A facelift spruces up the Mitsubishi Outlander, but its main trump card over rivals is a financial one
SINGAPORE — It takes nine months to make a baby (at least, it takes a woman that long. The male contribution to the process is altogether less involved, and far more brief). That amount of time is also enough for a car brand to spring back to life, as we’ve seen with Mitsubishi here.
The Japanese manufacturer sold only five cars in the first half of 2014. Then its Outlander was launched in October. Now sales have leapt to roughly a hundred a month, largely on the back of the seven-seater SUV’s popularity.
Here it is in facelifted form, and unlike with some carmakers, there’s been no pussyfooting about. The car looks noticeably different, with a handsome new face that includes plenty of chrome in great, swishing strokes.
Mitsubishi has put enough effort into the redesign to ensure that it’s impossible to miss, but just in case, here’s a before pic…
… and one of what it looks like now.
You’ll note the new headlamps with LED daytime running lights, a feature that seems as useful here in the tropics as a fridge might be in Antarctica, but is much-desired anyway.
The back has been spruced up, too, also with LED lighting, and bolder, crisper lines overall.
But it seems like Mitsubishi found some money to spend on the car, because the Outlander’s facelift has brought some change to the cabin and the running gear, too.
It has a new steering wheel with a shinier, sportier look, some posh-looking stitchwork on the dashboard, and a new trim pattern that looks like no wood I’m familiar with.
More to the point, there’s been some fettling under the bonnet, chiefly with the installation of a new transmission.
It’s still a Continuously Variable Transmission, with the ability to mimic a sequential auto via six fixed gear ratios that you can select with paddles behind the steering wheel, but it’s somehow made the Outlander faster.
Jogging to 100km/h takes 10.2 seconds now (a whole second quicker than before the facelift), and average fuel consumption has dropped a teeny bit from 7.8L/100km to 7.7L.
They’ve even fiddled with the suspension, ostensibly to improve the ride and handling.
For all that, you’ll never find yourself overwhelmed by what the Outlander can do on a twisty road. It lolls gently through bends without being sloppy, and the tyres protest early enough that you’re unlikely to be goaded into trouble.
And even though the acceleration has improved, it’s still not a quick car by any standard.
Instead, the Outlander’s strengths are less focused on the driver. They’ve spent money redoing the door seals to cut down wind noise, and though the springing is firm when the car is empty, the ride does feel better when the Mitsubishi is filled with passengers.
Then there’s the space. For the money, it offers literally a lot of car — if you want something big, comfy and Japanese, you would normally have to spend more.
Put another way, it’s easy to see someone forsaking the refinement of, say, a Toyota Camry, for the size and versatility of the Outlander.
The rearmost seats will accommodate slender adults (though it’s worth noting a lack of air-con blowers back there), and access to them is actually easy enough for anyone with a reasonably supple spine.
It helps that the middle row can slide and tilt, allowing you to play with the amount of space back there. And all the seats fold flat because, well, sometimes you carry people and other times you carry stuff. Usefully, the luggage cover has its own little niche, which is more than can be said for the Land Rover Discovery Sport, another seven-seat SUV that costs nearly twice as much.
Some of the Outlander’s features are genuinely handy (the keyless operation, the electric tailgate) and you’ll wish for improvements in others (the radio reception is weak, for example, and there’s no memory for the powered driver’s seat).
But the Mitsubishi’s biggest trump card is the fact that it qualifies for 60 percent financing. That is, you can buy one with a 40 percent down payment (instead of putting down half the asking price up front), and it is possibly the largest car on the island that qualifies for that kind of loan arrangement.
The handsome new styling will help the Outlander’s sales, of course, along with the mechanical changes that have improved it in small ways. But in Mitsubishi’s comeback fight, the availability of 60 percent loans for the Outlander has been more than half the battle.
NEED TO KNOW
Engine 2360cc, 16V, GDI in-line 4
Power 167hp at 6000rpm
Torque 222Nm at 4100rpm
Top Speed 199km/h
0-100kmh 10.2 seconds
Fuel efficiency 7.7L/100km
Price $129,999 with COE