Mitsubishi Outlander rises to SUV challenge

THE new Mitsubishi ASX removes some of the strain from the established Outlander model.

Previously the smallest sport utility vehicle in the Japanese four-wheel drive specialist's range the Outlander, like many compact SUVs from various car-makers, had been left floundering a little by the arrival of a wave of crossover vehicles.

Now, with the ASX taking up the crossover cause, the Outlander can get back to being a proper compact SUV again. The model has undergone a facelift and received some technical upgrades to enhance the attractive SUV qualities.

The most obvious is the arrival of the company's corporate front end. With the 'jet-fighter' nose in place, the Outlander bears an obvious resemblance to other models in the Mitsubishi range. Given that the Juro is essentially the same as the Peugeot 4008 and Citroen C-Crosser, the distinctive front end could play an important part in its appeal.

There's a new gearbox too, and an advanced one at that. The SST unit is Mitsubishi's twin-clutch transmission. As with twin-clutch units from other manufacturers, Mitsubishi's version was first employed to sporting ends – it's ability to supply constant drive from the engine being originally employed in the high-performance Lancer Evo X.

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It's not only sports cars that can benefit from a twin-clutch transmission's tricks, however. The constant drive also has a positive effect on fuel consumption, improves the smoothness of gear changes and can potentially provide more security off-road too.

Good news for the Outlander then, as comfort is a key element in any SUV's appeal and fuel consumption can often prove a bugbear. Equipped with a 2.2-litre turbo diesel and the six-speed SST transmission the Outlander offers a potential 38.7mpg on the combined cycle, although getting near that figure in real-world conditions doesn't prove easy. Regardless, fuel consumption is considerably better than might be achieved with a traditional automatic gearbox.

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The hi-tech transmission suits the Outlander, too. Refinement benefits in terms of the smoothness of progress and the swift gear changes obviously improve acceleration, although the 2.2-litre diesel can be a little raucous at high revs. Power deliver is consistent across the rev range, however.

Shift paddles behind the wheel are a decent size and easy to use without dominating the steering column. A sport option for automatic mode also encourages the gearbox to shift up later, reducing gear changes on more challenging roads. Other improvements include the addition of hill-start assist – the gearbox will allow the Outlander to roll backwards without the system's help – and slightly revised bodywork.

Inside the Juro model there's the luxurious feel of a full-size SUV thanks to leather and tinted glass – 18in alloy wheels and metallic paint in three colours are also thrown in.

These are neat additions to an already attractive package. Inside, leather on the dash and door panels makes a marked improvement to interior quality feel. Plastic quality is not the finest but the interior is reasonably sturdy all the same. There's a sensible control layout and clear, sharply-lit dials. The driving position is naturally excellent, with good visibility. The steering is suitably direct and there's enough feel and feedback give the Outlander some driving appeal. Ride quality is good. Part time and full time four-wheel drive is selectable using a rotary control, offering greater traction in slippery or rugged conditions and ideal for towing duties.

Towards the rear, the Outlander continues to impress in Juro specification. The large body is very accommodating and both leg and headroom are generous for rear passengers. The split tailgate offers excellent access to the well-proportioned boot.

The Outlander Juro proves that, despite the success of crossover models, there's no shame in a traditional compact SUV. Spacious and luxurious in Juro specification, the figures add up, too.

Mitsubishi Outlander Juro

Price: �27,199

Engine: 2.2-litre, 156bhp diesel developing 280lb/ft of torque

Transmission: Six-speed automatic driving all four wheels

Performance: 0-62mph 11.7 seconds; top speed 123mph

Economy: 38.7mpg

CO2 Rating: 192g/km

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