NOT too long ago, ‘hybrid’ and ‘plug-in’ were words usually applied to growing roses and using a toaster. Now they are as much a part of the motoring lexicon as ‘fuel-injection’ or ‘disc brakes’.

The ‘hybrid’ bit signifies a car powered by a combination of a petrol engine and an electric motor (which harvests power while being driven), while the ‘plug-in’ bit describes the means of re-fuelling, by an electrical socket rather than a stop at a filling station.

They are additions to the automotive vocabulary to herald a brave new world of driving.

The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is the UK’s best-selling plug-in vehicle. Last month (June 2019) saw a three per cent sales increase despite difficult market conditions, brought about by the government’s decision to axe its grant to buyers of such cars.

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Giving the cash incentive the chop is surely the biggest reason for the decline in overall sales of plug-in vehicles, down 50 per cent compared to June 2018.

But Mitsubishi continues to buck the trend in this market, with 3,647 Outlander PHEVs sold in the first half of 2019.

The company says that the government’s assertion that the PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) market is well established and the focus should immediately shift to pure electric vehicles (EVs) is misplaced. 

It says the charging infrastructure is not fit for widespread EV adoption and is struggling to cope with the relatively tiny number of EVs on the road, while PHEVs reduce the demand on charging infrastructure in the short-to-medium term as drivers have the option of using an efficient petrol engine to supplement electric power on longer drives.

The manufacturer adds that any journeys within towns and cities can be made silently and cleanly in EV mode, improving air quality for everyone.

The dual-power system certainly works seamlessly, as I found during a week-long road test of an Outlander 4hs, which took in a wide range of driving conditions, from tootling around town to the motorway haul.
I have driven hybrids and pure electric vehicles before, but I had forgotten that first moment of start-up, when the driver is greeted by the sound of silence as the electric motor awaits your bidding, rather than the utterance of an internal combustion engine firing into life. 

After that, the driving experience is familiar, made easy-peasy by the smoothest of automatic transmissions and bags of power from a 133bhp 2.4-litre petrol engine and a drive battery capacity increased by 15 per cent to 13.8kWh.

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The Outlander’s accomplished employment of technology is matched by a lavish level of kit, including automatic headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, reversing camera, electronic handbrake with auto hold, seven airbags, including driver’s side knee airbag, LED daytime running lights, LED fog lamps and LED high beams, electronic parking brake with auto-hold, 360-degree camera with rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, automatic high-beam, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot warning system with lane change assist.

The latest Outlander has had an update, including new front grille, bumper and fog lamp bezels, new LED headlamp system, rear bumper and rear spoiler, and new 18in alloy wheels.

This five-door SUV (sports utility vehicle) is a big car that is generous with its interior space, and the well-appointed cabin is a welcoming place to be, with leather upholstery and pleasingly tactile surfaces throughout.

Acceleration (0-60mph) 10.5 seconds;  fuel economy: 157mpg; emissions:
40 CO; first year road tax: £0.  RRP £42,020