One of the best parts of growing up in Malaysia is that there is so much to see and explore, both in the urban sprawls and the green lungs between – and the easiest way to do this is through good old-fashioned road trips. For flexibility, a lot of people look to sport utility vehicles as they offer a little more ruggedness and the ability to wade through the occasional flood, mount the occasional curb, and crawl along the occasional jungle road. Unfortunately, if you have more than one or two children, it can be a little difficult to fit everyone in your run-of-the-mill SUV – it’s more likely you’ll be stuck with MPV options unless you aim for high-end models like the BMW X5 or Audi Q7. But more recently, we’ve seen budget-friendly seven-seater SUVs come to our market in the form of the Nissan X-Trail and Mitsubishi Outlander.
Here, we have the latter – now in its third generation and a far cry from the boy-racer-ish turbocharged wagon that it began as. It used to be that if you wanted a seven-seater from Mitsubishi, your sole option was the Pajero Sport – which was perhaps a little too much SUV for most and not exactly designed from the ground up to be a family carrier. It’s still a very practical proposition, but the new Outlander represents a more urban-oriented approach to the design brief.
For starters, it’s powered by a 2.4-litre petrol engine, which we’ve seen before in the Lancer Sportback. While not the most powerful on the market with only 167 hp and 222 Nm of torque on tap, it manages to get you around with little fuss. In proper SUV fashion, the Outlander features an electronic all-wheel drive for sticky situations, but it also packs a continuously variable transmission to help improve fuel efficiency and make the drive smoother. All in, it’s a better suited engine and transmission for a wider range of uses – whether it’s crawling in traffic or cruising down the highway.
On first impressions, the Outlander doesn’t seem like a particularly big car – which is a good thing. Coupled with its high seating position, it’s easy to manoeuvre through tight spaces and down narrow alleyway – the kind you frequently encounter when travelling through smaller towns. It looks friendly and inviting, not at all intimidating like its stauncher rivals.
On the inside, the seven-seater is a bit of a mixed bag. There is plenty of storage space in the centre console, thoughtfully placed for easy access to charging parts and the like, but the dashboard design is a touch dated. There’s a sunroof which provides a little bit of luxury, although there will rarely be a time to use it. As expected, the third row of seats doesn’t offer much in the way of legroom and should really be limited to children (or really short adults). Boot space also becomes a premium if you choose to pop the third row up – although there is just enough room to squeeze a stroller in.
Beyond this, the ergonomic slip-ups are few and far between. A lack of third-row air conditioning can make it troublesome if your little ones begin to complain, but a fair trade-off is that the Outlander is pretty well insulated from the heat. Electronically opening tailgates can be a bit of a hit-andmiss: occasionally they feel a little slow to respond and there’s the fear of it closing on a small child by accident, but it’s definitely a premium touch regardless of your disposition on automation.
If a manufacturer skimps on safety in this day and age, they will usually encounter fierce backlash from potential consumers. The Outlander adheres to current standards; it comes with your usual acronyms like ABS and EBD, BA, HSA, along with traction and stability control systems. ISOFIX is standard – this is a family car, after all. Worth taking note of are the seven airbags, providing excellent passive safety in the event of an accident.
In terms of how it performs in the real world, it fits the bill pretty neatly. Our team took a trip to Penang, covering close to 900km of open highway and city streets over four days, and the Outlander drank a little over 100 litres of fuel. In rough real-world terms, that’s a little over 11 litres per 100km – not fuel sipping by any measure, but not a gas guzzler either. Leaving the drivetrain mode in 4WD ECO is the best for quite nearly every situation as it keeps the system in front wheel drive until it detects slip – the best way to improve fuel efficiency.
The Outlander soaked up the highway miles with little protest and appreciable ride quality – perhaps one of the more major plus points when assessing it as a family car. Long-distance trips can be a litmus test for true comfort, and a car that doesn’t leave you feeling drained at the other end is something to consider.
Ultimately, the Outlander is positioned as more of a five-seater with the potential to go up to seven seats, rather than being a fulltime seven-seater. Realistically, the boot would not be able to fit seven occupants’ worth of luggage with the third row deployed, and it pays to remember that tall occupants will not fit in the third row.
While not the ideal setup for a long-distance trip, it can come in handy when the in-laws are in town as you can relegate your children to the rear. For that flexibility alone, the Outlander is a great start – better than a five-seater, anyhow – and it functions as a more enjoyable alternative to the standard breadbox vans when looking for a family car.