Mitsubishi Pajero Sport SUV road test and review
WHAT a year it's been for the ute-based SUV.
So hot are SUVs in any form in Australia right now that it's little wonder manufacturers are rushing any variant, big or small, to our eager shores.
Latest is this, the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, based on the recently-revised Triton ute. Up until now, we'd called Triton-based SUVs the Mitsubishi Challenger, but the new badge reflects a global naming convention and suggests this Pajero Sport is a whole new animal.
It follows the recent arrival of Ford's Everest and Toyota's Fortuner (Ranger and HiLux ute-based SUVs respectively), and offers a truly compelling alternative.
The Pajero Sport looks good value at $45,000 ($5000 less than an auto Fortuner and $10,000 under an Everest), it leads the segment for economy at 8.0-litres/100km and tows a mighty 3100kg. It also boasts excellent off-road smarts, decent included kit and brings a dare-to-be-different tough style that will appeal to many.
But there's a but. While its rivals offer the all-desirable seven seats, the Pajero Sport - for now at least - comes with only five.
There are three models in the range: GLX, GLS and Exceed. The entry level model features cloth seats and trim which, while comfortable and pleasant to the touch, don't look as hard- wearing as the GLS's and Exceed's leather trim.
Across the range though the pews are wonderfully comfortable, and the rears recline an impressive amount for relaxing on long drives.
The cabin feels markedly un-ute like, with soft touch plastics in places, silver ornamentation and piano black finishes. The leather trim in the two top grades give a decent luxury ambience, and the Exceed brings heated power seats too.
On and off-road
Most Pajero Sport users will be using their SUVs on the bitumen mainly, and here it impressed despite its ute underpinnings.
The 2.4-litre diesel lacks any serious urge when pushed, but ask it to sit at 110kmh on the highway and it excels. The impressive eight-speed transmission climbs and drops through the cogs almost imperceptibly, and helped the Sport sit under 2000rpm at cruising speeds with barely a murmur to be heard from the engine.
It feels a very refined unit, and matched to a well insulated cabin, you'd be more than happy to tackle a full day's driving in the big Mitsi.
The ride is a bit floaty at times on the road, but sits quite nicely through the turns for a car in this segment with its coil-sprung rear suspension, and there's not as much body roll as some of its rivals.
For off-road testing, we asked the Pajero Sport to tackle NSW's Stockton Sand Dunes - a vast desert-like expanse with soft sand and some mighty inclines.
The SUV's Super Select II 4WD system is operated via a dial in the centre console, allowing you to switch between four drive modes (gravel, mud/snow, sand and rock). You can shift between 2H and 4H high range for sealed and unsealed roads, while 4HLc locks the centre diff for better traction, or 4LLc is your low range option.
We went low range for the sand dunes (and tyre pressures at 14psi) and the Pajero Sport proved its smarts, easing over the loose surface with assured competence.
A rocky forest route also tested the car's 218mm ground clearance - and its 30 degree approach and 24 degree departure angles - and once again the big SUV bounded along in an unruffled manner.
What do you get?
So you don't get seven seats, but you do score plenty. The base GLX gets the 8-speed auto, 18-inch alloys, LED headlamps, hill descent control, electric park brake, keyless entry, push button start, rear view camera, reversing sensors and superb Smartphone Link Display Audio so you can use Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
For an extra $3500 the GLS brings leather trim, diff lock, electrochromatic mirror and dual zone air-conditioning. This one looks the best value proposition, and worth stretching that bit more to get out of the GLX.
For $52,750 the range-topping Exceed also gets a suite of safety features (multi around monitor, blind spot warning, forward collision mitigation and ultrasonic misacceleration mitigation system) plus power heated seats, eight-speaker audio and a roof-mounted DVD player.
The boot is cavernous with 673-litres on offer, or 1624-litres with the rear seats folded, helped of course by it being a five-seater rather than seven.
Our test returned close to the quoted 8.0-litres/100km during on-road use - an excellent, accurate figure by Mitsubishi - so despite not the biggest fuel tank (68-litres), long distances between fills is possible.
Plenty on offer here, and all with seven seats. The Toyota Fortuner ($47,990) is the most obvious rival, but also look at Ford's Everest ($54,990), Isuzu MU-X AWD ($45,600) and Holden Colorado 7 ($47,990).
The rear of the Pajero Sport, with its unique vertical design LED combination lamps, take some getting used to, but actually look wonderfully different once you get used to them. They look better in the metal than in the pictures.
The car looks big, attractively angular and go-anywhere tough to appeal to city slickers and trail bashers alike. Credit to Mitsubishi for the bold exterior effort.
This suddenly busy ute-based SUV segment is now full of tempting, brand new offerings blending off-road talent with plush cabins.
Mitsubishi has nailed the formula with its Pajero Sport, and thrown in very good value and sharp styling as extra bonuses. Unruffled off-road, refined and relaxed on-road and with fuel economy that won't break the family bank, it looks the goods. Shoppers should aim for the mid-range GLS with its diff lock and leather cabin: it's a nice blend of extra off-road hardware plus a plusher cabin to keep the family happy.
And if you have a thing for active safety features, the flagship Exceed is heavy with them and still at a price point that looks good value.
However, the lack of seven seats will cost the Pajero Sport sales. But if you don't need a third row and want the extra cargo space that affords, go fill your boots. The big Mitsi is a good 'un.
What matters most
What we liked: Dare-to-be-different styling, accomplished off-road performance and comfy on-road, decent spec for this price.
What we'd liked to see: Seven-seat option, rear air vents, a bit more urge from the engine, no paddle shifters needed.
Warranty and servicing: Comes with a five-year/100,000km warranty with capped price servicing, with service intervals every 15,000km or 12 months.
Model: Mitsubishi Pajero Sport GLX, GLS and Exceed.
Details: Four-door all-wheel-drive five-seat large SUV.
Engine: 2.4-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder generating maximum power of 133kW @ 3500rpm and peak torque of 430Nm @ 2500rpm.
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic.
Consumption: 8.0-litres/100km (combined).
Towing capacity: 3100kg (braked).
Bottom line: $45,000 (GLX), $48,500 (GLS), $52,750 (Exceed).