Plug-in hybrids may not be commonplace yet, but could a Mitsubishi Outlander or MG HS with a plug-in powertrain be your next family SUV?
Having your cake and eating it too is a nice concept, if it's at all possible.
Plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) straddle the worlds of petrol and electric power. They provide the benefits of an electric vehicle for local trips and use petrol power to extend range and reduce electric vehicle shortcomings.
Let’s put the boot on the other foot for a minute. Does trying to play both sides at once reduce the overall appeal rather than improve it? Can one be an effective jack of both disciplines instead of attempting to master one?
Like every other car out there, these two cars won't appeal to everyone. But their double-dipping drivetrains could make perfect sense for some.
We’ve got the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV in GSR specification which is nearing the end of its life (there’s an all-new model in late-2021). The alphabet soup-styled MG HS PHEV is at the other end of its lifespan, having arrived here in plug-in hybrid form in 2020, two years after the rest of the HS range arrived in 2018. The Outlander range dates back to 2013, with the current plug-in powertrain arriving in 2020.
The plug-in hybrid HS is MG’s mid-sized SUV. It comes in only one specification and is priced from $46,990 drive-away.
Petrol power comes from a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine, which makes 119kW at 5500rpm and 250Nm at 4300rpm. This is joined by a 16.6kWh battery which feeds a single electric motor.
This electric motor makes 90kW and 230Nm and turns the front wheels along with the petrol engine via a ten-speed transmission – which functions as a six-speed auto for the petrol engine, and four-speed auto for the electric motor. This results in a claimed 63km electric-only driving range.
The single specification on offer is on the higher end, with MG including leather trimming, electric and heated front seats, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, panoramic sunroof and tyre pressure monitoring.
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GSR sits in the middle of a three-rung plug-in range, and is priced at $52,490 before on-road costs, which puts it between the ES ($47,990) and Exceed ($56,490). At the time of writing the Outlander PHEV GSR came with a $56,490 drive-away price.
The Outlander has a 2.4-litre naturally-aspirated petrol engine, which makes 94kW at 4500rpm and 199Nm at 4500rpm to power the front wheels in some situations, or work as a generator for the electric drive system depending on the driving situation. The Outlander PHEV offers all-wheel drive, with 60kW, 137Nm front and 70kW, 195Nm rear electric motors and a single-speed automatic transmission.
With a 13.8kWh battery, Mitsubishi claims up to 54km of electric-only range for the Outlander.
GSR specification scores a Bilstein Premium Suspension package which replaces standard front struts and rear shock absorbers, as well as stiffening spring rates and ball-bearing front strut insulators.
Inside, GSR gains microsuede seat trimming, with electric control, Mitsubishi eight-speaker premium sound, front parking sensors, electric tailgate, 18-inch black and machined alloy wheels, black exterior features and a handful of upgraded interior materials.
|2021 MG HS PHEV||2021 Mitsubishi Outlander GSR PHEV|
|Price (MSRP)||$46,990 drive-away||$52,490 before on-road costs|
|Dimensions||4574mm long / 1876mm wide / 1685mm high||4695mm long / 1800mm wide / 1710mm high|
|Warranty||Seven year / Unlimited km||Five year / 100,000km (up to 10 year/200,000km conditional)|
|Service interval||12 month / 10,000km||12 month / 15,000km|
|Service pricing||No capped-price servicing||$1500 (3yr), $2500 (5yr)|
|ANCAP safety rating||Untested (non-hybrid is five stars)||Five-stars (2014)|
The interior of the MG feels quite modern in terms of design, carrying elements in common with MG’s other SUVs such as round air vents, trapezoidal shapes and a big infotainment display. It has good practicality in terms of storage, build quality seems good, and the nice touch-points throughout the cabin lend a premium experience.
The second row in the HS feels low-slung, making more like a comfortable sedan than a high-riding SUV. It’s plenty comfortable overall with good head- and leg-room, but the low seating position and high window line make it hard for kids to see out. I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed that my kids are much happier when they can see out the window.
Seats are a 60/40 split with no sliding ability which would be handy to help free up boot space from time to time.
The boot floor of the HS is high-slung with no load lip to negotiate. Underneath, you’ll find a tyre sealant kit (in lieu of a spare wheel) as well as some extra cooling components for the electric powertrain.
Boot space with the rear seats up is rated at 451-litres to the top of the seat backs, expanding to 1275-litres (to the window line) with the rear row folded.
The sunroof is big and a nice addition to the HS. I have my reservations about thin cloth covers and hot summer days, however. I’d imagine that the air conditioning will have its work cut out under a blazing Australian sun.
In terms of power outlets, you’ve got two USB ports up front along with a 12V plug.
The Outlander’s interior is traditional in its design which could strike some as feeling dated. Build quality seems good aside from a bit of loose floppiness from the rear-view mirror – which i assume would be an easy fix.
