Fond though we were of the four-wheel drive Mitsubishi Shogun Sport Commercial, there was no denying that it was starting to show its age. Good to see then that Mitsubishi has replaced it with the Outlander Commercial 4x4, and interesting to see also that it's the product of yet another spate of motor industry co-operation.
Access to the vehicle's 2.0m3 cargo bay is by means of an unglazed hinged door on each side plus a rear hatch with a heated window and a wash/wipe system.
Open the hatch and you're confronted by a deep lip over which items have to be heaved. Don't worry. Acting rather like a miniature tailgate, it drops down neatly to reduce the loading height to a reasonable 600mm. It will support 200kg.
Fitted with a purpose-built load bed with a lip at the cab end to stop packages sliding forwards and joining the driver and passenger, the van's cargo area is comprehensively protected from scratches and scrapes by plastic cladding that covers the wheel boxes, the sides and the doors. The bed itself gets a fitted carpet.
You'll find four small tie-down points towards the rear of the area and a lidded compartment on each side, close to the back door. The offside one conceals the jack, and there's a 12v power point nearby.
The rearmost section of the load floor can be folded upwards to reveal a large tray split into various compartments.
Maximum load length is 1,800mm. Maximum width is 1,335mm narrowing to 950mm between the wheel boxes, while maximum height is 930mm.
The rear door aperture is 930mm high and 1,092mm wide. Dimensions for the side door aperture are 1,066mm and 749mm respectively.
Vehicles of this size and type don't always provide sufficient space for all the oddments that van drivers like to carry around with them, but Outlander Commercial is quite generous.
You'll find a bin in each door with a moulding to hold a soft drink can, a bin between the seats with a 12v power point, plus a covered tray in the lid, a lockable glovebox, a cubbyhole at the bottom of the dashboard, and four cup-holders. There's a pop-out one to the right of the steering wheel, another one next to the gearlever and two between the seats.
Look up and you'll find a drop-down holder above the windscreen for your sunglasses.
In addition to all this there's a bin on top of the facia. The one on our van had an ill-fitting lid, the only quality glitch on what was otherwise a well-made vehicle.
Air-conditioning forms part of the heating and ventilation system ? the heater is highly effective, incidentally ? and electric windows and exterior mirrors are standard features. So are driver and passenger airbags and an MP3-compatible stereo radio/CD player with six speakers.
The large door mirrors can be folded in at the touch of a button, which should prevent them from being smacked when the Outlander is parked in a narrow street.
You can adjust the height of the driver's seat and the steering column. Remote central locking controls all the doors.
A hugely enjoyable vehicle to drive, Outlander Commercial offers ample performance and delivers it smoothly too.
Its mid-range get-up-and-go proved invaluable when it came to overtaking slower-moving traffic on single-carriageway A-roads, and the VW diesel needed a fair amount of reining in on fast dual carriageways. All this is to the accompaniment of an exemplary gearchange.
Four-wheel-drive commercials used to wallow all over the place on bends. Not this one. It corners with precision, with no excess rolling and providing plenty of feedback through the steering.
Nor does Outlander Commercial hop about all over the place when it encounters a ridge or a small pothole or two. It soaks up the shock with aplomb and carries on regardless.
OK, there was a bit of rumbling from the tyres, but that was a minor irritation. Otherwise Mitsubishi's latest offering gets top marks for the on-road driving experience it offers.
Off-road the van is fine on uneven farm tracks and will tackle some quite steep slopes. However it struggles in serious mud and with deep ruts because it doesn't have a set of low-range gears and at 205mm, its ground clearance is limited.
Fuel economy for the duration of the test period averaged out at 40mpg.
Nobody is going to quarrel with a three year/unlimited mileage warranty, especially when it's supported by a Pan-European roadside rescue and recovery service for the entire duration plus a 12 year anti-perforation corrosion warranty. We would quarrel with the service interval, however. At 9,000 miles it's too short for a modern vehicle.
Outlander looks good, no question about it. To preserve those good look, however, it desperately needs side rubbing strips and wheelarch mouldings to prevent it suffering from minor scratches and scrapes.
That's especially the case if you've spent an extra ?298 (excl VAT) on metallic paint; an optional extra. The mirrors and bumpers are colour-keyed, enhancing the vehicle's appearance.
A worthy successor to the Shogun Sport Commercial, Mitsubishi's new Outlander Commercial offers plenty of performance, rides and handles well, and looks good into the bargain. Even the snootiest neighbours won't raise an eyebrow when you park it on the drive. It's well-equipped, you can access the cargo area from three sides and engaging four-wheel drive is a doddle. Unfortunately the service interval is too short, a lack of low-range gears limits its ability off-road and some prospective purchasers may feel it's a little pricey. There's a lot, lot more to be said for it than against it though, so go and raid your piggy bank now.