Good: spacious, rugged, well-equipped, punchy performance.
Not so good: anonymous styling inside and out.
Mitsubishi has a bit of a bad habit of hiding its light under a bushel. This is, after all, the company that pioneered such innovations as direct-injection for petrol engines and in-wheel-motors for electric cars. It has also at various times dominated the World Rally Championship and the Dakar Rally. Yet its road-going cars, wild Evo editions aside, tend to be styled rather too quietly. If you were being ungenerous, you would call them anonymous.
It's a shame, because behind the bland, there's often a good car trying to get out. The new Outlander is an almost perfect example of this. The styling is neat, modern and clean but utterly inoffensive and almost without character. You could so easily mistake it for a similar car from another brand, and I wouldn't fancy your chances of finding it in an airport car park after a long holiday if it's painted in anything other than the orange colour of our test car.
All of which is a little unfair, because underneath, the Outlander is a perfectly fine car. It picks up where the previous model left off - a mid-size SUV with seats for seven that straddles the line between big estate and tall 4x4. You can have a front-wheel drive, five-seat model if money dictates it, but this four-wheel drive, seven-seater seems to fit the brief rather better. There is space and seats for an all-up school run or shopping trip, and a little more room has been liberated in the third row compared to the previous model. It's still really only for kids, but it's a little less tight than it was before.
Up front, you'll find plenty of space for driver and rear seat passengers, and a neat dashboard that is probably the best interior Mitsubishi has done for a while. It's not as exciting as the cabins you find in some rivals, but it's nicely laid out, the big touch-screen infotainment controller is simple to use and it's comfy. It's even enlivened somewhat by little splashes of shiny, silvery carbon-fibre-effect trim. Nice.
Under the bluff nose is a development of Mitsubishi's long-serving 2.2-litre diesel engine. Outputs of 150hp and 380Nm are right on the class average for power and torque and it feels decently punchy to drive. You have to rev it a bit to get it to wake up, but when you do so, the Outlander feels almost sprightly. It's not as economical as advertised though. Mitsubishi quotes 58mpg on the combined cycle; I managed a best average of around 40mpg. Not bad, in fairness, but not as good as it could be.
Longevity shouldn't be an issue though. Mitsubishi has blotted its reliability copy book in recent years, but it seems to have sorted those issues and the eight-year warranty should give you some peace of mind.
In terms of handling, the Outlander tends towards softness, which means there's lots of body roll in the bends and a faint sense of imprecision to the drive, but the trade-off is it's gently sprung around town and doesn't rattle your teeth over poor roads or speed bumps. Overall refinement is pretty good, although you'll never be in doubt that it's a diesel you're driving. Less chance of sticking the wrong fuel hose in though, I suppose.
All of which adds up to a decent family SUV, especially when you consider you get dual-zone climate control, a reversing camera, Bluetooth phone and cruise control all thrown in for the price. If the familiar diesel doesn't do it for you, just hang around - Mitsubishi is planning a high-tech plugin hybrid version that will allow you to drive around on pure electric power for short hops. Will such a technical innovation bring with it more exciting styling?