There are plenty of piano black surfaces – finished in a metallic-style fleck – which dominates a large part of the dashboard and centre console. A few more storage nooks and crannies scattered around the interior, always helpful for a family SUV, wouldn’t go astray.
Climate control is operated by buttons on the dashboard, inevitably being easier to operate than MG's system, which can only be operated through the infotainment display.
There is no digital instrument cluster like the MG, though. Instead, there is a more classic display of twin analogue dials for your speedometer and a kind of power reserve tachometer, with a multifunction display nestled in between.
The second row of the Outlander is quite spacious and comfortable, with ample head and legroom on offer for a growing family. Second-row visibility is good and there are air vents located behind the centre console along with a couple of USB power outlets.
The boot is well-sized, measuring in at 463-litres to the top of the seats, and with some handy additional storage in the side wings. There’s more storage underneath as well, along with a tyre repair kit. We’d love to see a full-size spare on a car like this, but understand that it’s tricky to package along with a plug-in hybrid powertrain. Flip down all seats and you’ve got a flat 1602-litres at your disposal, however unlike MG, Mitsubishi measures to the roof, hence the much larger figure.
Infotainment and connectivity
While the MG’s infotainment display is quite large (10.1 inches) the operating system isn’t particularly easy or intuitive to operate. System functions don’t seem to be in logical locations most of the time, but all of those problems take a back seat if you’re using Android Auto or Apple CarPlay for your navigation and functionality.
The 360-degree camera system, while not the best quality, is a handy ally for navigating tight scenarios and parking.
I did run into some latency issues with Android Auto whilst using Spotify and Waze at the same time. I’m not sure if this is a problem unique to my phone or the vehicle's software, but it’s worth mentioning.
The 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster of the MG HS PHEV is a nice addition, especially at this relatively low price point. Here, you can flick through plenty of display options to see what the hybrid powertrain is up to, as well as keep an eye on your tyre pressures.
Those keen on a good audio system will likely be let down by the sound quality of the MG. Phone call quality is also sub-standard.
The Mitsubishi Outlander’s infotainment display measures in at an unremarkable 8.0-inches, with a decent operating system to navigate through the basic functions. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both here, along with digital radio but no native navigation (reserved for the top-spec Exceed only). The upgraded eight-speaker sound system doesn’t seem to improve sound quality by any large measure.
Both SUVs have autonomous emergency braking, rear-cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and lane keep assist. The MG has traffic sign recognition and six airbags in the cabin, while the Outlander carries seven airbags including a driver’s knee airbag.
Both of these SUVs pack a decent safety portfolio, but the local safety assessment authority, ANCAP, doesn't necessarily reflect their respective safety standings accurately.
Outlander is technically safer according to the local safety authority, with a five-star rating, albeit a rating with a 2014 date stamp. The MG HS PHEV is officially unrated under ANCAP criteria, however the petrol-powered MG HS earned a five-star rating in 2019, providing some context, but not a definitive rating.
ANCAP's criteria are made more stringent as time goes on, so a 2014 five-star car may not receive the same rating if it were retested today.
Value for money
One element of value for money to consider is how much vehicle you’re getting for your money. Measuring in at 4695mm long and 1710mm high, the Outlander is a slightly larger vehicle overall in comparison to the MG. However, the MG is slightly wider (1876mm vs 1800mm).
However, the MG does have more in value for money in most other respects. A slightly larger battery translates to better electric-only range, and more screen acreage inside also helps out. However, it’s also worth pointing out here that the Outlander has electric all-wheel drive, rather than front-wheel drive only.
With a lower drive-away price, the MG certainly offers more overall bang-for-back in comparison to the Outlander. Although, it’s worth noting that the Outlander can also be had in base ES specification, which will bring prices closer but also trims the standard equipment list slightly.
Mitsubishi's five year/100,000 kilometre warranty is bested by MG's recently announced seven years and unlimited kilometres. But to muddy the waters, those who keep their service books stamped at Mitsubishi dealerships, on time, for the full duration are eligible for up to 10 years and 200,000 kilometres of warranty coverage.
Update 02/07/2021: We've just heard that MG is increasing the warranty offering for their HS PHEV and ZS EV to seven years and unlimited kilometres, and have updated this story accordingly.
Mitsubishi backs the hybrid system battery with an eight year or 160,000km warranty, while MG rolls it all into the same seven years and no mileage limit.
The Outlander PHEV is covered by a ten-year capped-price service schedule, with visits required every 12 months or 15,000 kilometres. Each visit varies between $299 and $799, culminating in $1795 for the first five years and rises noticeably to $4890 for the full decade, averaging out at $489 per year.
The MG, on the other hand, doesn’t offer any capped-price servicing for the HS PHEV.
The MG offers good bang for buck in this comparison, with a few advantages over the Mitsubishi. Some features like intelligent speed limit assist, traffic jam assist and door opening warning would be welcome additions for those keen on all of the safety mod-cons.
The 360-degree camera isn't matched by the Outlander, although it makes up ground through front parking sensors.
