FRESH-faced, the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander marks a new beginning for the Japanese carmaker.
The marque remains entrenched in Australia's top 10 sellers, but things have been tough in recent times.
Making do with an ageing fleet for some years, there is light emerging at the end of the automotive tunnel.
This 2016 model Outlander is the initial step in Mitsubishi's journey to a more refined future.
Thankfully the changes are more than skin deep. While wearing the new "dynamic shield" grille that we'll start seeing on all new Mitsubishis, it has also received wide- ranging improvements under the skin.
Those changes were desperately needed, as the outgoing model was mediocre in an immensely competitive genre.
Entry-level prices have risen slightly, mid-spec have essentially remained the same, while top-shelf variants have dropped.
Improvements in materials, cabin noise and ride quality are the hallmarks of improvements. Attention focused on the areas which are touched most which makes the Outlander confines far more appealing across the LS, XLS and Exceed model lines.
Immediately after parking your rear end you notice the difference. The pews have better side bolstering, while the black cloth on base and mid-spec variants looks more upmarket.
Also delivering a more contemporary feel is a new headlining, stitching highlights on the instrument panel and a soft-touch centre console. The steering wheel has also been given an overhaul and now features a piano-black bezel.
About the only complaint is the minimal padding on the door arm rests.
Helping deliver a quieter ride are 39 NVH changes, which include better insulation, different door seals and noise-isolating windscreen glass.
On the road
With greater rigidity, the new Outlander feels more planted in the bends aided by changes to the suspension and improvements to body reinforcement.
Trialling the models on quality roads, the quieter cabin shone, although it was hard to get a gauge for the suspension tune. It felt firm, perhaps too steadfast for some drivers, where it appears engineers have allowed for some off-road prowess.
Yet Outlanders will do the bulk of their work on-road and, for the most part, it rode without compromise during our journey through Sydney and easily navigated the national park's twisty terrain.
Changes have been made to the electric power steering which we still found to be somewhat vague through the centre and lacked a direct feel when the corners arrived. That "play" through the middle is not necessarily a bad thing, especially with parents regularly turning toward children in the back seat, it means a slight tug of the wheel won't send them careering off the road or into the next lane.
The continuously variable automatic transmission in petrol models now has a more instantaneous acceleration response. There is less flaring, which has been a regular occurrence in CVTs when you put your foot down and the vehicle revs but the speed fails to increase.
There are still three four-cylinder engine choices, two petrols and a diesel. The oil-burner would be our choice for its meatier torque delivery.
What do you get?
Base models now get the improved looking 18-inch alloys, LED running lights and rear lamps, along with Bluetooth connectivity, leather trimmed steering wheel and shift knob, reversing sensors and camera, climate controlled air con, cruise control and five-star safety with seven airbags.
The XLS also gains digital audio, satellite navigation with touch-screen, dual zone air-conditioning, automatic lights and wipers, electric folding mirrors, cargo blind and electro-chromatic rear view mirror.
Stepping up to the Exceed, it comes with the forward collision warning function, radar cruise control, push button start, leather trimmed seats (heated up front), electric adjustable driver seat, LED headlights and gloss black instrument panel/door trim.
With seven seats available in the XLS and Exceed, the Outlander sits at the more spacious end of the medium-size SUV sector.
All variants have excellent head, leg and knee room in the front and in the second row, but the two pop-up sets in the boot are best suited to youngsters.
Fuel consumption has improved slightly in the petrol models which are partnered with the continuously variable automatic transmission. It should achieve less than eight litres for every 100km for real world drivers, while the diesel is about one litre thriftier. Mitsubishi still has a solid warranty, and a good spread of dealers along with capped price servicing.
Various shades of beige best describe the predecessor. This new Outlander can thank that new front end for the sporty persona.
It comes in seven colours, including two shades of white, cream, red, black, silver, titanium and new "ironbark" bronze.
Customer feedback prompted wholesale changes. More than just superficial, they were modifications desperately needed to keep pace with a rampaging SUV market. The end result is a much-improved offering from Mitsubishi.
While the alterations fall short of propelling it into segment leadership, it is now better equipped to do battle with the genre big guns.
What matters most
What we liked: New grille, alloys across the range, seven-seat option, interior materials.
What we'd like to see: Sharper pricing in line with other Japanese manufacturers, enhanced steering feel.
Warranty and servicing: Five-year/100,000km warranty with four-year capped price servicing available. Services are scheduled every 15,000km or 12 months, 4x2 price is $355, 4x4 is $375 while 4x4 diesel average is $525.
Model: 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander.
Details: Five-door five- or seven-seat two- or all-wheel drive medium-size sports utility vehicle.
Engines: 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 110kw @ 6000rpm and peak torque of 190Nm @ 4200rpm; 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol 124kW @ 6000rpm and 220Nm @ 4200rpm; 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel 110kW @ 3500rpm and 360Nm @1500-2750rpm.
Transmissions: Five-speed manual (2.0-litre petrol only), continuously variable automatic or six-speed automatic (diesel only).
Consumption: Petrol - 6.7-7.2 litres/100km (combined average, varies depending on engine and transmission); Diesel - 6.2L/100km.
Bottom line: Petrol - 2WD LS (m) $28,490, 2WD LS (a) $30,490, 2WD XLS (a) $33,490, 4WD LS (a) $33,490, 4WD XLS (a) $36,490, 4WD Exceed (a) $43,490.
Diesel - 4WD XLS (a) $39,490, 4WD Exceed (a) $46,490.
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