What’s Hot: Huge boot, diesel economy and wagon style
What’s Not: Styling is a bit nondescript, shallow floor won’t suit all sizes
X-Factor: Priced like a mid-sized wagon, the Challenger 2WD has the space and robustness of the fabled ‘Kingswood’.
Vehicle Style: Medium SUV 2WD wagon
Price: $39,990 with five-speed auto ($36,990 for the manual)
Fuel Economy (claimed): 9.6 l/100km (8.2 l/100km manual)
Fuel Economy (tested): not recorded
At a base price of $36,990 plus statutory and delivery charges, Mitsubishi’s tough new Challenger 2WD is a lot of wagon for not a lot of money.
Big strong family wagons you can put in the garage at a sub-$40k price are thin on the ground. And even fewer come with a frugal diesel, a ladder-frame chassis down below, and 4WD robustness ‘built in’, but with the weight advantage of 2WD.
But that’s Mitsubishi’s 2WD Challenger. Well finished, more refined (much more) than its bigger brother Pajero, the height advantage of an SUV plus a tradesman’s 3.0 tonne towing capacity, it sounds like the perfect family tow-vehicle.
For this review, we drove the slightly more expensive five-speed ‘Sports Mode’ automatic.
Quality: I like the Challenger’s two-tone interior: it’s nicely styled with a high quality feel to the dash, arm-rests and tactile surfaces. It is also tight as a drum with a snug, robust feel at the wheel.
Comfort: The seats are comfortable enough but set lower than, say, the Ford Territory. Longer-legged passengers will prefer a higher-set squab, but it makes sliding in and out easier. (It’s to do with the ladder-chassis the Challenger cabin sits on which naturally raises the floor.)
But there’s ample knee and legroom in the second row for Knackers, Bones and Gino (might need to pull their stomachs in but…) if you’re pressing it into use as a work wagon, and more than enough room for three teenage lumps.
Equipment: A reversing camera is available for the two-wheel drive diesel automatic Challenger through the Convenience Pack which retails for $3,640.
Externally, the Convenience Pack adds 17-inch alloy wheels, radiator grille, fog lamps, rain and light sensors and roof rails; it also includes side and curtain airbags.
Inside, the pack includes a leather steering wheel with audio controls, privacy glass, six-speaker sound system and climate control. There's a USB port on LS and XLS models.
Storage: The boot, wide and flat with the spare below, is huge. It’s 1017mm long, 1027mm in height, and 1375mm wide. That’s 1436 litres with the rear seats in place.
Towing capacity is a real surprise; at 3.0 tonne (with a braked trailer) it matches the towing strength of the Triton 4X4 and the Challenger 4WD.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The 2.5 litre common rail direct injection turbo-diesel engine puts out a willing 131kW and 350Nm (400Nm in the manual).
While understressed, it gives the 2WD Challenger a willing turn of speed when needed, revving to just short of the 4750rpm redline in the five-speed automatic on each upchange.
The auto comes with ‘tiptronic-style’ manual control; there’s also a five-speed manual which will likely be the choice for trade buyers (each has a three-tonne towing capacity).
Claimed consumption figures are 8.2 l/100km for the manual and 9.6 l/100km for the auto. That’s not half bad for a roomy high-stepping wagon.
Refinement: The Challenger is surprisingly quiet at the wheel; it’s more like a modern wagon than a commercial derivative. The 2.5 litre diesel goes about things with a nice diesel hum on the road.
It’s not as smooth as the new Ranger’s i5 diesel, but it’s one of the better ones for balance and unobtrusiveness.
From outside there’s a little clatter at idle, especially when warming up, but it’s a diesel – that’s what they do.
Road noise is also quite well isolated; it’s a heck of a lot better than the Pajero for instance, and wind noise is not apparent until well over the legal limit.
Suspension: The Challenger (both 2WD and 4WD) is a little ‘tippy-toey’ – it’s track is long but not especially wide, and there is a fair bit of ‘give’ in the suspension when cornering – especially on the ‘loaded up’ outside front wheel.
The result is some body roll, more than the Pajero for instance, and it’s a bit inclined to push wide if travelling quickly.
But the upside to the softer compliance (coil springs front and rear) is a more comfortable ride generally, and a particularly well-isolated ride over gravel and corrugations. It’s also got a tighter turning circle than its 4WD counterparts.
Braking: The pedal has a good feel; braking is perfectly car-like and light underfoot (despite the Challenger’s commercial origins). For towing, the big front and rear ventilated discs would seem to be well up to the task.
ANCAP rating: 4 star (ANCAP score based on Triton crash tests)
Safety features: Driver and front passenger airbags, anti-lock brakes, electronic brakeforce distribution, power brake booster, emergency brake assist, smart brake, active stability control, active traction control, side impact beams, three-point emergency locking retractor seatbelts, front seatbelt pretensioners, seatbelt warning alert.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: There’s a five year/130,000 km vehicle warranty, with a 10 year/160,000 km powertrain warranty and a five year/130,000 kilometre roadside assistance package.
Service costs: (TBC)
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Toyota Kluger KX-R 2WD ($39,990) - Next to the Challenger, the Kluger looks like Fat Albert in a tight T-shirt – all bulges and bumps.
It’s a nice drive the Kluger, despite a vague front end; but, no diesel nor manual option, more expensive and front-wheel-drive: thus less suitable as a tow-vehicle. (see Kluger reviews)
Ford Territory 2WD TX Wagon 2.7 DT ($43,240) – The Territory is the benchmark for this ‘segment within a segment’.
Terrific Duratorq 2.7 litre V6 diesel and a very good ride, it’s the better car in many ways, except price – the Challenger is considerably cheaper – and no manual gearbox (a debit for trade buyers). (see Territory reviews)
Hyundai Santa Fe R-Series SLX 2WD Wagon ($36,990) – Cheaper for the auto, a six-speeder, but no diesel option with 2WD. Good family buying, and certainly robust, but nowhere near the Challenger’s towing capacity nor is it cut out for the kind of work a tradesman would throw at it. (see Santa Fe reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
It’s a better buy than its sales figures would suggest, the Challenger. The 2WD, at a comfortable sub-$40k price, makes it even better buying.
It’s a good size (similar, I’d reckon, to the Toyota 4Runner of some years back), has more than reasonable on-road manners, and has the ride-height of a 4X4 but the weight advantage of a normal wagon.
And, with rear-wheel-drive and commercial towing capacity, it won’t shrink at the task if you need to tow something big – like a boat, caravan or bobcat.
If that ticks a few of the boxes on your list, give Mitsubishi’s 2WD Challenger the once-over.