Mitsubishi Outlander - Best 'budget' 7-seater SUV

This post was last updated 28 October 2016

The 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander is a refresh of facelift of the old model. It can't really hope to beat a Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento or Mazda CX-9 on overall finesse, but it's way ahead of Nissan's X-TRAIL. 
Best 7-seater SUV on a tight budget

Best 7-seater SUV on a tight budget

Mitsubishi has tweaked the Outlander range for 2017 models, which went on sale September 2016. Details here >>

Mitsubishi's 'Dynamic Shield' styling is probably more at home in a Michael Bay blockbuster, but the value proposition on a limited budget when you need seven seats is high

Mitsubishi's 'Dynamic Shield' styling is probably more at home in a Michael Bay blockbuster, but the value proposition on a limited budget when you need seven seats is high

Basically, the latest Mitsubishi Outlander is basically the old Mitsubishi Outlander, minus some nagging criticisms that dogged the old (but mechanically almost identical) one.

Criticisms such as:

  • Bit noisy
  • Bit harsh
  • Bit cheap and nasty inside
  • Bit revvy (if that's a noun) on the CVT front
  • Bit skittish and uncivilised in the ride & handling department

With this facelift on Outlander, Mitsubishi has attempted to tweak the major bugbear issues to the extent that they could be cost-effectively tweaked. But you have to understand there's not a great deal they can do once the underlying engineering is locked in.

This is, essentially, what all mid-life model upgrades are. Botox and fillers - the porcelain veneers - to stave off the inevitable truth, that middle age is here to stay.

Dynamic Shield - the Marvel superhero who never made it into The Avengers

Dynamic Shield - the Marvel superhero who never made it into The Avengers

STYLING & DESIGN

Obviously the new Mitsubishi Outlander has a new face. Hard to miss that. It's like a Lexus in a head-on with a Mighty Morphin’ Power Ranger. Mitsubishi calls it Dynamic Shield. (I guess everything needs a name, but perhaps a westerner should have been consulted at the outset.) At least it's better than Mazda’s 'Kodo: soul of motion' or Hyundai’s ‘Fluidic Sculpture’. Car companies just get so wrapped up in this completely meaningless crap - it really is only meaningful in-house. To normal people on the street, it's hard not to snigger.

Anyway, that's the new Outlander look - and it's the new design direction for Mitsubishi generally. You’ll be seeing a lot more of the new Mighty Morphin’ Mitsubishis - Dynamic Shield - whatever - as post-2015 Mitsubishi models hit the deck.

Such as the new Triton ute >> and Pajero Sport >>

In my view, it’s always unfortunate when a brand’s all-new look lands on a facelift, because it’s never going to be the finest hour for that design. (Because the new look has to he adapted to parts of the old vehicle that were too expensive to modify.)

IMAGE GALLERY

PRICING

Above: 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander rec. retail pricing, & variations with respect to 2014 Outlander

Above: 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander rec. retail pricing, & variations with respect to 2014 Outlander

Upon its release in April 2015, facelifted Mitsubishi Outlander prices were largely unchanged: you were looking at paying either within $750 more, or $400 less than the predecessor, or no change at all in some models. The cheapest 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander model variants have gone up, and the dearest models have come down. Perversely. So, basically with the 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander you got a few tweaks, different hair and makeup - but nothing of monumental import. However, there's a hefty injection of crash-avoidance technology, and a slight re-jig of the range for 2017. Details here >>

Key Competitor Price Ranges

Does not include on-road costs such as rego, stamp duty and dealer delivery

Basically there's a real distinction in play here. Toyota Kluger is too expensive for what it is. Toyota is doing what Toyota does: Leading the market with a combination of minimum requirements and mediocrity. Hyundai Santa Fe, Mazda CX-9 and Kia Sorento are the truly premium seven-seater entrants, with excellent features, high technology and great value - but they are not cheap. There's a substantial drop down in price to the Mitsubishi Outlander and Nissan X-TRAIL, which both lack the polish of the more expensive seven-seaters, especially in mid-range models.

The Nissan X-TRAIL is also somewhat mentally retarded in terms of its specifications - for example, seven seats and AWD are both available in X-TRAIL ... only not together. You can have a seven seater, but it will be front-drive only, or you can have all-wheel drive - as long as you can cop having only five seats. At least Mitsubishi has the good sense to offer seven seats with AWD in Outlander.

2017 Mitsubishi Outlander Exceed

2017 Mitsubishi Outlander Exceed

2017 MODEL YEAR

2017 Mitsubishi Outlander went on sale in September 2016. There's three model grades: LS, LS Safety Pack, and Exceed.

Five-seat Outlander

Five-seat Outlanders are available in LS and LS Safety Pack only (no Exceed). Trainspotting the 2017 model is easy - just look for the shark fin antenna on the roof, which the 2016 model lacked.

