The fringe player deserves to be mainstream.
If you were thinking of a large, three-row, off-road capable SUV, we’d forgive you if you hadn’t previously thought of the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport. This tough, accomplished SUV had long played third fiddle to the Toyota Fortuner and Ford Everest, though it’s hard to say whether it deserves that placement or not.
The Pajero Sport presents itself as a stylish, dependable, large SUV, and in its latest iteration, adds to that combination a degree of comfort and refinement that this segment usually lacks. It’s a properly accomplished family wagon this, and with its only glaring mistake the lack of room in the third row, we can’t help but wonder why we don’t see even more of these on the road.
With an eight-speed automatic gearbox, all-wheel drive, and a torquey turbodiesel all as standard, could the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport be the SUV you’ve been missing out on all this while?
“While none of the current set of 4WD wagons can be labelled as classic beauties, the Pajero Sport really ramps up the 'unusual' angle.” — CarsGuide
While some carmakers play it safe with their designs as not to offend their customer base, Mitsubishi made the bold call to give the Pajero Sport everything they had. To that end, the Pajero Sport, uh, sports the corporate ‘Dynamic Shield Face’ that all Mitsubishis have now, with lashings of chrome through the grille and down to almost the very bottom of the fascia.
Move towards the sides and you’re struck by the complex surfacing on the flanks of the Pajero Sport. The upturned window line is kinda cool too, and we quite like eh use of chrome to accentuate that curve.
But the rear is by far the most divisive part of the Pajero Sport. The taillights frame the tailgate and fall almost two-thirds of the way down, creating a truly unique light signature, particularly at night. While many critics have decided to leave the Pajero Sport’s looks to mass opinion, we think it’s a smart looking thing overall, with acres of presence, and that back end looks good, including the taillights. If buyers can be adventurous with the shark-nosed Fortuner, then why not the tail of the Pajero Sport?
Engine & Drivetrain
“A four-cylinder turbodiesel is the only mill in a Pajero Sport.” — WhichCar
Those looking for variety as far as drivetrains are concerned need not consider the Pajero Sport, because Mitsubishi has offered it on our shores with just one setup. That setup calls on a 2.4-litre variable-turbo diesel mill, which puts out 133kW and 430Nm. Weirdly, the torque is only accessible at 2500rpm, a good deal higher than its competition with turbos that come on song below 2000rpm.
Thankfully, there’s an eight-speed automatic gearbox that does a wonderful job of keeping the Pajero Sport ticking along nicely. There’s also a multi-mode drive system that allows the driver to select 2WD for on-road use, 4WD for tricker on-road use, and high- or low-range 4WD for off-road progress. There’s even a terrain response system like a Land Rover, with gravel, sand, mud, and rock modes.
Fuel consumption is rated at a frugal 8.0L/100km, though in the real world, expect a figure below 10L/100km..
“Inside, Mitsubishi’s designers have been successful in delivering a coherent, attractive appearance.” — Cars South Africa
Where Mitsubishi cabins tend to disappoint a tad, the Pajero Sport sets a new tone for the company’s interior design and choice of aesthetics. The cabin architecture speaks of the more upmarket ambitions that Mitsubishi have for the Pajero Sport, as it utilises far more plush and forgiving materials than the Triton ute on which its based. The use of piano black, accented by silver trim pieces lend the Pajero Sport a posh ambience too, in coherence with the exterior design.
In all but the base model, the Pajero Sport is available as a seven seater in a 2-3-2 arrangement, with the third row capable of being folded into the boot floor. The Pajero Sport actually measures up smaller than the Ford Everest and Toyota Fortuner, and that’s evident with the third row seats up. It’s pretty small back there, more so than its rivals, while the seats themselves are only really made for small children or equally-small adults.
At least the second and third row seats fold flat, leaving you with enough space to haul quite a bit, should you need to. The second row seats have plenty of legroom and headroom (two things the third row lacks), though it doesn’t slide forwards. It does lean, though.
Behind The Wheel
“Ride quality borders on remarkable for what is basically a primitive, live-rear-axle off-roader.” — Motoring
For ladder-frame SUVs, they usually have a fairly agricultural ride quality, and that’s something that has to be kept in mind when approaching these cars from the get go. However, the Pajero Sport’s party trick is its sublime ride quality, which sets itself up as a comfortable, able long-distance cruiser. Sure, that’s resulted in a less-than-lively driving experience, but we’re doubtful that anyone gets behind the wheel of barges like these expecting them to drive like hot-hatchbacks anyway.
