Changes made to the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV have been firmly focused on retaining its title as the UK’s best-selling plug-in vehicle.

When it was launched in the UK back in 2014, the plug-in hybrid market was in its infancy and electric cars were pretty much for city use only.

The Outlander PHEV appeared as an attractive stepping stone for drivers wanting to make the transition from petrol and diesel to electric power. Its twin-motor, four-wheel-drive system and decent range on pure electric power made it an instant success as a practical, spacious sports utility vehicle with serious cruising capability.

With the launch of would-be competitors being held up as they await certification under tougher new real-world emission regulations, Mitsubishi has not only met the new criteria but upgraded the Outlander PHEV inside and out to keep it ahead of the game.

There are plenty of noticeable changes, with updated styling inside and out including new more supportive front seats, new switchgear and instrument cluster to new alloy wheels and LED headlights.

Add everything from automatic headlamps, rain-sensing wipers and reversing camera, to an electronic handbrake and twin-setting heated seats and this is clearly a luxuriously equipped SUV.

But nice as the enhanced levels of equipment are, the really significant changes for 2019 are hidden beneath the revised bodywork.

The petrol engine increases in capacity from 2.0 to 2.4 litres and it can now run in different modes for efficiency or performance.

The larger petrol engine now produces 133 horsepower compared with the predecessor’s 119 and there is also more torque. The battery capacity has risen by 15 per cent and the rear electric motor now produces 94 horsepower.

All this means the new Outlander PHEV is quicker to accelerate and more importantly perhaps it can now travel up to 28 miles on pure electric power – plenty for many people’s daily commute.

The steering has also been altered making it light and easy to manage around town yet nicely settled when travelling on motorways. Changes have also been made to increase rigidity in the Outlander’s chassis, while revised shock absorbers are designed to improve ride quality.

The Outlander PHEV simply excels as a long-distance cruiser, so it is little surprise that it delivers its most refined experience when driven sensibly.

After all it is a heavyweight, five-seater SUV with a big boot and the ability to tow up to 1,500kg, so hustling it along country roads is not the way to get the best out of it.

The new model is fitted with a sport mode, which adjusts the power steering configuration, throttle response and the four-wheel drive system at the touch of a button, but using it doesn’t feel entirely in keeping with the car’s calmer, more laid-back character.

Despite a growing number of competitors, the Outlander PHEV remained Europe’s best selling plug-in hybrid vehicle three years in a row from 2015 to 2017 and it also remains the best-selling plug-in vehicle – hybrid or electric – in the UK.

With 8,701 Outlander PHEVs registered in the UK last year – an increase of 16 per cent over 2017 – it also played its part in lifting sales for Mitsubishi Motors in the UK, with sales up 31.5 per cent last year compared to 2017.

Its pricing, low running costs and competitive company car bills look set to maintain its place as one of the greenest best-sellers on the road.

Auto facts

Model: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV 4h 2.4 Auto

Price: £39,500

Insurance group: 25 (1-50)

Fuel consumption (combined): 139mpg

Top speed: 106mph

Length: 469.5cm/184.4in

Width: 180cm/70.7in

Luggage capacity: 16.3 cu ft

Fuel tank capacity: 9.9 gallons/45 litres

CO2 emissions: 46g/km

Warranty: Five years/ 62,500 miles