Mitsubishi's latest Outlander is a high-riding seven-seater with a friendly price tag
Practical ride: Mitsubishi's latest Outlander The Mitsubishi Outlander is reasonably responsive when driven leisurely, but requires its continuously variable transmission to pile on engine speed relentlessly at the slightest hint of exertion. ST PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG

The Mitsubishi Outlander could well be the automotive version of the cake you can have and eat.

It has the rugged good looks of a crossover, the versatility of a seven-seater, the efficiency of a front-wheel-drive, the dependable reputation of a Japanese make and the price tag of an Asian brand.

It is also impressively equipped. Cruise control, paddle shift, electronic parking brake with auto hold, 18-inch wheels and motorised tailgate are part of the package.

But before you pick up the phone and place an order, you should also know the Outlander - despite its amenities and jack-of-all-trades positioning - is unpretentiously basic.

The latest version remains fundamentally unchanged from the current model, which was launched in 2012. It is powered by a modest 2-litre non-turbo engine, which makes only 190Nm from a fairly high 4,200rpm.

On the road, this translates to strainingly high revs which are frequently necessary. It is reasonably responsive when driven leisurely, but requires its continuously variable transmission (CVT) to pile on engine speed relentlessly at the slightest hint of exertion.

Unlike the 2.4-litre tested three years ago, the CVT here is unmitigatedly whiny.

At the helm, the Outlander is driveable, if thoroughly unremarkable. It lacks sparkle in steering and chassis responses, with ride and handling no one will write home about. There is nothing glaringly wrong with the car, yet nothing outstandingly right either.

But for folks who are not particular about driving pleasure and are looking for a car with high functionality, there are not many alternatives that can match this Mitsubishi.

The revised edition has separate air-conditioning vents for the second row, upgraded seats for better comfort on long haul journeys, powered adjustments for both front seats, and powered windows all round.

A multi-compartment centre console gives the car extra utility, while a 7-inch infotainment touchscreen (much bigger than previously) offers more functions - including Apple CarPlay.

Outside, the latest car sports new bumpers, a honeycomb grille and headlights with LED high beam.

The test-car had some niggles pertaining to the cruise control's Resume function, and the auto wiper's responsiveness (or lack of).

As a multi-seater, the Outlander is like most compact multipurpose vehicles (MPVs) - its third row is best reserved for small children.

There is no other seven-seat crossover in its price range, which explains why the Outlander is the best-selling model in its class.

But it is, like most crossovers today, only a crossover in form. The car will not venture off the tarmac. In fact, you get wheelspin if you throttle up when the steering is not completely straight.

In that light, the Toyota Prius+ - a petrol-electric hybrid MPV - is a close contender.

If you fork out a bit more, you can get a Peugeot 5008, a seven-seater that packs more driveability, refinement and equipment.

If, however, you are determined not to spend more than necessary, deciding on the Outlander should be a piece of cake.