There's also LED lighting for the front footwells and centre console storage compartment, and a 12-volt power outlet in the rear, as well as slight revision to suspension (damper) tuning.

The $27,990 (drive-away) LS is front-drive only with the entry-level 2.0-litre petrol four and either the five-speed manual or the CVT auto. You get BAD+ radio, reversing camera and reversing sensors, and dual-zone climate control air conditioning. There's a seven-inch touchscreen, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, six speakers, twin USBs Bluetooth, leather on the wheel and the shifter, 18-inch alloys, LED daytime running lamps, front and rear fog lamps, shark fin antenna and privacy glass. There's also an alarm, keyless entry (not proximity key) and three child restraint points (two with ISOFix). So - not exactly 'poverty'.

Electric servo-operated parking brake starts at LS Safety Pack AWD - but heated front seats are reserved for Exceed

Electric servo-operated parking brake starts at LS Safety Pack AWD - but heated front seats are reserved for Exceed

The LS Safety Pack is CVT auto-only with the same 2.0-litre petrol engine in 2WD, or the 2.4-litre petrol engine in AWD.

Safety Pack adds a suite of advanced features: Adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation (auto emergency braking), auto-dimming rear view mirror, auto wipers and headlamps, auto high beam dipping, etc.

AWD models get a drive-mode control switch and an electric servo-operated parking brake. The 2WD LS Safety Pack has a recommended drive-away price of $33,990, and the AWD is $37,490.

Seven-seat Outlander

2017 Mitsubishi Outlander model range and recommended pricing before on-road costs. Source: Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited - click to enlarge

Seven-seat Outlanders are available in LS 2WD configuration (but 2.0-petrol CVT-only - no manual transmission option) for $29,990 drive-away, plus LS AWD (2.4-petrol CVT) for $35,990, LS Safety Pack AWD for $38,990 (2.4-petrol CVT) or $41,990 (2.2-diesel six-speed conventional auto trans) or Exceed 2.4-petrol AWD CVT for $44,990, or $47,990 for the Exceed auto AWD diesel.

Exceed is a $6000 price hike, but it adds a lot of additional equipment: ultrasonic unintended acceleration mitigation, blind spot monitoring, 360-degree camera, lane-change assistance, rear cross traffic alert, lane-departure warning, proximity key, sunroof, power tailgate, leather seat facings, power adjustment for the driver's seat, heated front seats, 50:50 split on row 2, with recline adjustment, chrome door handles, headlamp washers, front LED fog lamps and additional styling garnish.

CVT CONTROL SYSTEM

Aside from the new snout, the biggest change to the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander was the new CVT control system. It’s called CVT8. That carries over for 2017. Mitsubishi says CVT8 delivers 26 per cent more torque transmission than the predecessor - and all you can infer from that is: the old one must've been positively haemorrhaging torque. So this is an improvement, but it means the old one must’ve been truly crap.

Sharper throttle response and a resulting more intuitive interplay between throttle, revs and road speed make the CVT feel less reprehensible than previously. (CVTs - especially older-generation CVTs - do tend to drone on a bit and have some difficulty feeling engaging to drive.) It also delivers a very slight boost in fuel efficiency, according to official standardised tests.

INSULATION & REFINEMENT

Mitsubishi claimed it also pumped up the acoustic insulation and tweaked the glass in the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander - to cut noise, vibration and harshness. And was the the odd suspension upgrade as well. Bigger rear dampers - that kind of thing. A few tweaks that add refinement. Nothing to hold the front page over. There is also a slight suspension tweak for 2017.

ACCOMMODATION

Realistically, the Outlander is a five seater SUV with seven seats available on some variants, for occasional use. It's not entirely pleasant back there, and like many such vehicles, access is a bitch. Occasional kids' friends in the back for transport to and from a sporting venue - no problem. Expecting someone to be comfortable 'back there' on a long trip is going to prove - let's be kind - disappointing.

There is a lot of versatility there in the seating setup, however, and the seating combination is compatible with longer and shorter bulky items depending on which seats you elect to use and which you fold away. With all the seats in use there's - almost - room for seven cut lunches in the cargo area. Interior volume is a zero-sum game, and a lot of seven-seat SUVs play out this way.