However, it needs to be said that both of these mid-sized SUVs offer a solid gamut of standard features for the respective asking prices, leaving little on the options list to dig through:
Rear-view cameras, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, digital radio, keyless entry and push-button start and electric tailgate are all standard fare.
Having all-wheel drive in the Outlander is an advantage over the front-wheel drive MG, especially for an SUV that might find itself battling through greasy grass and muddy patches from time to time. It’s made better by the Outlander's 4WD switch which locks the front and rear electric motors into action for better off-road grip.
The calibration of the Outlander’s petrol/electric interface is better overall. The integration is more seamless and the additional power and torque from the electric motors means the petrol engine does less heavy lifting around town.
|2021 MG HS PHEV||2021 Mitsubishi Outlander GSR PHEV|
|Engine format||1.5-litre, four-cylinder turbo petrol||2.4-litre, four-cylinder petrol|
|Petrol Power||119kW @ 5500rpm||94kW @ 4500rpm|
|Petrol Torque||250Nm @ 4300rpm||199Nm @ 4500rpm|
|Electric Power||90kW front||60kW front / 70kW rear|
|Electric Torque||230Nm front||137Nm front / 195Nm rear|
|Fuel consumption (claimed)||1.7L/100km||1.9L/100km|
|Fuel consumption (on test)||5.8L/100km||6.0L/100km|
|Electric-only range (claimed)||63km||52km|
That’s not to say that the MG is bad, because it’s actually quite good. The turbocharged petrol engine kicks in more frequently and noticeably, humming as it holds revs steady in the mid-range.
The Outlander has better straight-line performance when you’re comparing electric-only power, but the ledger evens out when both power sources are employed. Neither vehicle is a slouch, which is a tangible benefit of a plug-in hybrid powertrain.
After a big driving loop of around 120km starting with full batteries and running them down, we then let the hybrid powertrains of each vehicle make decisions to achieve the most efficient operation.
Here, the MG has a slight advantage from its larger battery and better overall range. And after getting just about bang-on 63km out of the HS PHEV, we averaged an overall fuel consumption of 3.68L/100km for the full loop. If we consider that almost exactly half of that driving was electric only, you could assume that the petrol-electric powertrain would use approximately 7.4L/100km when starting off with depleted batteries. But, doing so also defeats the purpose of this car.
In comparison, the Outlander also hit near enough to its 52km electric-only range. And after that ran out, we had a slightly higher average fuel consumption of 4.7L/100km.
Rough calculations for then put the depleted battery efficiency of the Outlander at approximately 7.3L/100km, which is on par with the HS PHEV.
So while the HS packs the biggest battery punch in this comparison, the advantage is tempered by requiring more expensive 95RON fuel where the Outlander is happy on cheaper 91RON.
Another small detail to consider is how fast these hybrids can charge. While the MG can only do 3.7kW via a Type 2 Plug, the Outlander can handle 3.7kW via a Type 1 plug and 22kWh with a CHAdeMO plug.
That means the MG can only use around half of the capacity of a more commonly-available 32-amp, 7kW fast charger. While the Outlander is capable of much higher charging speeds, the advantage is slighted by the relatively small battery size of both vehicles, and their ability to trickle charge to the brim overnight through a wall plug.
Ride and handling
Both of these SUVs offer a good ride, with neither threatening to be great. Mostly, this can come from the additional weight that comes with double powertrains.
The MG can feel heavy and ponderous at times, especially through corners and over rough surfaces. The ride is mostly good and well insulated, but it can be upset by coarse, jittery roads.
The Outlander feels better to drive in most scenarios, but also has its foibles. It seems more nimble and easier to throw around town, but the firmer suspension of the GSR can crash over bigger bumps. The Outlander also has a noisier demeanour at highway speeds and noticeable wind noise from the driver’s side rear-view mirror.
Fit for purpose
Both of these contenders hit the nail on the mid-size SUV head quite well. Both have spacious and comfortable first and second rows with room for adults and child seats alike.
The Outlander sneaks forward with more spacious and practical boot space, as well as more visibility for the second-row occupants.
And while the MG gives the best electric-only range, the Outlander is a better drive overall. Electric performance is better and the integration of electric and petrol power is also more seamless.
A plug-in hybrid isn’t judged only by its electric-only range. If it was, then the MG would be the winner. However, there are a few other elements we need to draw upon for our result. The infotainment display of the MG is larger but is let down by the operating system. And while the leather-trimmed seats might tick a premium box, the driver’s seat on the Outlander offers superior overall adjustment and ergonomics.
Both are on the larger side for medium SUVs and have good space throughout the cabin for day-to-day life and growing families.
The MG HS PHEV is the best value of these two vehicles. It’s got the most electric range along with a more premium interior presentation.
However, the Outlander has a few other elements that pushes it to the front of this comparison. While it has less electric range, 52km is still decent enough for a plug-in hybrid. Overall powertrain calibration is better in the Outlander, while the ride quality of both SUVs is good but not great.
That’s enough to give the Outlander the win. Just.