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Mitsubishi Outlander – Practical Imperfection

By Nick Hodgson

It’s quite surprising how hard it is to find a good seven seater, especially if your budget doesn’t run close to the seven figure mark. Even more unusual to find one in cross over station wagon format and something that certainly sets it apart against its main competitors, the Subaru Outback and Volvo V90. Despite this rather game changing feature the Mitsubishi Outlander has its work cut out if it’s to keep up with this fierce competition and we’ve been out and about to discover just this.

To start with it’s a looker

Certainly from the outside the Mitsubishi Outlander strikes an imposing figure and a good one at that. Add to this auto levelling headlamps, some tastefully designed chrome trim and it all comes together rather nicely, leading to many a passer by stopping to take a second look. Take a peak inside though and unfortunately things do take a turn for the worse somewhat. I’m by no means saying it’s bad, it just doesn’t feel as if the interior is on par with the exterior in terms of premium feel. When trying to pinpoint exactly what makes me feel this way it comes down to a ergonomics problem, as the Outlander is by no means lacking in features. Climate control, multifunction steering wheel, parking assist, motorised boot and multiple all-wheel drive modes to choose from on the fly all make for a compelling package that must of us would be more than happy with.

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Ergonomics is key

Ergonomics is somewhat of a dark art I’ll grant you, but the ability to be able to jump behind the wheel and instinctively have easy access to everything the driver needs to safely and effectively operate the vehicle is a rather important one and unfortunately it’s at this point that the Mitsubishi Outlander starts to fall behind. Sometimes it just feels like the design brief was simply to add features and the implementation can go hang. The automated boot release for example is often more of a hindrance than a help as firstly it just takes so darn long to open and secondly there seem to be a lot of conditions under which it just won’t open and will instead sit there beeping at you like a petulant child. That multifunction steering wheel is another example and one I’m quite surprised with as it’s hardly ground breaking technology. The problem isn’t so much with the buttons themselves or what they do, rather where they’re placed and the tendency I had to accidently press them even when holding the wheel in a natural driving position.

How does it drive then?

Really well actually. The car is incredibly comfortable both on long trips and around town. It’s even rather easy to manoeuvre, despite being so large. The 123kw engine has enough power to propel the Outlander along at a fair rate of knots and the only thing that lets the driving experience down is the CVT gearbox. Not exactly surprising do to the nature of a CVT design will always have the droning problem due to the engine being always kept at the same revs.

Not exactly selling itself then is it?

The Mitsubishi Outlander was not good at first impressions, however despite the aforementioned gripes, it actually ended up rather favourably in my eyes. Firstly, it has seven seats, with those extra two folding away neatly into the boot, a feature and that for some will be invaluable. Secondly, as a cross over station wagon, it not only looks great, but is incredibly practical and flexible. Now I cannot deny that the gripes I had can be completely overlooked, nor did I quite learn to live with them over time, however by the end they weren’t bothering me quite as much and out on holiday, doing what this vehicle does best, they pretty much faded away into the background. So sure the Mitsubishi Outlander isn’t perfect, but if you need those seven seats it’s more than worthy of consideration into your family.

Price: R549,000
Engine: 2,400cc 16-Valve DOHC MIVEC
Power:  123 kW
Torque: 222 Nm
Consumption (l/100km): 8.2 (claimed)
Service Plan: 5yr/90,000km
Warranty: 3yr/ 100,000km

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