Mitsubishi vs. Jeep: Who makes a better compact crossover?
The Outlander will save you money in the long run, while the Cherokee adds that extra layer of grit and ground clearance
Special to The Globe and Mail
Friday, October 19, 2018 – Print Edition, Page D1

Vehicle decisions aren't always going to be applesto-apples. Household consumer debates essentially come down to cost, and a part of that discussion may be whether they want to go "green" or not.

With that in mind, we've matched-up two compact crossovers close in price: the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) GT and the 2019 Jeep Cherokee Limited 4x4 for a more unusual, but realistic faceoff.

LOOKS Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV: The Outlander's exterior is similar to most SUVs featuring a smooth body and sleek-looking flow to its physique. Its blackedout grille and shiny chrome give it some much needed character.

The discernible differences from its regular gas version are its PHEV badges, and frankly, it's an overdramatization of its "greenness" that borders on a free advertising display.

Jeep Cherokee: The Cherokee's styling is anything but typical with a rugged, more aggressive look, ready to take on anything and everything in its path. After Jeep erroneously moved away from that for its fifth-generation in 2014, it's back on track with a new chrome-integrated seven-slot grille featuring edgy LED headlamps grouped together with its daytime running lights. Its backside features more LEDs, a touch of red through its baseline and its licence plate being raised into its liftgate providing that cool throwback look.

INTERIOR Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV: The PHEV improves upon its regular version, albeit only by a smidge thanks to a new instrument cluster and gear shift for battery-electric purposes.

It helps to bring about more colour and excitement into the cabin aided by upscale GT treatments featuring leather seating, faux wood accents and a power liftgate. Front seating is upright and comfortable; while its rear is quite roomy with space for three adults in the back, something the Cherokee cannot do.

Jeep Cherokee: Consumers will be pleased with the Cherokee's premium touches: soft brown Nappa leather upholstery, a bright and responsive infotainment system and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. It's a calm and comforting environment where bucket seating is both supportive and plush.

Rear seat occupants will enjoy the same level of headroom and legroom, minus room for a third teenager or adult.

PERFORMANCE Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV: Propelling the Outlander is a 2.0litre four-cylinder engine producing 117 horsepower and 137 pound-feet of torque. On top of that, twin electric motors in the front and rear, as well as a 12 kWh centrally-placed battery pack add 160 hp more along with 246 lb-ft of torque. Numbers aside, its battery-electric ways allow torque to shoot the SUV off from a standing position with plenty of gusto, catching me off guard on a few occasions reaching unexpected speeds of 130-140 kilometres an hour. Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC) provides balance and confidence when handling curvy corners; only a few minor corrections were needed.

The PHEV utilizes 35 kms of pure electric range (499 combined total range) that can last seemingly forever by using Battery Charge Mode, Battery Save Mode along with the Eco driving button. During my two weeks, I used limited gasoline resources showcasing exactly why consumers would opt for a plug-in hybrid.

Jeep Cherokee: Its 2.4-litre four-cylinder has been upgraded on this tester to an all-new, more-efficient 2.0-litre turbocharged engine with direct injection producing 270 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque (it actually has more power than the V-6 offering). All engines are mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission (9.8 combined fuel economy rating) that provides a seamless and calm drive with help from active noise cancellation.

Its lighter frame and new engine shows a spiritful nature on initial acceleration with plenty of extra speed to burn. Its frontwheel drive configuration may be a downgrade for some consumers, but it excelled in the handling department with precise turning and a nimble steering nature.

TECHNOLOGY Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV: The Outlander is loaded with technology from the engine to its battery pack to an impressive suite of standard safety technology including forward collision avoidance with automatic braking and pedestrian detection.

The PHEV has paddle shifters, but they're not your regular gear shifts as they adjust the amount of brake regeneration from B0 to B5. The higher the number, the more the regeneration; B0 shuts it off.

Jeep Cherokee: The Cherokee's technology shines as well, but in its case, it's all to do with off-road capabilities. Selec-Terrain is standard in the 4x4 setup with options for Auto, Snow, Sport, Sand/Mud and Rock drive modes. It won't achieve rock crawl heights and challenges like the Wrangler, but it can do its leisurely part, especially on camping trips. When hitting those trails, occupants will enjoy a new 8.4-inch Uconnect infotainment unit that's bright, responsive and with pinch, tap and swipe functions. It offers more than 80 advanced safety features, but many are extra.

CARGO Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV: The Outlander has ample space in its rear at 2,209 litres with the seats folded down and 861 in the trunk. It's not restricted by its battery pack, rather it upgrades camping or tailgate events by tapping into the main battery drive to plug in a coffee maker, mini-fridge, speakers or even a TV.

Jeep Cherokee: Even though the Cherokee has expanded its cargo, it still falls short with 1,634 litres behind the first row and 731 for the trunk. Beyond pure space, Jeep has managed to add width, extra storage locations and a new hands-free power liftgate that's activated through a sweeping foot motion.

VERDICT The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and Jeep Cherokee are linked by size and price, but stand out for different reasons, always leading to a difficult comparison.

With EV incentives drying up in Ontario, these two clock in at $49,998 for the Outlander PHEV and $47,640 for the Cherokee due to the added $2,590 for the latter's 2.0-litre engine. Clearly, the PHEV saves you money in the long run, while the Cherokee adds that extra layer of grit and ground clearance. From a performance perspective, they are both admirable compact crossovers, so the decision comes down to what's more important to you: adventure or savings?

Associated Graphic

Pitting the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in Hybrid GT against the 2019 Jeep Cherokee Limited 4x4 might seem unusual, as they aren't that similar, but this faceoff does raise the issue of whether to go 'green.' PHOTOS BY DAVID MILLER/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

The Outlander, top, has upscale treatments, which feature leather seating and faux wood accents. The Cherokee's premium touches include a responsive infotainment system and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

The Cherokee has only 1,634 litres of storage space behind the first row, while the Outlander has 2,209 litres. DAVID MILLER/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

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