Mitsubishi new Outlander GX5 2.2-litre diesel auto.

Price: £33,999.

Top speed: 125mph.

0-62mph: 11.7 seconds.

Fuel: 48.7mpg (combined figure).

CO2 emissions (g/km): 153.

Verdict: Impressive family package, refined with strong, economical and clean motor, practical, safe, stylish, generously equipped and designed to cater for hybrid plug-in technology.

IT continues to be a bumper time for sports utility vehicles with several recent additions to the crowded sector vying for attention. And now Mitsubishi’s new third generation Outlander, a greener, more practical and luxurious lifestyle vehicle, has joined the fray and is emerging head and shoulders above its close rivals in several departments.

The newcomer manages to combine capable off-road prowess with the latest technology and refinement that you would expect from an expensive executive saloon.

It is the cleanest, most stylish, safest and most technologically advanced vehicle of its type from Mitsubishi. It houses a refined 2.2- litre diesel motor and has just gone on sale with competitive pricing from £24,224 to £33,999, and with four different trim specifications.

While the vehicle can boast the best fuel economy and emissions figures of any of its competitors in the seven-seat 4x4 segment, it also has been designed from the ground up to incorporate Mitsubishi’s advanced plug-in hybrid technology.

The Outlander hybrid, launched at last year’s Paris motor show, is already on sale in Japan and the first shipment of cars is due in Britain during June. Although pricing of the UK models has to be confirmed, much sales interest is already being shown and the vehicle is expected to be popular among all kinds of buyers.

In diesel form the Outlander houses a redeveloped version of the well- established aluminium 16- valve double overhead camshaft engine which now produces improved low-end torque, superior fuel economy and class-leading CO2 emissions of just 138 (g/km) which easily meet the latest Euro six emission standards. Doing its bit to keep emissions low is Mitsubishi’s automatic stop and go system.

The 148bhp oil burner carries on Mitsubishi’s enviable off-road reputation with a new system that removes the need for a traditional 2WD mode altogether.

Most of the time the 4WD eco mode powers the car through the two front wheels but when the road conditions demand it, the system intelligently transmits the driving force to the rear wheels as well – providing a higher level of active safety while managing better fuel economy and lower emissions than the full-time 4WD auto mode.

However, it is the on-road abilities that make the Outlander rather special. Few sports utility vehicles come close to it for composure helped by new and expensive rear multi-link suspension and a redeveloped Lancer platform which also benefits from the Evolution’s technology.

The new model is much lighter and has far more efficient aerodynamics than the outgoing car while noise and vibration standards are improved by positioning soundproofing materials and the fitment of new tyres.

The vehicle offers a quiet, comfortable and relaxed drive with the performance impressive up through the gears and during swift openroad overtaking.

Two gearboxes are available – a six-speed manual with well-spaced ratios which help to achieve better fuel and emission figures and a smooth six-speed automatic, ideally suited to the vehicle.

Like the eye-catching exterior, the inside should appeal to the styleconscious family. High quality materials are used with the upholstery offering large and supportive seating and generally the classy interior delivers just what you might expect with first-rate fit and finish. There is also plenty of passenger and luggage space with or without the rear seats folded.

The dash ergonomics envelopes the driver who gets handy steering wheel controls together with high resolution instrument displays.

Safety has been taken care of with the car having achieved a top fivestar Euro NCAP safety rating with new features such as city-crash protection and an improvement to Mitsubishi’s own safety system.

Additionally, there are seven airbags.

Mitsubishi, a niche manufacturer in the UK, says that some 2,500 units are expected to be sold in the UK this year with the higher specification cars being the most popular.

For the range-topping GX5 model there are added safety items, including a lane departure warning system, forward collision mitigation and clever adaptive cruise control technology.

The GX5 also boasts leather upholstery, DAB radio, power tailgate and adaptive cruise control. Even the entry model gets generous standard kit, including automatic lighting, coming-home headlamps, 60/40 rear seats, six-speaker stereo with CD, MP3 connectivity and USB, cruise control and air conditioning.