According to Mitsubishi, the new Outlander is the greenest seven-seater on the road and has a smaller "footprint" than many standard family cars.

With a full complement of passengers, the new Outlander claims to have lower per-passenger CO2 emissions than any other car on the road, bar Toyota's Prius, and the second-best fuel economy figures in the segment.

Innovations include rear seats that fold electrically to create a 1,691-litre load bay and, on some models, a clever third row of seats which arise from beneath the boot floor at the touch of a button, and a very powerful audio/sat-nav system, complete with 30gb hard drive.

It has an intelligent four-wheel-drive system with three-mode drive selection - front-wheel drive, 4WD Auto and 4WD lock.

The car is an enjoyable drive on the road and has good grip, even in two-wheel-drive mode, with the added confidence of knowing 4WD will assist when necessary.

Seats are comfortable and noise levels are very acceptable for the type of vehicle.

Performance from Volkswagen's ubiquitous 2-litre, 138bhp diesel is very good with a 0-62mph time of 10.8 seconds and top speed of 116mph, through a six-speed gearbox. The plentiful torque of 228lb/ft is ample for easy overtaking.

On-road dynamics were a priority during the new Outlander's development and it shows. Handling is sharp, more like a saloon than an SUV, and cornering at speed is level and composed. The ride is firmer than most vehicles in the sector and all the better for it.

Off-road, the Outlander is capable of far more than a run across the fields at the village fete. In 4WD mode with the differential locked, we put it to some quite serious work and it will certainly have no problems manoeuvring horse boxes or trailers around, off the beaten track.

The new Outlander is priced from £19,449 to £24,749, with a commercial version at £17,009.