The Mitsubishi Pajero Sport is polarising in a style sense, but is the latest in a long line of serious-duty off-road SUVs. It also scores well on the value scale.
Take a look around the cabin of the middle-of-the-range 2016 Mitsubishi Pajero Sport GLS and you can be forgiven for thinking you’re seated in the range-topping Exceed model grade. While the Pajero Sport GLS spent a week in the CarAdvice garage, we fooled plenty of people. It’s hard to imagine you’re missing anything as you scan through the interior looking for omissions in its extensive standard feature list.
The new Pajero Sport is value-packed, regardless of model, and while there’s some clever tech in the Exceed, the GLS still presents a compelling value proposition. There might only be three model grades in the Pajero Sport range, but there’s a sensible spread of pricing and features across those three grades.
Pricing for the range starts from $45,000 plus on road costs for the GLX, runs through $48,500 plus on road costs for the GLS we are testing here, and rounds out at $52,750 plus on road costs for the top of the range Exceed.
As for optional extras, our test example has only premium paint added, knocking the price up by $550 to a total of $49,050 plus on road costs. While fifty grand is nothing to sneeze at, you’ll have to search far and wide to find someone who thinks this is an overpriced large 4WD.
The Pajero Sport Exceed does get some added quality safety tech like radar cruise control, forward crash mitigation, blind spot monitoring and a new system that prevents the driver from depressing the accelerator when there’s a stationary object in front of them. That extra kit does make the step up to just over 52 grand plus on road costs seem very reasonable.
For more on the new Pajero Sport range's features, see our pricing and specification article here.
Truck-based 4WDs are nothing new, so the fact that the Pajero Sport is underpinned by the Triton’s platform won’t surprise. Nor will you be surprised by the fact Pajero Sport replaces the now-defunct Challenger.
What might surprise, though, is just how packed this segment is all of a sudden. Pajero Sport is now joined by Ford Everest and the Toyota Fortuna along with the existing Holden Colorado 7 and Isuzu MU-X. It’s been a while between drinks, but it now seems like everyone is gate-crashing the properly capable off-road party.
Traditionally, the formula for this segment was always simple: part time 4WD, proper low range gearing, a ladder-frame chassis and plenty of storage space behind comfortable second-row seating. These vehicles need to be capable off-road, that’s not up for debate. Owners who would be reluctant to bush-bash a brand new Pajero, for example, are going to have the Pajero Sport right in their gunsights.
Under the bonnet, there’s a 2.4-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine that delivers 133kW and a stout 430Nm. Power is directed through an eight-speed automatic gearbox, which helps to keep the combined ADR fuel figure down to 8.0L/100km. On test, we used an indicated 9.2LL/100km, which is genuinely impressive for a full-sized off-roader.
The exterior styling is polarising to say the least. The front end won’t start arguments in the street, but the rear end probably will. We can’t find an angle that makes the rear look anything other than unattractive - and we’re trying to be kind when we say that. Not a single CarAdvice team member was brave enough to admit liking the rear-end styling.
The enormous tail-lights don’t help, but there’s just something about the sharp angles, swoopy design cues and overall drama that doesn’t pull together well. Luckily, most Pajero Sports should cop a nice thick layer of bulldust over the rear to cover it up then.
The Pajero Sport will benefit strongly from the aftermarket in terms of touring accessories, and Mitsubishi also has plenty to tempt buyers wanting to spend a bit more money. A bull bar, underbody protection and wheel arch flares are some of the more enticing options.
Inside the cabin, there’s a different story to be told. Where the exterior is a little jarring and harsh, the interior is comfortable, trimmed with quality materials and more luxurious than you might expect. The highlight of the interior improvements is the 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, which runs all the usual features as well as DAB+, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
At launch locally, there is no third-row seating option despite that being available overseas, and strangely no second-row air vents either. There is, however, more than enough room for two adults in the second row, even with taller adults up front. The seats in both the front and second rows are excellent, sorting out a long-running Mitsubishi bugbear. It follows that if you’re touring the countryside, you’re going to be spending plenty of time in the cabin and the Pajero Sport is comfortable thanks to well-designed seats.
The cargo area is huge - 673 litres with the seats in play, up to a whopping 1624 litres without. The second row splits 60:40 and there are two ISOFIX points as well as three tether points. Front row, second row or cargo area, the Pajero Sport really does present itself as the ideal long haul 4WD, especially if you like to carry an assortment of camping and cooking gear with you and want to be able to access it often and easily.
The first thing we noticed when we hit the road, aside from the low down punch of the diesel engine, was the smooth operation of the eight-speed gearbox. Manufacturers might not agree with us, but eight speeds is starting to creep into ‘too many’ territory. But, despite that, the Mitsubishi unit works perfectly. It’s never hunting between gears, doesn’t try to shift up into the higher gears too soon like so many do, and is never caught out when you want to kick down for a quick blast of acceleration. Matched to the four-cylinder oiler, it’s an impressive all-round package.
There are paddle shifters mounted to the steering column, and they work well enough, but we didn’t feel the need to use them aside from testing whether they worked. You might use them if you head off-road regularly, though.
Mitsubishi claims the 11.2-metre turning circle to be class-leading, and it certainly makes the Pajero Sport a lot easier to muscle around town than its exterior size might initially indicate. The steering is perfectly weighted across a broad range of road speeds, and the Pajero Sport is especially easy to manoeuvre at parking speeds. Visibility is expansive from the driver’s seat, too, aided by the large wing mirrors. You never completely forget how big the Pajero Sport is, but it definitely shrinks around you the more you drive it.
With drive going only to the rear wheels in normal mode, the Pajero Sport’s ride is cleverly tuned for the urban road network as well. Unlike Triton, which has leaf springs at the rear, Pajero Sport gets a three-link coil spring system. It soaks up bumps and potholes with ease and ploughs across raised speed platforms like they don’t exist. Sensible wheel and tyre sizing helps here too, but the Pajero Sport rides the way an SUV should - yet many don’t. It’s comfortable and insulated inside the cabin at any speed, too - there’s barely any wind or road noise right up to 110km/h.
The electronic trickery that switches between modes works reliably and quickly too. Via the centre console control dial, you can shift into 4WD High, 4WD High with the centre diff locked, and 4WD Low with the centre diff locked. The GLS model we’re testing also gets a rear diff lock, a crucial bonus off-road that for some buyers will be non-negotiable.
Pajero Sport is, as expected, mighty capable off-road even in standard trim. Add off-road tyres and the score sheet will only get more impressive. We negotiated some tough off-road terrain without ever needing the rear diff lock, and not really needing low range either. Traction and drive is confidence-inspiring over any surface.
The Pajero Sport is covered by Mitsubishi's five-year/100,000km warranty. It is covered by a capped-price servicing schedule that covers every 15,000km/12 months over the first four years of ownership. Those services cost $350, $580, $580 and $580 respectively.
Does the 2016 Mitsubishi Pajero Sport GLS fulfil the needs of the family SUV buyer looking for rugged capability and comfort? It certainly does. If you can look past the controversial rear-end styling, there’s a lot to like about the Pajero Sport in every scenario.
Indeed, all three model grades have their own value stories to tell. If you decide you don’t need the added safety tech offered by the Exceed model though, the GLS is a value for money champion.
Click on the Photos tab for more images by Christian Barbeitos.