Test between hybrid and petrol SUVs delivers surprising result
Talk to automotive experts and many will debate the impending electric ‘carmageddon’.
Tesla has been outstanding in its disruption of the traditional carmakers’ business model. Elon Musk has put electric-powered vehicles on the map and the world’s best manufacturers are now surging ahead.
While we know the revolution is coming, and many carmakers have revealed dates detailing the end of their combustion engine production, electric power remains a bridge too far for many buyers.
Until electric vehicles are as convenient as petrol-powered transport, little will change. Across our market last year, EVs accounted for 0.7 per cent of total sales.
Recent analysis like Which?’s report on plug-in hybrids also don’t help. The UK-based self-professed consumer champion recently announced that on average, hybrids burnt 2.5 times more petrol or diesel than suggested in official fuel consumption figures.
We’ve just got out of the Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid and found the opposite. If anything, it confines the report to fiction — as long as you use the SUV as it was intended.
During back-to-back tests with its petrol-powered sibling, the hybrid version proved its worth.
KEL: These look and feel like our kind of transport. With two boys and a busy schedule, it’s got the space expected of a modern SUV.
GRANT: Absolutely, the Outlander has been a solid performer for Mitsubishi since it was launched here in 2003. There’s a fourth-generation model coming later this year, which will mean run-outs for this model over the coming months.
KEL: So we have petrol-power and a plug-in hybrid. What’s the difference?
GRANT: Both have a four-cylinder petrol engine, but the hybrid version has a 13.8kWh battery under the floor that powers two motors driving the front and rear wheels. Petrol and electric power work in tandem and they generate more power and torque than the stand-alone petrol engine.
KEL: That sounds difficult to drive and expensive.
GRANT: The driver requires little input and it all happens automatically. Depending on which specification you buy, a base model PHEV is $2000 more expensive than an Exceed seven-seat petrol version. But there is a $6k differential in our test.
THE LIVING SPACE
KEL: Nothing too daunting in here, it all looks essentially basic Mitsubishi inside. The PHEV feels more chic with the funky shifter and the blue sport button on the console.
GRANT: We’re sampling the sporty PHEV GSR and a slightly lower-spec Exceed that has seven seats. The latter are occasional use and best left to the kids due to limited legroom.
KEL: Storage spaces were OK, but I found it difficult to find easily accessible spots collectively for my purse, keys and water bottle.
GRANT: Some aspects of the infotainment look dated, including the driver’s instruments, but the smartphone mirroring apps Apple CarPlay and Android Auto improve the functionality.
KEL: Plugging it at home is simple. Every time I pulled into the garage I just used the supplied pack straight into a normal power point.
GRANT: The hybrid system is a vast improvement on the original. In the early days you needed a 10-amp to 15-amp converter. From zero it takes about seven hours using standard household power to charge, three hours with a type 2 or 25 minutes on a fast charger. It’s good for about 50km until the petrol power automatically kicks in.
KEL: The pure petrol model is alright, but I like a little more oomph off the line. It felt sluggish in comparison to the hybrid.
GRANT: When fully charged the hybrid pumps out an extra 33kW/112Nm. That’s particularly noticeable at low speeds. Also, the petrol model runs a continuously variable transmission — they’re not great for keen drivers like yourself.
KEL: Parking was easy with light steering and our weekly grocery shop was easily handled in the boot.
GRANT: With the battery position under the floor the PHEV cargo space is 463 litres and 1602L with the rear seats folded. It’s slightly better in the traditional variants.
KEL: Rear-cross traffic alert is great when reversing out of parks and warns of oncoming vehicles you can’t see.
GRANT: The around-view monitor, which combines camera views, is also great for ensuring you are within the lines when parking.
KEL: Feeling solid and reliable, the performance is honest but nothing inspiring.
GRANT: When the PHEV runs out of electric power, it can feel lacklustre. Our week includes a lot of short trips which enabled constant topping up of the battery. You can also put additional power back into the battery by using the steering-wheel mounted paddles to help braking.
KEL: Fuel consumption was OK, and on the highway the petrol averaged just above seven litres for every 100km.
GRANT: It did climb with more around-town activities. With short trips the PHEV was doing less than one litre for every 100km, climbing to 3.2L on one trip of about 100km.
KEL: While the seven seats are handy, we rarely need them.
GRANT: This is true, but at least it’s an option for those who regularly take the grandparents or extra friends.
KEL: I’ve heard about the 10-year and 200,000km warranty, it doesn’t get any better, does it?
GRANT: Nope. But there is a caveat — servicing has to be done at a Mitsubishi dealer. Otherwise it’s back to five years.
KEL: Given the choice and if the price was similar, I’d take the Outlander’s hybrid over pure petrol-power. Good space and flexibility would deliver for demanding families, especially for those who undertake a lot of short trips.
GRANT: The technology is getting better. There haven’t been massive gains in the pure electric range in recent years, but I’m in agreement, the PHEV would be our perfect fit.
AT A GLANCE
PRICE Mitsubishi Outlander Exceed AWD $50,400 D/A; Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GSR $56,490 D/A
WARRANTY/SERVICING 10 years or 200,000km. PHEV battery warranty is eight years/160,000km. Services for 5 years $1495; PHEV $1795 (capped price servicing available for 10 years).
ENGINE 2.4-litre 4-cyl petrol 124kW/220Nm; PHEV 2.4-litre petrol and 13.8kWh battery combined 157kW/332Nm
SAFETY 5 stars (2014), AEB, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert, auto high beam, blind spot assist
THIRST 7.2L/100km; PHEV 1.9L/100km
SPARE Full-size; PHEV none, inflation kit
BOOT 477L/1608L; PHEV 463L/1602L