Mitsubishi is a car company which has been under a lot of scrutiny over the past decade or so…in fact probably even beforehand. From producing an interesting mix of subtle-yet-classy and outright bonkers vehicles, to a current line up which is average at best, and at worst is very forgettable. Even the names no longer evoke any form of emotion, or at least given years of under investment in both styling and engineering teams that seems to be the case amongst buyers who on both sides of the Atlantic seem to be staying away in droves.
However have still been some bright patches in recent memory; the Evo is always a car which gets good reviews, and the new ASX (Outlander Sport in North America) is a car which performs well against rivals, if not bringing anything OUTstanding to the segment. The one standout product for much of the last half decade however, has been the Outlander (not the Sport model which is an entirely different car), which is a medium sized cross-over vehicle. It could be argued that as a manufacturer with a strong background in SUV’s and pick up trucks, that whatever crossover Mitsubishi produced was likely be a relatively strong success, especially given the popularity of the segment in both Europe and North America. But given the relatively poor sales of the original Outlander (2001-2005) it seems this is not the case.
With the launch of the second generation in 2005/6 however, it was clear that the sharply styled Mitsu was a very different car than its predecessor. The clean cut exterior was mirrored by a simple and modern interior design, which came with 2 small seats in the boot for children. Also available was a diesel engine, something which in Europe had hindered the cars sales dramatically. Although not the sharpest driving or most fuel efficient option in the category, the Outlander found a home amongst buyers wanting something with a sportier image than that of a CRV or RAV4, and also those who needed seating for 7. The cars success inspired PSA to order their own versions of the car, which were identical save for different front ends and wheel trims. The 4007 and C Crosser were good cars in their own right, but neither found the sales success of the Japanese version which was arguably better looking, and as such it retains a much higher proportion of its value than either French version.
A friend recently asked my opinion on which small SUV would be the best option for his wife, and despite the Outlander being a car which I know quite a lot about, it did not even cross my mind, and this is the car’s main problem; lack of image. In 2010 Mitsubishi gave the car a big facelift up front, and it gained an Evo-like grille which to my mind looks alot less handsome than pre facelift models. Looks of course are subjective, but equally many buyers have criticised the interior of the car as being too dated and plasticky. Not having ever sat in one I cannot comment, but it does seem to lack some of the character which many rivals possess.
All in all though the second generation Outlander was/is a worthy contender in the market and had Mitsubishi been able to build on this not only in the third generation car, but across its entire line up, then undoubtedly there would have been some cause for the obituary of the brand to be rewritten. As it happens though, the manufacturer seems to have taken an unusual path in the replacement of its dated, but nonetheless quite well styled European lineup. The quirky Colt supermini has been replaced by a highly efficient new model, with all the visual appeal of a cold jacket potato, and the Outlander itself has been treated to a whole redo. Inside the interior has been rejigged to be higher quality and more driver-centric (thumbs up)
But the exterior, well…inoffensive is probably the best term but to me the front and rear light design are far too 1980’s, and in one fell swoop the main appeal for many buyers has vanished. People who do buy the new Outlander will be getting a high quality, efficient and practical vehicle which will likely never leave them stranded, but in this segment I would be looking at a Kia Sorrento or Hyundai Santa Fe which come with a longer warranty and more attractive looks.