Getting to sample a next generation model from a car company is always an intriguing prospect. Getting to see how the brand breaks from its design language of the past several years and what its other new models will look like in the years to come inevitably shapes opinions around the brand’s direction.
Seeing this sort of change in direction is most important when it comes to a manufacturer like Mitsubishi, however. With what was probably the oldest model line-up on offer in Australia, it’s important the brand is able to move away from the stigma that comes with this, as cheap build quality and lacklustre performance is what has defined the brand’s line-up for a decade now.
Now under the control of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, the first new model to be released as part of the conglomerate – and the model that’ll set the tone for this new wave of models – is the 2022 Outlander.
Sharing its platform, basic construction, and key interior components with the 2022 Nissan X-Trail – an SUV that felt equally lacklustre in its previous guise to the old Mitsubishi Outlander – it was clear both marques needed to lift their game with this new shared model. Never did I expect it to be this drastic an improvement, though.
Offered in five trim levels, the 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander range starts at $34,490 and promises to be “the best-equipped vehicle the company has ever sold.” Tested here in middling Aspire AWD specification, it’s priced at $43,990.
There’s nothing middling about the appearance of this variant of the new Outlander, however, as aside from lacking the contrasting black roof, you wouldn’t be able to tell it apart from the top-spec model.
Wearing big 20-inch alloy wheels that set off the modern new exterior design of the Outlander, this all-new model certainly looks like a premium product – especially in relation to the decade-old model it replaces.
It’s inside where the greatest premium shift can be seen and felt, as even the hardest of plastics in here would feel soft by the standards of the old model. With soft leather padding on all key touchpoints including thoughtful places like the sides of the transmission tunnel and the windowsill on the doors, this cabin feels like a revolution more than a mere upgrade.
The seats are a big step up as well, wearing suede upholstery in Aspire variants and offering far more side bolstering than before. Power adjustment for the driver and heated seats up front certainly indicate Mitsubishi wasn’t lying about the strong list of standard kit given this is the middle of the range version.
It’s the tech that’s on offer which feels like the most needed step forward for the model, though, and it’s where the Nissan connection comes in handiest. Borrowing Nissan’s excellent new infotainment operating system with satellite navigation and wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto, it’s shown on a crystal clear 9.0-inch touchscreen atop the dashboard.
The homebrand six-speaker audio system sounds great as well, and there’s also a wireless phone charger to help fellow iPhone users take full advantage of the wireless connectivity on offer, although the tray for your phone to sit in is far too large so it may slide around and only charge some of the time when actually centred.
Inclusions that are also particularly impressive on this mid-spec Outlander are the 12.3-inch fully digital instrument cluster and 10.8-inch head-up display – both of which are equally as crystal clear as the infotainment display.
Perhaps I should say the digital instrument cluster was an impressive inclusion, though, as while the early 2022 model I tested still featured it, it is being dropped as part of a mid-year update due to supply chain issues brought on by the semiconductor shortage. The instrument cluster from ES and LS versions will instead feature – a 7.0-inch screen flanked by two mechanical dials – with the Aspire’s price remaining unchanged.
There’s an excellent amount of space in the first and second rows of the new Outlander, with an abundance of headroom and exceptional rear legroom, plus the flexibility of the second row being on sliding rails.
The third row – standard on all models except the base ES – is a completely pointless afterthought, though, with not even enough legroom for children, limited access room due to how far back it is mounted, and head restraints that are a pain to fit (you need to fit them each time the seats are put up due to the size of them) and which actually sit behind the crash cell structure.
Powering all 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander variants for now is a 2.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder with 135kW and 245Nm on tap, which comes paired with a CVT automatic with an eight-speed manual mode and the choice of either front- or all-wheel drive.
A plug-in hybrid variant will be joining the range in the coming months, though, offering more power and 87km of electric range thanks to a 20kWh battery.
The regular 2.5-litre is a decent engine for an SUV like this, though, with an acceptable enough amount of power and smooth power delivery across the rev range.
The CVT automatic is quite the improvement over Mitsubishi’s older CVTs, with it feeling considerably more engaging – if still not as engaging as a more traditional automatic transmission. It might not be quite as slick as what you’d find in the Subaru Outback, but it’s getting fairly close to it.
For the most part, the Outlander’s ride quality is impressive for a vehicle riding on 20-inch wheels, although when it comes to handling larger bumps there is still some brittleness that can be felt. However, for city and freeway driving – which is what most buyers will likely use the Outlander for – it’s perfectly acceptable.
The handling is fairly impressive in this new model, too, especially given how lacklustre the old model felt. Body roll is surprisingly well managed and the steering feels particularly well-weighted for both driving in the city and on twistier country roads.
When in Tarmac mode – its sportiest driving mode – you can feel the difference the Outlander’s optional all-wheel drive system makes as well, with its then-even power distribution giving it a certain surefootedness.
Realistically, though, this will be of little concern to the majority of buyers simply looking at the Outlander as an affordable and long-lasting daily driver which it ought to be.
Given Mitsubishi offers an industry leading 10-year/200,000km warranty, it shows the company has confidence in it lasting the test of time – although you should be aware that you’ll only get 10-year coverage if you have your vehicle serviced with a Mitsubishi dealer; take it to a third party and you’ll only be afforded five years/100,000km of coverage.
You’ll want to service it with a Mitsubishi dealership, though, as 10 years of capped price servicing is also offered by Mitsubishi, with the first five visits costing just $199 each and the average cost across all 10 coming in at $319.
Factor in its fairly good fuel economy – I saw consumption of 8.8L/100km over the course of 365km compared to the official claim of 8.1L/100km – and despite feeling far more premium than any Mitsubishi before it, the Outlander should remain just as cheap and cheerful a proposition.
Although I’m disappointed to see the digital instrument cluster lost from the Aspire model, I still think this is the variant to go for given it’s not truly lacking anything you’ll miss from the Exceed and Exceed Tourer range toppers.
All in all, the new Outlander is far more of a step up than I and I’m sure many other people thought it might be. This is finally one of those cars that’s easy to recommend to someone asking which SUV they should buy without running any real risk of them ending up unhappy.
Let’s hope Mitsubishi maintains this momentum as it ushers in the rest of its next generation of models, as it’s a brand reinvention that was certainly needed.
2022 Mitsubishi Outlander Aspire AWD (7 Seat) List Price: $43,990
- Performance - 7.5/107.5/10
- Ride & Handling - 8/108/10
- Tech & Features - 8.5/108.5/10
- Practicality - 8/108/10
- Value for Money - 8/108/10
Pros: Much improved design, more premium-feeling interior, great infotainment system borrowed from Nissan, smooth ride and power delivery
Cons: Aspire model will lose the digital instrument cluster from mid-2022, pointless third-row seats, CVT is good but still not on the level of a regular auto
In a nutshell: After years of feeling outdated in its previous guise, this all-new 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander not only feels up-to-date, but genuinely premium at that. Although the Aspire model will soon be losing the digital instrument cluster due to the semiconductor shortage, it’s still the easy pick of the range.
Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Mitsubishi Motors Australia for one week with a full tank of fuel.
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