ELECTRIC, hybrid, petrol... what to do?

Anything but dirty diesel it seems, but it is certainly kicking off in the car business and we are all over the shop when it comes to the type of car we should buy.

I know people who have switched from diesel to petrol for no other reason than they think they should.

Car companies brought back the scrapage deal, encouraging people to swap an old car for a new one.

Customer gets a discount of thousands and the old car is taken away and crushed to help rid the country of cars pumping out dirty exhaust gasses.

Funny it should coincide with the 67 plate and news that UK car sales are down.... again. I shouldn’t be such an old cynic; it is in a good cause, after all.

A good time then to be driving the country’s top-selling electric car, but would you believe it is a 40-odd grand SUV?

The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV took that spot soon after its launch in 2014 and has been there ever since, staying ahead of the all-electric Nissan Leaf, which is half the price.

What makes the Outlander’s achievement even more worthy is that as well as the established Leaf, lots more electric and hybrid cars are on its case.

When it comes to alternative power I am not totally sold on hybrids - why not go the whole hog and buy electric?

But I do get plug-in hybrids – well sort of. And that is what the Outlander PHEV is: plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.

To be fair, it is one sophisticated piece of kit with a two-litre petrol engine backed up by two electric motors – one for the front and another for the rear wheels because this is also four-wheel drive.

It doesn’t stop there. The car can be charged from the mains to give it an electric range of 33 miles.

That’s the theory. The most I got from a full charge was 25 miles but let’s not dwell on that.

You can use it or press a button and save it for a rainy day. Hills sap the energy more quickly than driving on more even roads so it is all about learning how to get the most out of the batteries.

Then you have regenerative braking that works through the automatic CVT gearbox. I have never been keen on CVT transmissions but this one is very smooth.

Basically it is the same as engine braking but once off the accelerator, kinetic energy is used to recharge the battery, the intensity of braking increased through five levels, using steering mounted paddles.

I really got into this using the paddles to brake, rather than the brake pedal. My fingers were moving faster than a concert pianist. What does it all mean? With a full charge, I set out on a 40-odd mile rural drive and at the half-way stage had covered the journey using 98 per cent electric power.

By the time I got home, I recorded 78.2mpg because the majority of the power came from the petrol engine.

The conclusion is obvious: PHEV is best for shorter trips because had the trip been more than 100 miles, fuel consumption would be in the low to mid-30s, so a diesel Outlander makes more sense for people making longer journeys.

A full battery charge using a home three-pin plug connection takes around four hours and costs about £1.60. Using a wall-mounted charge box would probably cut that time in half.

PHEV’s sales are still strong, despite losing its free road tax status and the Government halving the grant to £2,500, but Mitsubishi will make up the difference if you buy on finance, which keeps the price below £40,000, so road tax stays at the standard £140.

PHEV is no longer such a great private buy, but a stellar company car because of the big tax benefits.

Will you like it? It is extremely well equipped – not quite as good to drive as newer rivals (Skoda Kodiaq, Discovery Sport) but extremely tempting if you need a big car and worthy of its number one electric spot.