Realistically, if you need to transport more than five people in total, regularly, over long-ish distances, and if those people have gear to transport, a different vehicle will be required. Australians love SUVs, but they would generally be better off in people movers - which manage the logistics of the transportation of people and equipment on normal, made roads a whole lot better. Best of the people movers is the Kia Carnival - check it out here >>

To put the size of Outlander in perspective, it's 4.695 metres long and rides on a 2.67-metre wheelbase. It's the same wheelbase as a Hyundai Tucson, and 3cm shorter than the wheelbase of the Mazda CX-5 - so accommodation for rows 1 & 2 in all three will be about the same. A vehicle like the Kia Sorento is 8.5cm longer overall but is 11cm longer in the wheelbase, which packages up into significantly more space in those first two rows. The Subaru Outback - strictly a five-seater - is pretty big in comparison to Outlander: Outback is 12cm longer, and 7.5cm longer in the wheelbase. Without that third row of seats, Outback's cargo bay looks (and is) huge.

Bottom line: Mitsubishi Outlander is a decent seven seater if you want a new vehicle and the acquisition budget is tight, and if those seats are for occasional use. If you need only five seats, you're probably better looking at the Kia Sportage >>, Hyundai Tucson >>, Mazda CX-5 >> or Subaru Outback >>

SAFETY

Mitsubishi Outlander is very safe. The local independent crash testing authority ANCAP (the Australasian New Car Assessment Program) adapted EuroNCAP's assessment of the Outlander and awarded it five stars on safety - scoring an amazingly good 35.58 out of a possible 37 points in the overall assessment. (Note that this was on a left-hand-drive model, pictured at the right.) 

All of the crash-test dummy injury outcomes were rated as either 'good' or 'acceptable' - no 'marginal' or 'poor' outcomes is a really good performance. This was for the offset frontal crash test, which simulates a severe 'clipping' style of head-on crash.

More detail on the Outlander ANCAP test >> or, alternatively, download and review the full technical crash test report in detail >>

In terms of safety equipment that's missing, there are no pre-tensioners for the seatbelts on the rear outboard seats. Pretty importantly, there's no side curtain head-protecting airbags for the third row, no lane departure warning system, and no tyre pressure monitoring system. These are not available on any model variant. And Mitsubishi has elected not to make Adaptive cruise control, auto headlamps, auto emergency braking, and reversing collision avoidance available on the base model (although it is available higher in the range).

WARRANTY

Warranty remains at five years, but the distance attached to that warranty came back to 100,000 kilometres in 2015. (Mitsubishi warranties had for many years previously been five years and 130,000 kilometres.) Mitsubishi globally has been pulling the distance back to 100,000 kilometres across the board, and this change in Australia was a reflection of that policy. Mitsubishi said it was to align warranties globally within the company - and it won't make all that much difference to many average buyers because the average distance driven annually in Australia is just under 15,000 kilometres annually, totalling about 75,000 kilometres over five years of ownership.

Hyundai and Kia offer five- and seven-year warranties, respectively, both with unlimited kilometres, giving those brands a competitive edge, especially with longer-distance drivers. The downgraded Mitsubishi warranty certainly doesn't roll off the tongue nearly as well as Hyundai/Kia's unlimited distance warranty, and bear in mind both South Korean brands are especially strong in both five- and seven-seat SUVs. This change in Mitsubishi's warranty will probably push some higher than average distance drivers across the market to Hyundai and Kia. A kind of anti-marketing negative feedback effect.

ENGINES & RANGE

There are three engines: 2.0-litre and 2.4-litre petrol, and a 2.2 diesel. The 2.0 is front-drive only. The 2.4 is AWD-only and CVT auto-only. The diesel comes with a conventional six-speed auto and AWD only.

Peak Engine Performance - Outlander V Competitors

Hover over the individual bars to see the numbers

PICK OF THE RANGE

If you’ve got about $42,000 to spend, a diesel LS Safety Pack seven-seat Outlander is looking pretty good. The low-rpm power of the diesel, the fuel economy, the conventional auto (better than even a tweaked CVT) is a decent package. It's not as crackingly awesome as a Santa Fe Elite or Sorento SLi - but those vehicles are $13,000 (ish) more.

If I was spending my money on an Outlander, I'd already be classing myself as a budget-conscious buyer, and that would be the one that makes the most sense. Of course, if I just wanted a cheap seven-seater I'd hop straight into the $29,990 LS Outlander 2WD petrol 2.0 - but I'd accept at the outset that this is something of a compromise, and I'd put a brave face on it and console myself that the extra kids are getting triotted from A to B on a budget.

Frankly, the majority of SUV buyers I interact with who are in the market for an Outlander want one because it's an affordable seven-seater. If they had more money, it would make sense to buy a Santa Fe, Sorento or CX-9. But you do need a lot more money for that.

THE COMPETITION

So the Mitsubishi Outlander is effectively one rung down from the pick of the premium SUV seven seaters: Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento and Toyota Kluger - it’s not as potent, nor is it as premium. But it does represent a significant saving in cash.

