome mirrors and door handles, chrome headlamp bezels, chrome exhaust tailpipes and, as you'd expect, the obligatory privacy glass is already fitted. The Diamond version also has 18-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats, power-operated driver's seat, an excellent touch-screen DVD satellite navigation system with live traffic updates, a premium sound system, roof-mounted DVD system, electric sunroof, rear-view parking camera, parking sensors and rain-sensitive windscreen wipers.

There is, however, a high price to pay for the extra power and added equipment — 26,999. That's 2,000 more than the Outlander with Elegance specification and powered either by the 2.4-litre petrol or lack-lustre 2.0-litre diesel engine. Add in the on-the-road charges and you will be writing a cheque for 27,254 for the Outlander Diamond variant.

It's a shame Mitsubishi has not made the 2.2-litre engine available in a lower specification to compete with starting prices of the Citroen C-Crosser and Peugeot 4007 versions of the same vehicle, which start at 22,790 and 22,890 respectively.

Mitsubishi manufactures versions of the Outlander for Citroen and Peugeot. Which brand the SUV customer goes for will be down to personal choice and the final deal they manage to negotiate with their local dealer.

Whichever they choose they can be sure it will be cheaper to buy, run, and incur much less tax and road charges than the more expensive top SUV models such as the Range Rover, Audi Q7, BMW X5, Porsche Cayenne, Mercedes GL, M and R-Class 4x4s and the VW Toureg — all favoured by the 'City-slicker' business community and affluent families.

Although overall sales of new SUVs and 4x4s in the UK have not slowed in response to the increase in fuel costs, it is the demand for the medium-sized models such as the Outlander/C-Crosser/4007 trilogy, Nissan X-Trail, Land Rover Freelander, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 — to name but a few — that has really driven the growth in the market. And the recently-introduced VW Tiguan should further increase SUV sales in the UK.

Mid-sized SUVs are liked because of their 'country-life' styling, roomy and versatile interiors and their 4x4 traction which provides security for winter and wet weather driving.

But it is not just in the winter that SUVs are fit-for-purpose. Imposing country life-style good looks also play a part and customers also find them ideal work, leisure and family transport all the year round.

The Mitsubishi brand is famous for 4x4 models and the Outlander is currently the best model in their entire range. Yes, their Lancer Evolution high-performance all-wheel drive fast road and rally cars are the 'halo' models for the range; but the Japanese-built Outlander has been a huge volume sales model worldwide — Mitsubishi is now adding extra European production capacity for the Outlander at their Netherlands factory.

The Outlander Diamond with the PSA 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel engine (154bhp and 280lb ft of torque from 2,000rpm) has a six-speed manual gearbox with an electronic on-demand two, four and 4WD lock transmission. As mentioned, the on-the-road price is a hefty 27,254 but then the specification is high. Undoubtedly some will consider the Outlander's styling 'garish' because of the exterior chrome 'bling'. Others will love it and argue it looks 'smart'.

At 4,640mm long and 1,800mm wide, the Outlander is the same size as a family estate car and even the extra ground clearance and extra headroom (which gives the vehicle a height of 1,720mm) causes no problems with multi-story car parks.

The five-plus-two seating configuration will be an added bonus for some families — although the rear two seats (which drop down into the floor) are really only suitable for occasional use, but when they're stowed away the load area is pretty large. The middle row of seats can be folded down as well to create a huge — 1,691 litres — cargo space. With the middle row in place, passenger space for two adults is excellent; three can be accommodated at a push. The legroom is pretty good as well. However, on more than one occasion my passengers passed comment about the lack of comfort due to the overly firm seatback.

The front seats are comfortable — they are heated and, for added convenience, the driver's seat is electrically adjustable. The Diamond specification also includes leather upholstery. The dashboard is well laid out and houses the control and switches in logical, easy-to-find locations. There is storage space within the fascia and in the console that runs from the fascia to between the front seats. Overall, the cabin is very user-friendly.

The added Diamond specification thankfully includes rear parking sensors, which are a must as the door mounted rear-view mirrors are too small, and dark tinted glass that I (for one) can live without. This model also has a very good colour DVD satellite navigation system which incorporates a rear-view camera. The system is brilliant and makes driving very easy and parking simple.

The Outlander Diamond version runs on 18-inch alloy road wheels and comes with other important standard equipment such as cruise control, alarm with remote control locking and deadlocks, automatic air conditioning with climate control, electrically-operated front and rear side windows, electrically-operated and heated door mirrors, trip computer, front, side and curtain airbags, electronic stability control and anti-lock braking. Outside there are roof bars and a lower tailgate fold-flat section for added ease of loading.

It is the overall size — not too big, not too small — the high equipment levels and the performance and responsiveness of the well-known, smooth and quiet 2.2-litre diesel engine that together make this Outlander a really strong contender for sales. Add in Mitsubishi's reputation for build quality, together with their four-wheel drive technology, and you end up with the 'real-deal' in sensible SUVs.

Some customers might prefer the Land Rover brand name, their 4x4 abilities and credentials but the Freelander is smaller inside and, with like-for-like specification, costs much more.

Most of the time SUVs are used for on-road work, in good or bad weather — and this is another place where the Outlander scores. It performs really well, just like a large estate car. Top speed is 124mph, 0-62mph takes 9.9 seconds with a gallon of fuel officially stretching to 38.7mpg — 35.2mpg on average during my week's motoring. What makes the Outlander — and C-Crosser and Peugeot 4007 for that matter — so good is their general all-round performance.

In fact, the Outlander does most things well enough to satisfy most people. The road holding is good, there's not very much body roll, the grip is excellent, the steering precise, brakes strong and the engine responsive. In addition there's the ability to go from two- to four-wheel drive at the turn of a dial (as well as some considerable off-road ability with the 4WD lock facility). The Outlander can also tow up to 2,000kg. Not hard to see why these vehicles make a strong and sensible case for themselves, and why customers continue to buy them.

As for negative issues, there are very few: no automatic transmission option — yet. Road noise intrusion is another, as are small door mirrors and the forward sloping rear load floor where small items move forward out of reach. Some potential customers will prefer the front styling treatment of the Citroen C-Crosser or Peugeot 4007, and these models are cheaper.

More 'plus points' include the Outlander's sensible size, its high specification, the practical seat/load space, sure-footed handling and easy to use 4x4 system, strong engine and good fuel economy. Not to be overlooked either is the 8-a-day London Congestion Charge (not the upcoming 25 per day) and Mitsubishi's Service Plan: 200 for 3 years/37,500miles. — David Miles

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Mitsubishi Outlander Diamond 2.2 DI-DC 7-seat | 26,999
Maximum speed: 124mph | 0-62mph: 9.9 seconds
Overall test MPG: 35.2mpg | Power: 154bhp | Torque: 280lb ft

CO2 194g/km | VED Band F 205 | Insurance group 13E
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