The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Aspire.
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Aspire.

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV the long-term road test verdict

AFTER four months and more than 5000km of driving, it's time to hand back our long-term test Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.

The plug-in electric hybrid SUV - the first of its kind from any manufacturer - has offered a fascinating insight into where hybrid vehicles are in the present marketplace, and where we can expect things to go from here.

Driving a car on a one-day test never reveals as much as over the course of a week, but truly living with a car for a number of months gives a far more accurate impression of its strengths, weaknesses and idiosyncrasies.

And the PHEV has all of the above in spades. It is a car that has polarised opinion like few others, most notably in the Australian motoring press.

For starters, The Motor Report named the PHEV as its Best Buy for 2015, beating off the likes of the Mazda3 and Mercedes C-Class.

Conversely, placed the PHEV in its eight worst-rated cars of 2014, with the plug-in SUV only managing to score the same lowly 2.5-stars as the Ssangyong Rexton, Proton Suprima and Suzuki S-Cross. Hardly esteemed company.

I'll admit to raising my eyebrows at both verdicts, but found it fascinating how the same car could draw such different conclusions from experienced road testers: disagreement is a rare thing among motoring writers these days.

So where do I sit? Well, somewhere in the middle if I'm honest.

The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV's charge point on the opposing side to the fuel filler cap.
Iain Curry

My 35km drive to work each day has been a joy. I'd charge it overnight, and on full electric charge the PHEV would silently and very comfortably ferry me to the office while giving a reading of 0.0 litres/100km.

Plug it in at work and I'd drive home in the same manner, never using a drop of fuel unless I floored the throttle and awoke the 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine.

A 108km drive to Brisbane with a full electric charge returned 7.1L/100km on average. Not great when you consider I've paid for the electricity to charge the battery, and still returned a fuel consumption average worse than the diesel equivalent of the Mitsubishi Outlander.

With this in mind, the PHEV is surely at its best and most relevant on shorter journeys, particularly if stuck in city traffic, silently plodding along while using no fuel and transporting the kids in ample space and comfort.

The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.

The range-topping Outlander PHEV Aspire (as I tested) is currently on offer at $55,000 drive-away, making it $6000 more than the Aspire diesel variant with its 6.2 litres/100km figures.

Not only do you have the added purchase price, but a further compromise is the seating: Outlanders have the option of a seven-seat configuration, but with the PHEV, the battery packs limit capacity to five.

And that for me is the PHEV in a nutshell. It does have compromises and comes at a price premium, but is a plug-in hybrid that behaves much like a "normal" car, and its electric technology makes it a superb offering for short trips.

Perhaps most importantly, it gives an old hybrid/electric-sceptic like me faith that this technology is not to be feared in the future: it's only going to get better.