In today's car market, you'd be well justified if you were just a little bit overwhelmed at the quantity and variety of family cars available. With this in mind, husband-and-wife team and car enthusiasts Royce and Angela Pedersen check out the affordable, practical, and attractive Mitsubishi Outlander.
What he says
Whatever you have in mind when looking for a new car, there will be a few things that will likely remain top of your list. A car's safety rating, appearance, family friendliness, fuel economy, and comfort are all things you'll want to consider. But one item that will influence your choice more than anything else is how much you can afford. The Mitsubishi Outlander delivers great bang for your buck at the lower end of the price scale, coming in at $35,000 new. However, we recommend spending an extra $10,000 to get the VRX model if you can!
The Outlander comes with two different engine types - the 2.4L with VVT (127kw), and the 3L V6 (165kw). Depending on which engine you get, a lot of other specs change. For example, the V6 has 4-wheel disc brakes, selectable 4WD, and heavy duty suspension, whereas the 2.4L comes with rear drum brakes, AWD, and standard suspension. In my opinion, the V6 is definitely worth the extra money.
The Outlander has a 5-star crash test rating and all the basic features you'd expect in an SUV. In my usual fashion, I took the Outlander for a gruelling test drive (well, as gruelling as New Zealand road laws permit, of course). The model I test-drove was the V6 LS (LS being the entry level of the three), with 165KW of power - just enough for a family wagon of this size. The problem, though, was that almost every time I accelerated away from traffic lights, stop signs, etc, the front wheels would lose traction and the ASC had to kick in and cut the power. There was also a notable amount of torque steer when accelerating (torque steer is when the steering pulls off-centre due to acceleration).
Although the accelerator is fairly sensitive and I admit I have a slightly heavy right foot, I felt the fault lay more with the wheel size. Wheels not only determine a great deal of how a car handles and grips the road, but can also really make a car look attractive if the correct size and style are chosen, so I can't understand why anyone would manufacture an SUV bristling with 165kw of power and then put skinny little 16" wheels on it! This causes loss of traction and instability when braking into corners, especially in the wet. I'm sure the VR-X model would have performed a lot better with its standard 18" wheels and low-proile tyres, but I can only speculate on this. I would think at least 20" wheels with low proile and wide rubber would be ideal.
Having said all this, I was quite impressed with the handling and braking in-spite of the skinny wheels. The ride was quite responsive and true, and cornering was a breeze, with very little body roll. The brakes seemed to be fairly well balanced front to rear, and the ABS did a reasonable job of preventing loss of traction. Also, there was little to no brake fade when braking hard at motorway speeds.
This is a car with suspension and brakes well set up for both city driving and handling comfortably on long trips.
What she says
Although at the smaller end of the scale of SUV sizes, the Outlander adequately seats seven people, with minimal space for a few extra bags. In the rear are the two pop-up seats which store neatly away when you pull a nylon latch. These two rear seats are small and really only suited to children.
Speaking of children, keep in mind what parents have to deal with on a regular basis: crumbs, spilled drinks, or worse all over the interior of the car. This poses a problem - a significant one if you just spent over $100,000 on your new vehicle. However, the interior cladding of the Outlander LS is fairly hard-wearing and easy to clean. The dashboard doesn't appear to be made of super-durable, tough material, but that's okay, because you're getting a bargain at under $40,000.
We drove the Outlander for five days around urban Auckland, and took a trip up to Omaha and back, clocking up around 400km. Fuel efficiency was, unfortunately, mediocre, at just over 12L per 100km. However, this was mostly city driving.
On one occasion, I was driving home from the supermarket with kids and groceries in the back, when all of a sudden an alarm sounded and warning lights lashed on the dashboard. It took me a minute to igure out the cause of all this pandemonium - and it turned out that the vehicle "thought" that my handbag, which was sitting on the passenger seat, was a person not wearing their seat belt!
When reversing, I noticed that the driver's view is slightly obstructed by the rear corner of the vehicle, meaning you had to really strain and take your time looking to ensure you don't miss anything partially obscured.
Overall, the Outlander is a great entry-level SUV, suitable for families and able to tick most of the boxes. The two things of most significance to me are the 5-star crash-test rating, and that it looks nice. Hey, I'm a woman - I like to drive something that looks good!
Royce and Angela Pedersen are parents of two daughters, Ella and Eva. Angela is OHbaby!'s Managing Director and Publisher of OHbaby! Magazine.