It’s funny how your priorities change as life throws new commitments your way. Ten years ago I’d probably have been enthusing about the Outlander PHEV’s electrically-boosted 223hp and Lancer Evolution X platform sharing. These days, with a need to transport three kids aged five or less, I’m enjoying some very different qualities.

When even leaving the house turns into a half-hour process of locating shoes, last-minute nappy changes and hurriedly packing supplies, ease of use becomes so important elsewhere. All Outlander PHEVs include keyless entry – handy when you’ve got arms full – and only the base-spec Juro misses out on the electric tailgate. A hands-free tailgate would be desirable but, given that they’re a little hit and miss, I can make do without.

There’s plenty of space on board, too. The Outlander makes no pretence of being ‘coupe-inspired’ and it’s all the better for it, with a buggy-friendly boot and loads of headroom in both rows. Petrol and diesel versions get seven seats, which the PHEV doesn’t have due to drivetrain packaging, but those additional two seats aren’t much use for the kids once there’s a buggy in the back.

The downside is all five of us can’t fit in the car at once. The same is true for almost all cars in this class, but with a pair of child seats on the rear bench there’s no room in the middle for another. Or for an adult. I’ve taken to using the front seat ISOFIX point when I’m on daddy day care duty, with the upshot that it’s popular with whoever gets to ride shotgun. For two-child families that’s enough flexibility for visiting friends – again, important when car seats are mandatory until 12 years/135cm.

Of course, you could bypass any flexibility compromises with an MPV – and that’s what this car shares a driveway with – but the Outlander PHEV has a significant advantage over our own family-mover. In a period of unseasonal downpours, I’ve been able to take my eldest to school without having to do the return trip with an engine on its least efficient, most polluting warm-up cycle. Judging by the air quality around the school gates each day, I’m really looking forward to more cars being able to do the same.

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