TO the casual bystander the Mitsubishi Outlander looks like a run-of-the-mill SUV.
Boxy shape, tall stance and a somewhat aggressive visage. In fact, the lines are a bit old-school.
But behind the rather uninspiring first glance, there's technology that has catapulted the Outlander to prominence and huge sales success.
As the first plug-in hybrid in its sector, the five-door crossover became a company car tax wonder thanks to low emissions and rock-bottom benefit-in-kind tax for those fortunate enough to have a firm's car, saving them thousands of ponds a year.
In every day terms it means, the Outlander can be driven by either its 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine or its electric motors powered by batteries, or a combination of the two.
The batteries can be charged on the move or plugged into the mains at home or at a public charging point.
Trundle away from standstill and there's an eerie silence due an absence of mechanical noise, but when you accelerate hard the petrol engine joins in and things become more vocal. Automatic transmission supplies a smooth supply of power, making it an easy car to drive.
You can play with switches to control when to charge up, or leave it to the car's computers to decide. Don't expect though to get much further than 30 miles on electric alone.
Initial acceleration is nippy and undramatically silent. Overall, the Mitsubishi's power level is about par for the course compared with rival SUVs of the same size, with 62mph coming up in around 11 seconds and a top speed of 106mph.
The cabin, which was recently refreshed, remains a tad old-fashioned with a fairly random sprinkling of controls. There's a lot of dark plastic around, but the test car's cabin was brightened by smart red leather seating.
There's ample space for four or even five onboard and the elevated seating position allows good visibility. The rear boot platform is quite high due to the storage of the hybrid system which slightly limits luggage capacity. Rear seats split 60-40 and fold to expand carrying capability.
The PHEV version is purely a five seater, while the diesel model can be specified as a seven-seater.
A powered tailgate is standard, but its action is somewhat tardy - a feature that I noticed with irritation during sheeting rain.
There's no shortage of equipment on board the 5HS. Heated front seats, dual zone climate control, LED headlights, nappa leather trim and electric glass sliding sun-roof are all in with the price. And of course all Outlanders have go-anywhere four wheel drive.
The current Outlander feels much more taut than earlier models with greater body control and less cornering roll. Nevertheless, this is an older design than many rivals and it does not have the same degree of athleticism possessed by some fresher competitors.
Fuel consumption in my less-than-delicate hands averaged 34mpg.
The warranty offered by Mitsubishi covers an extended 5-year/62,500 mile period to help put owners minds at rest.