How many mainstream light commercial manufacturers offer a plug-in hybrid in the UK? Only one: Mitsubishi.
In a first for the marketplace, it has just come up with the Outlander GX3h 4Work, the plug-in hybrid version of its five- door GX1 4Work all-wheel drive van, and that alone justifies making the Outlander our 4x4 Van of the Year once again.
Qualifying for the Government’s Plug-In Van Grant and capable of travelling for more than 30 miles on battery power alone, before reverting to petrol-hybrid propulsion, the newcomer has a staggering official fuel economy figure of 148mpg. Propulsion is provided by a 2.0-litre petrol engine and a pair of 60kW electric motors connected to a lithium-ion battery pack.
CO2 emissions are a meagre 44g/km, and the GX3h 4Work is exempt from the London Congestion Charge.
Such exemplary performance might prompt some operators to ignore the virtues of the mainstream GX1 4Work’s unadorned 147hp 2.2-litre common-rail diesel. While that would be understandable, it would be a pity too because it delivers gutsy performance both on- and off-road. Mitsubishi reckons that the tipping point for whether diesel is more efficient than plug-in is if journeys are much above 100 miles between charges,
No matter whether it is in plug-in hybrid or straightforward diesel guise, the Outlander 4Work is not designed to tackle really arduous terrain; it’s a soft-roader rather than an off-roader. What it will do, however, is get down un-gritted rural side roads in the snow and ice. With the selectable 4x4 system, in 4WD Eco mode you remain in front-wheel drive until you start to lose grip. At that point, 4x4 cuts in. If you are heading somewhere where four-wheel drive will be an absolute necessity then there is nothing to stop you switching to 4WD Auto to ensure that all four wheels are driven continually. If you could do with a little more traction then opt for 4WD Lock.
When driving on ordinary asphalt the smooth-running diesel offers ample torque across a wide rev band and the gear-change is slick enough to allow you to make the most of it. The engine digs in nicely on hills and cruises quite happily at motorway speed for miles on end, while the suspension is more than capable of coping with everything bar the worst potholes.
The 4Work diesel is far more practical than it might first appear. Gross payload capacity is 705kg, you can haul a braked trailer grossing at up to 2000kg – a tachograph can be installed if required to help keep you legal – and access to its 1.6m3 load area could scarcely be easier. A hatch- type door is fitted at the back plus hinged doors on either side courtesy of the vehicle’s passenger car origins. The 4Work also boasts a high level of standard equipment.
Did you know?
The Outlander 4Work’s cargo bed conceals a handy compartment that allows you to hide electric drills and other tools.
Highly commended - Mercedes-Benz Sprinter
Like Mitsubishi's 4Work, Mercedes-Benz's 4x4 Sprinter cannot cross deeply-rutted fields because it does not boast the necessary ground clearance. What it can do however is carry a substantial load over moderately-demanding terrain; and it is the combination of cargo-shifting ability plus a four-wheel-drive capability that has enabled it to snaffle our Highly Commended accolade.
Produced as both a 3.5 and a 5.0 tonner, it can be specified as a chassis cab or a chassis crew cab as well as with a van body: and you can even order it as a Traveliner if you need to transport passengers rather than cargo.