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Mitsubishi Outlander

Date: 21 December 2006

Category: Small 4x4
Prices: £19,000-£25,000 (est)
Key rival: Honda CR-V

Arriving fashionably late to any party is a risky business. Do it poorly and you'll slip under partygoers' radar, leaving a night of idle chat and heavy drinking with bored waiters.

A textbook tardy entrance on the other hand can elevate your status to almost rockstar proportions.


Of course, this is not some polite soiree in Surrey we're talking about, but the all-new Outlander's entrance to the small 4x4 market - a party full of dazzling bright young things begging for your attention.

In one corner, the Honda CR-V boasts about its new-found green credentials, while in another, the rugged Land Rover Freelander regales an audience with tales of its recent exotic African expedition. Meanwhile, a sharp-suited smirking Toyota RAV4 tactfully mutters about topping driver surveys.

Built on the next generation Lancer platform, the Mitsubishi 4x4 gains the frugal 140PS diesel VW engine from the Golf and other VW group variants, which solves a problem the previous Outlander suffered from, namely the lack of diesel power.

Like the Honda CR-V, it too can now boast car-like emissions and fuel consumptions. However, on first glance people will be more interested in the way it looks.

More estate on stilts then mini-me large 4x4, the Outlander looks smart and cohesive in the flesh. It's tough but not menacing - perfect in a 4x4 climate of hate.

It doesn't disappoint inside, either. Despite not setting the world alight design-wise, everything is carried off with a feeling of real quality.

It also gains a desirable, useful and practical split tailgate and for the first time, a pair of small seats behind the second row. It's not a true seven-seater, but it could, at a push, carry two adults short distances.

Car-like in its looks, the Outlander is car-like to drive, with surprising reserves of grip to lean on through corners. The gearchange is pleasant, the steering well weighted, and it's quiet on the motorway, save for some wind noise around the large mirrors.

There's just one problem.

It averages 40.9mpg (42.8mpg in the smaller-wheeled Equippe model) and sprints to 60 in less than 10.8secs, which, on paper, sounds like a good balance between performance and economy, In reality, though, the engine struggles and is all too frequently caught off boost. It's little too vocal, too.

But a fix is on the way.

Peugeot-Citroen has bought the Outlander to use as a basis for the Peugeot 4007 and Citroen C-Crosser. However, it will gain the group's own 156PS 2.2 HDI engine that is likely to make an appearance in the Outlander come September alongside Mitsubishi's 170PS automatic 2.4 petrol. This diesel might just be worth the wait, and make the Outlander's late entrance to the small 4x4 party not fashionably late enough.