Driven: The Game Changer? Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV

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There’s no doubt that we live in an age of motoring evolution, watching history unfold before our eyes. Hybrid and electric vehicles were once the butt of many motoring columnists’ jokes, discarded as a waste of time or, at their worst, as something which threatened the joy of true motoring. In a way it’s an ironic viewpoint, considering that electric cars have been around almost as long as their counterparts which rely on miniature explosions for propulsion. But they’re steadily gaining a foothold in the modern era, thanks in part to government schemes, the interest of early adopters and increasingly efficient technology.31

Nissan’s Leaf is an affordable electric car which has got a lot going for it in terms of comfort and ease of use, even if it isn’t the best looking vehicle on the market. Ford have an electric Focus which doesn’t look altogether different from the outside. Mitsubishi’s i-Miev might look a like a bug which has crashed into your windscreen at speed, but it’s a useful city car and isn’t all that bad to drive. Even BMW have got in on the act, with their luxury i3 and the electric sportscar, the i8. And eventually we’ll see Tesla’s beautifully crafted Model S reach European shores, looking for all the world like the offspring of a Jaguar and an Aston Martin. For the electric car enthusiast there’s quite the range of options, a list which continues to grow.

These vehicles have one thing in common – they’re all road cars, designed for smooth tarmac, urban (and rural) roads. And if you want to delve deeper, off road, via battery power? The options are limited. There’s Toyota’s RAV 4 EV, but that’s only sold in California. Porsche, meanwhile, have launched a hybrid Cayenne, although that is likely to be out of reach for the ordinary EV driver. You could always try to manoeuvre a BMW i3 around a muddy track, but you’re not likely to get very far. The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (plug in hybrid electric vehicle) is another story, however.

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Driven – the Nissan Leaf

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Electric cars continue to disappoint me, but not in the way you might think. Because, as a committed petrolhead, my experiences with their kind so far have been nothing but positive. It’s almost as if EVs aren’t soulless monstrosities with the sole purpose of putting an end to the fun in driving.

Our recent test drive of the Nissan Leaf was limited, yet we got a good grasp of why it’s one of the most popular EVs in Europe at the moment. Firstly, it looks much better in the flesh, even if the grill-less front end looks a little different, helped undoubtedly by our model’s two-tone alloys and striking deep red metallic paint. The interior was quite comfortable too (opt for the higher levels and the leather seats if you can), and spacious too – even lanky passengers will have plenty of space in the back.

123580_10_5The Leaf comes with a charger which can be used with regular and fast charge charging stations, however a charger which can be plugged into an ordinary three pin socket must be bought separately (useful when you want to charge at a friend’s house, for example). Compared to BMW’s i3, which we tested a few weeks ago, the materials aren’t of the same quality. Then again, the i3 fits into the luxury city car class, particularly when considering its price, while Nissan’s Leaf slots firmly into the family car segment. Driving it is probably simpler than operating an iPhone. Sit in, put your foot on the brake and press start. You’ll almost feel like it should be more difficult, or that you’re doing something wrong. A little gear lever rests in the central console between the front seats – push up and right to move forward, and down and right for reverse. Finally, the parking brake is located where you’d normally find the clutch pedal. And away you go. There are Playstation games with far greater complexity.

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