WHEN MITSUBISHI REPLACED THE CHALLENGER WITH THE PAJERO SPORT IN 2015, IT APPEARED TO HAVE ALL THE BASES COVERED FOR A LARGE OFF-ROAD WAGON... TECHNOLOGY, COMFORT, REFINEMENT.
But in the eyes of many buyers one thing was missing - seven seat capacity.
One year later, that’s now been remedied with the introduction of seven-seat versions of both the mid-grade Pajero Sport GLS (tested here) and flagship Exceed. The GLX entry model remains a five-seat proposition only.
While the basics haven’t changed, the versatility certainly has - those extra seats add extra flexibility and appeal for families while retaining the Pajero Sport's 'get away from it all' capability.
Vehicle Style: Large SUV
Price: $48,500 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 133kW/430Nm 2.4 litre 4cyl turbo diesel | 8sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 8.0 l/100km | Tested: 9.7 l/100km
Australia’s ‘proper off-road’ SUV segment is going from strength-to-strength with more choice than we’ve ever seen.
And vehicles like the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport provide a surprisingly cost-effective option for families looking for something capable of more than just soft-roading. And it does it without the bank-breaking spend of a more expensive Prado or Discovery - let alone a LandCruiser or Patrol.
With the newly added seven-seat version of the Pajero Sport GLS tested here, Mitsubishi has opened the door to a larger family market, while maintaining a sub-$50,000 pricing point.
- Standard Equipment: Leather seat trim, power adjustable front seats, leather steering wheel and gear knob, cruise control with speed limiter, keyless entry with pushbutton start, automatic lights and wipers, multi-function trip meter, 18-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 7.0-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, satellite navigation, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, six-speaker audio
- Cargo Volume: 131 litres to top of third row seats, 502 litres to top of second row seats, 1488 litres from floor to roof behind first row seats
There’s no shortage of space inside the Pajero Sport, and the first two rows in particular are broad, airy, and capable of hauling a full complement of adult passengers without fraying tempers.
The Pajero Sport GLS features leather trimmed seats in a grade of leather that’s surprising supple. Though we’d stop short of calling it plush, it’s still rather nice compared to what we expect to find at this price.
There’s also power-adjustable front seats, dual-zone climate control and auto lights and wipers.
The third row (above) isn’t quite as adult-friendly, with a steeply sloped base and almost zero outward visibility owing to the dramatic sweep of the side windows, however the fold-forward stowage position maintains a flat and level floor when more boot-space is needed.
The Pajero Sport’s dash design doesn’t follow the burly off-road styling of its competitors, instead Mitsubishi has gone for a more passenger car-like design, with plenty of sweeping silver highlights to give it a contemporary feel.
The plastics may not have the feel of more road-biased seven-seaters like the Toyota Kluger, but the Pajero Sport finds the right balance between practical function and modern comfort.
Good news for travellers in all rows is the inclusion of air-vents throughout the cabin (now roof-mounted for rows two and three) as well as assist grips for all rows.
Thanks to the addition of the third row, the boot floor has been raised slightly leaving 131 litres of storage behind the third row of seats with 502 litres to the second row and a total of 1488 litres with the rear two rows folded.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 133kW/430Nm 2.4 litre four-cylinder turbo diesel
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, dual range 4x4
- Suspension: Double wishbone front, three link coil-spring rear
- Brakes: Four-wheel disc brakes, ventilated front rotors
- Steering: Power assisted rack and pinion, 11.2m turning circle
- Towing Capacity: 3100kg braked, 750kg unbraked
Under the bonnet of the Pajero Sport is the same 2.4 litre turbo diesel engine as the Triton ute, with the two vehicles sharing similar underpinnings. The Pajero Sport does differ from the more prosaic Triton however, thanks to its eight-speed automatic, in place of the Triton’s five-speeder.
Among 4x4 utes the Triton is one of the more refined and quieter on-road than some in its segment, and the same holds true for the Pajero Sport. It’s not completely devoid of diesel rattle and clatter, but it does a decent job of hiding it most of the time.
The eight-speed automatic transmission - a segment first - is smooth and well sorted, and does a decent job of choosing the right ratio for the driving situation.
In an urban setting the Pajero Sport doesn’t feel out of place either, nimble enough for trotting about town and not too bulky to squeeze in and out of tight spaces.
The engine’s power and torque outputs sit at the lower end of the 4x4 spectrum; with 133kW at 3500rpm and 430Nm at 2500rpm the Pajero Sport is out-muscled by the Holden Trailblazer and Ford Everest, but sits close to the Isuzu MU-X and Toyota Fortuner.
While it may not be a rocketship away from traffic lights, the Pajero Sport isn’t really off the boil ever, and there’s more than enough torque in reserve to tote a full compliment of passengers and gear without feeling overworked.
Those huge rear pillars are unavoidable from inside, and trying to get a clear over-the-shoulder view towards the rear corner of the car isn’t as straightforward as it could be.
However ride comfort is up there with the best. The suspension is fairly soft and with a 'long travel' feel, meaning the Pajero Sport can soak up most bumps thrown at it by lumpy tarmac or jagged fire trails alike. The downside is a little more body roll and movement than a firmer set-up might provide.
Getting off the beaten track is as easy as twisting the Super Select II knob in the centre console and selecting from two-wheel-drive, four-wheel-drive, four-wheel-drive with locked centre diff and four-wheel-drive low-range with locked centre diff.
While that may not be as easy as some of the more tailored off-road systems available, like that of the Ford Ranger which can be matched to the terrain type, the system is quick and easy to engage and while we didn’t head onto some of the most challenging trails, the Pajero Sport hardly ran out ability on the tracks we tested.
ANCAP Rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 36.22 out of 37 possible points when tested in 2015.
Safety Features: Seven airbags (dual front, dual side, curtain, driver’s knee), front seatbelt pretensioners with load limiters, ABS brakes with emergency brake assists and electronic brakeforce distribution, electronic stability and traction control with trailer stability assist, ISOfix child seat mounts, rear park sensors, rear view camera.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Five years/100,000km
Servicing: Mitsubishi offers capped price servicing at 12 month/15,000km intervals for four years or 48,000km (whichever occurs first). The first service is priced at $350 with the following three services priced at $580 each. Full terms, conditions, and exclusions are available from your Mitsubishi dealer.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Holden has overhauled its Colorado 7 offroader and renamed it the Trailblazer, with a revamped interior and series of engineering updates to make it better to drive, smoother, and quieter - but the entry level Trailblazer LT at $47,990 falls a little short on spec compared to the Pajero Sport GLS.
The Ford Ranger Everest is one of the 4x4 segment's more impressive offerings (and most powerful too) with plenty of technology packed in, but it comes at a price, and the Everest Ambiente 4x4, starting at $54,990, might be a leap to far for some families.
Toyota also throws its hat into the ring with the quietly capable Fortuner, while the Isuzu MU-X may not be as glamorous, but offers plenty of off-road ability in a very affordable package.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Mitsubishi Pajero Sport GLS strikes a decent balance between value, specification, and off-road ability. While it isn’t entirely at home as an urban truckster, it takes to off-road adventures or towing like a duck to water.
Mitsubishi’s decision to add seven seats also makes the Pajero Sport a more enticing option for growing families, with extra space to accommodate the grandparents, neighbours, or kindy carpooling.
And, despite its rough-and-tumble 4x4 ability, the Pajero Sport feels modern inside, offers a comfortable ride and throws in enough upmarket features to appeal to active Aussie families.
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