Despite the ‘sometimes boring’ barbs that get sent its way, the 2019 Mitsubishi Outlander LS keeps punching well above its perceived weight in the medium-SUV segment. Spend any time behind the wheel of one, and the reasons for its popularity become pretty clear too.
Mitsubishi has, in recent times, become something of an SUV specialist. ASX, Outlander, Pajero Sport, Pajero, Triton, and most recently the Eclipse Cross have joined the range of cars that used to include a whole lot more traditional non-SUV variants than it does now. Given the way the buying public is moving, the SUV focus might just be the smartest move the company has ever made.
Mitsubishi knows off-road too. As far back as legendary wins in Dakar racing, the Japanese company knows how to assemble a tough as nails off-roader. Modern SUV buyers don’t need that kind of bulletproof ability in the really rough stuff, though. What they need is value for money, space, reliability and practicality.
And that’s precisely where the Outlander steps in.
Callers to our radio show have asked about the Outlander, agreed to look more aggressively into the segment, and then called back a month or so later to tell us that they went ahead and bought an Outlander anyway – and they couldn’t be more delighted with their choice. Take a look at rental depots around Australia too, and you’ll see them littered with Mitsubishi’s medium SUV.
There’s good reason too – the Outlander does exactly what it purports to do, which is exactly what buyers look for when they are spending a wedge of hard-earned money. Revisions for 2019 have brought some relevant additions to the Outlander portfolio as well, and here we’re taking a look at the FWD LS-specification grade.
As a recap, pricing for the LS petrol engine in FWD guise starts from a very competitive $33,790 before on-road costs, and that includes the seven-seat option. Something few SUVs in this segment can offer. The big-ticket changes for me for MY19 are the revised steering and suspension systems. At the time of writing, this vehicle could be had for $34,290 drive-away according to the Mitsubishi website.
Straight off the bat, I actually think the LS is the specification to have, and whether you prefer FWD as tested here or AWD is up to you. Me? I’d go AWD given that’s what I think SUVs are about. Plenty of buyers don’t seem to care, though, and in that case, the FWD will do exactly what you expect. You’ll step up to $36,290 before on-road costs if you want the petrol AWD in LS guise, so it isn’t a huge leap by any means.
The 2.4-litre petrol engine and CVT remain unchanged for MY19, and as such generate 124kW and 220Nm and feature the same ‘stepped’ ratios inside the CVT as you’re familiar with. The ADR fuel-usage claim on the combined cycle is 7.2L/100km, and on test we used an indicated 9.9L/100km. You’ll obviously get lower than that on the freeway, without constant around-town running too, so keep that in mind.
I love the Outlander cabin, especially in regard to the amount of useful space on offer for family buyers. If a medium SUV is the focal point of your daily family duties, therefore, the Outlander should be right up at the top of your consideration pile. That space starts up front, where you have plenty of useful storage space for wallets, phones, sunglasses and iPods, as well as bottle and cup holders.
The contrasting seat trim is comfortable and looks good too, while the seats – which used to be a bugbear with Mitsubishi – are now much better than they used to be. They are more contoured for starters, but also more comfortable into the bargain. Seat heating is a nice addition as well. The dash trim and soft-touch surfaces feel quality too, and there’s a sense that you’ve gotten really good value for money inside the Outlander’s cabin.
Visibility and driving position are highlights – as they should be in this segment – and that goes for the view rearward when you’re checking blind spots or reverse parking. The rear-view camera is solid, and the 7.0-inch screen clear. We like how responsive it is, and Apple CarPlay has been nicely integrated into the native infotainment system too. This is a CarPlay integration that works, and we didn’t find it to be glitchy or slow on test. Once authorised, it recognised my phone quickly thereafter too.
We tested CarPlay extensively and Android Auto (not quite as extensively) and both worked faultlessly, especially voice control. Keep in mind, though, that there’s no proprietary satellite navigation, so with the Outlander it’s your smartphone or bust. Not an issue for most buyers, but if data is restrictive on your plan, or you don’t have a modern smartphone, it’s going to be a factor.
The second row is also roomy, and the largely flat floor helps here too. You can move the seats fore and aft to deliver more room into the third row, which is as good as it gets in this segment. You obviously won’t want adults travelling interstate wedged into the third row, but for occasional use, and for kids, it’s well above average. Rear-seat occupants get AC vents, which is not quite as common as you’d think at the budget end of the shopping list.
The largely flat floor in the luggage section and lip that isn’t too deep make it useful for loading and unloading, and there’s a clever hidden section underneath the floor that works well to keep valuables out of sight. The third row is a 50:50 split, while the second row is the conventional 60:40 split and it tumbles forward to open up a huge luggage space when you need it.
While the Outlander is hardly exciting, it is very much an excellent daily conveyance around town. The engine and CVT are nicely matched, and the CVT doesn’t do a lot of what we’ve never liked about CVTs. By way of contrast, I asked three different non-road testers what they thought of the transmission and they all just commented on how smooth it was. If you love driving, you still might take issue with the CVT, but the kicker is most buyers won't.
It’s pretty quiet inside the cabin also – unless you’re back in the third row, where there can be more road noise than the front two rows. The ride is beautiful, with the Outlander soaking up the worst road surfaces we could find, thanks partly to the sensible 18-inch wheels and tyres. It once again raises the argument of whether SUVs really ‘need’ 21-inch wheels in most normal applications.
A full five-star ANCAP rating and a five-year/100,000km warranty ensure the Outlander is an attractive option for budget-conscious but savvy Australian buyers. It doesn’t get the headlines like others in the segment, but it deserves more respect than it does get.