At first glance, the Mitsubishi Outlander Commercial and the LEVC VN5 look to be unlikely candidates for a direct comparison. The Outlander, formerly a passenger car and the VN5 which is essentially a London Taxi in van form are pretty unconventional as vans go and not exactly similar in appearance. But, and it’s a biggie – if you want a van using a hybrid (diesel or petrol and electric) powertrain, then you’ve only got the choice of these 2 or the Ford Transit Custom PHEV. Vanarama’s Van Expert Tim Cattlin takes a look at both vans to see if the similarities go deeper than just the power units...
The passenger car version of the Outlander has been around for quite a while now but it’s only since 2013 that Mitsubishi has marketed the vehicle as a commercial, fitted originally with a diesel engine. A PHEV (Plug-In Hybrid Vehicle) petrol variant was added as an option in 2014 with the diesel unit being discontinued in 2018.
Believe it or not, the roots of the VN5 go back as far as 1908, although things have moved on just a bit since then. Recent family history is the launch of the TX4 taxi in 2007 and the van is based on the last facelift, named TX in 2018. LEVC stands for London Electric Vehicle Company, and is owned by Chinese company Geely.
What’s On The Outside
Let’s be honest – neither of these vehicles looks like a van in the traditional sense. The Mitsubishi Outlander Commercial appears almost identical to the car, with just the blacked-out rear windows giving the game away. Benefitting from being a direct descendent, it does look smart, the 2 trim levels, Reflex and Reflex Plus having 16” and 18” alloy wheels respectively. Both have roof rails, a rear spoiler, LED daytime running, head and tail lights. The Reflex Plus comes with colour keyed bumpers, mirrors and door handles.
Although beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it’s unlikely you’ll consider the VN5 to be one of the best looking vans out there. Boxy and functional, with no pretence of being anything else (well, apart from a Taxi maybe) we think uniquely for a van the body is constructed from aluminium, saving weight. There are no alloy wheels or flashy trim here, although all of the 3 trim levels, Business, City and Ultima get LED DRLs and headlights. You’ll be able to spot the Ultima as it has metallic charcoal grey paint and body-coloured bumpers. It’s also worth mentioning if you go for the Business model you’ll have to be content with the traditional white van.
Under The Bonnet
It’s more than likely that most van operators attracted to either of these vehicles had their attention drawn by the hybrid power units. There are significant differences between the two though. The Outlander has a 2.4 litre 135 PS petrol engine with automatic transmission and permanent 4-wheel drive. It can also be driven in pure electric mode, its 28-mile range being particularly useful in any zero-emission inner-city zones, or where silent operation is desirable. It’s even got an ‘EV Priority’ mode, which automatically uses electric power if the charge is available.
The Mitsubishi can be charged by plugging into a wall box or public charger, or by selecting ‘Charge Driving Mode’ which transfers some of the engine’s output into charging the battery.
Also using hybrid technology but in a different way, the VN5 has a 3 cylinder 1477cc petrol engine. Unlike the Outlander, this engine isn’t used to power the van directly, it’s essentially an onboard generator used to charge the vehicle batteries (known as a ‘range extender’). The 110kw electric motor drives the rear wheels and the 31kwh battery gives the van a range of up to 61 miles. If the onboard charger hasn’t kept you topped up, a standard 7kw wall box charger will provide a full charge in less than 4 hours.
The manufacturers both quote NEDC official fuel consumption figures, Mitsubishi claiming 139.7mpg from the Outlander and a Co2 output of 40 grammes per kilometre. In comparison, the VN5’s 188.3 mpg and Co2 output of 34g/km would indicate that it’s the more economical of the 2.
In The Cab
The Outlander has a pretty decent level of equipment as standard, including dual-zone climate control, heated seats and even electric cab pre-heating, fabulous on those freezing winter days. You’ll also find an 8” touchscreen with a smartphone link (and reverse camera on Reflex Plus), DAB radio, cruise control and rain sensitive wipers. Safety is not forgotten about with Brake Assist and Tyre Pressure Monitoring systems amongst others and a Thatcham Category 1 alarm helps to keep things secure.
The 3 trim levels in the LEVC VN5 differ considerably from one another in the amount of equipment offered. They’ve not skimped on the entry-level Business model though which has a fully digital dash, including a 9” centre mounted touchscreen inherited from Volvo cars. Dual-zone climate control, cruise control, DAB radio, automatic wipers and lights and electric (and heated) mirrors are also standard on the basic van. All vans have an Autonomous Emergency Braking System, Forward Collision Warning and Tyre Pressure Monitoring System safety features.
Move up to the City and you’ll benefit from a heated windscreen and some additional cab storage. Front and rear parking sensors are fitted together with a safety pack which includes lane departure warning and road sign information systems plus curtain airbags.
The range-topping Ultima adds electrically heated and adjustable seats, satellite navigation, a rearview camera and a faster 22kw charging facility.
In The Back
There’s just the 1 body and weight offering for both the Mitsubishi and the LEVC so loadspace comparisons are nice and easy. The Outlander’s load bay is accessed by a rear tailgate and a half solid, half mesh bulkhead separates the driver and single passenger from the load area. The VN5 has the more conventional twin rear doors and a single side loading door making loading and unloading easier for the majority of van owners, and the full height steel bulkhead keeps the occupants safe from shifting loads.
It’s nice to see that the Taxi based van is fitted with LED loadspace lighting, something that, despite its low-cost many manufacturers do not include. They’ve obviously never had to work in those dark winter mornings or evenings...
When it comes to load capacity, the VN5 trounces the Outlander due to its nice, big, boxy body. If you really need the volume then, despite it looking sharper and snazzier the Outlander might not be the hybrid van for you.
The Outlander has a maximum payload of 500kgs and, crucial for many a decent towing capacity of 1500kgs. Whilst the VN5 has payloads of between 694 and 830kgs, as with some other electrically powered vans towing is not permitted which might be an issue for some.
So, which is for you? If you’ve decided to take the first steps into operating a low emission van, and you don’t need to carry large loads then the Outlander is (literally) a very attractive proposition. But, if you need a van to be a van, and don’t mind perhaps slightly quirky looks then the VN5 is worthy of serious consideration.
For more commercial vehicle insights, news and reviews, take a look at the Vanarama blog.