That same forgiving suspension works well off-road too, allowing for progress on uneven surfaces without getting rocked back and forth like a boat in choppy waters. To that end, there’s also hill-descent that helps maintain a slow, decent crawl when going down hills (like the name didn’t give it away), that helps to keep the big Pajero Sport under control in tricky conditions.
Motorway driving reveals that the Pajero Sport progresses at cruising speeds with very little noise, be it from the motor, the wheels, or the wind. Really, the Pajero Sport is capable of duking it with some premium cars in the refinement department, though we’re not sure how they’ve managed to achieve this (our bet is a mix of liberal use of sound deadening, and the 8-speed automatic keeping the engine muted).
Drivers will also appreciate how frugal the Pajero Sport is. As we mentioned earlier, the Pajero Sport is officially rated to consume 8.0L/100km on the combined cycle, a number achievable with a very, very careful right foot. But if you’re not quite so gentle with your inputs, expect to see a figure a little higher than that, but still less than 10L/100km generally.
Safety & Technology
“The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) has awarded the Pajero Sport five stars, its maximum score.” — WhichCar
The Pajero Sport is surprisingly well equipped despite its sharp pricing. All cars get seven airbags, a reversing camera, and electronic stability control. The curtain airbags stretch all the way to the third row of seats too, ensuring that all occupants are protected in event of a side impact.
If you’ve plonked the cash for a top-flight Exceed model, you’ll be rewarded with AEB, blind-spot monitoring, and a pedal misoperation mitigator, which will stop you from accidentally powering into a wall or something similar should your foot slip on the pedal in forward or reverse gears (and before you snigger, this apparently happens a lot to elderly drivers, particularly in Japan).
Convenience tech is well catered for, too. There’s keyless entry and go as standard, along with a 7-inch touchscreen that offers smartphone mirroring from the get-go. Cruise control and Bluetooth connectivity also get tacked on, along with climate control, trailer-sway control, and LED headlights and taillights.
Some quarters claim that the Pajero Sport is too bold for its own good. Generous applications of chrome, a sharp nose, and controversial taillights, they say, make the big Mitsubishi divisive, and harder to love.
With SUVs getting more and more popular, and their designs falling slowly into place, the world needs boldly-designed cars with interesting aesthetic features here and there to keep the view interesting. And while plenty of cars get on by with all style and little else, the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport manages to pack a pretty able, comfortable, and practical package within that distinctive design. It might not be quite an outright, all-conquering winner the way the Fortuner is, but the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport is certainly an option on this end of the market that doesn’t deserve to be overlooked.
The Pajero Sport’s manners both on- and off-road were nothing short of impressive, and when paired to generous levels of space in the second row, the ability to run on all-wheel drive on the motorway means that this is a properly competitive contender, and that’s even before considering its pricing and compelling five-year warranty. As for variants, we recommend the top-spec Exceed model for its glowing safety features, though really, all Pajero Sports are generously equipped, and have more than enough in them to be great companions in the long run.
Motoring — 74/100 — “As a capacious, tough, and fully-equipped SUV that won’t drain your bank balance to buy or to run, the Pajero Sport is about as close to the top of the segment as it’s possible to be without being the actual top gun.”
CarsGuide — 4.5/5.0 — “The Pajero Sport certainly looks unusual, but there’s no doubt about its comfortable, practical, and quiet performance on- and off-road. If you’re looking for a rugged, easy-to-drive wagon with all-wheel drive and towing capability, the Pajero Sport is one of the most refined of the current crop.”
WhichCar — 4.0/5.0 — “The Mitsubishi Pajero Sport is a rugged wagon that is very good off road but comfortable – and easy to drive – on the road. There are five-seat and seven-seat versions, both offering excellent fuel economy from a modern diesel engine and an eight-speed automatic gearbox. All integrate smartphones well.”
Cars, South Africa — 4.0/5.0 — “So, is the new Mitsubishi Pajero Sport good enough to justify consideration in this segment? Absolutely... It offers excellent value for money, courtesy of its lower pricing and standard features mix. It arguably represents the best balance of on-road comfort and refinement and off-road ability, and its engine is both sufficiently powerful and more economical than its competitors.”