Mitsubishi Outlander -Vs- Santa Fe, Kluger, CX-9 & Sorento

That Hyundai/Kia 2.2 diesel in Sorento and Santa Fe is a cracker that Mitsubishi’s 2.2 diesel just can’t match. And 3.5-litre V6s, like the Kluger and Sorento, do tend to murder 2.4-litre Mitsubishi fours (although wheelspin is a problem on front-drive V6s, and at least the 2.4 Outlander is AWD). I’d be putting the smart money on the big V6s there, however, in most situations. And CX-9's 2.5-litre SKYACTIV turbo petrol engine is a technical masterpiece offering diesel-like economy and outstanding performance.

Basically all these vehicles are much more premium ... but also much more pricey. You don't get anything for nothing, it seems.

AVOID THE DOGS:
Worst 7-seater SUVs

Mazda CX-5 is a superb entrant - but there are no seven seat versions available. Plus the warranty is shorter and there's a space-saver spare tyre.

Mazda CX-5 is a superb entrant - but there are no seven seat versions available. Plus the warranty is shorter and there's a space-saver spare tyre.

Mitsubishi Outlander -Vs- Mazda CX-5

In the five-seat SUV set, the Mazda CX-5 out-points the 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander across all three engines. The Mazda CX-5 also features a conventional six-speed auto, and it’s a compelling choice - so have a good look at the CX-5 if you need a five-seat SUV.

Frankly, Mazda is punching very well above its weight right now - like Honda did in the 1990s - and since the global financial crisis, Mazda has stormed ahead in the manner that many other carmakers just have not. (Mitsubishi, Honda, GM Holden, Ford, etc., can't turn a trick since the GFC - but Mazda has strong entrants in small and medium SUVS (CX-3 and CX-5 respectively) plus a cracking good small car (Mazda3) and even smaller car (Mazda2) and a damn fine ute (BT-50). 

Mitsubishi does beat Mazda on warranty - and it's hard to love Mazda's space-saver spare tyre, or its i-Stop engine shutdown system.

Mitsubishi Outlander -Vs- Nissan X-TRAIL

Nissan X-TRAIL (above) competes well on many levels against Outlander - but has an anorexic diesel, and ridiculous logic underpinning its seven-seat availability

Nissan X-TRAIL (above) competes well on many levels against Outlander - but has an anorexic diesel, and ridiculous logic underpinning its seven-seat availability

If you're looking at a new Mitsubishi Outlander, by definition you're also in the market for a Nissan X-TRAIL. This pair are extremely close competitors.

The petrol engines are line-ball between the Mitsubishi Outlander and Nissan X-TRAIL, but Outlander’s 2.2-litre diesel absolutely eclipses Nissan’s anorexic 1.6-litre diesel in X-TRAIL.

Of course, Nissan’s X-TRAIL lineup is also comprehensively drugged out of its head on seven-seat availability (there's no seven-seat plus AWD combination). Mitsubishi’s, lineup, by comparison, is remarkably rational. Both of these vehicles offer seating in the third row for occasional use only - it's hardly spacious up the back.

The other serious red flag for Nissan is its recent spate of CVT reliability issues: Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosen even had a significant public spray at Jatco, which makes the Nissan CVT (and which Nissan owns 75 per cent of), as well as rearranging the corporate deckchairs and putting a new boss from North America in the top chair at Jatco. Nissan says its CVT reliability issues are in the past - and I guess we'll just have to see if that's true.

Read my Nissan X-TRAIL report >>

SUV ... OR CAR? WHICH IS BEST?

For many buyers a conventional station wagon like the Mazda6 (above) would make more objective sense

For many buyers a conventional station wagon like the Mazda6 (above) would make more objective sense

Finally, if you don’t need seven seats, but you want a wagon for the family, why not just buy a car? I’m not being flippant. People don’t ask themselves why they’re actually buying an SUV. You can get a Mazda6 Touring (the station wagon) for the same approximate price as an Outlander. And I know SUVs are the haute couture of the family motoring set, currently, but you could mount a compelling argument that the wagon would suit many families better, and constitute a superior transport option for many families. (Because, knock me down with a feather, it’s actually a car.)

A lot of people presume they want an SUV without having a real hard think about it.

And, because buying a new car does suck: If you’re in the market, send me a message here >> or click on the red link below. It’s pretty easy to save thousands off the manufacturer’s drive-away price on any car. We do that routinely. It's almost boring. Don’t believe that crap car dealers spin about there being no profit in new cars any more - just look at all the glass and all the chrome at the dealership’s prime real estate. Someone's paying the big bills - but it really doesn't have to be you.

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