Mitsubishi has updated its 2018 Pajero Sport with more kit, so we're out in the base GLX version to see if the off-road-savvy SUV's buck-banging pitch suits the urban jungle.
We’ve reviewed the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport numerous times since the range arrived in Oz in late 2015, initially as a five-seater, before expanding with seven-seat practicality the end of the following year. On balance, the Triton-based, off-road-ready wagon range has imparted itself well in review, a perennial 7.5- to eight-from-10 prospect favoured by value-savvy buyers keen on its flexible, workhorse-like capability wrapped in more than a modicum of urban runabout manners.
But until now, we’ve never reviewed the penny-pinching GLX entry point. And given 2018 sees a tickle in equipment across the wider range and some extra goodies at ground level, it’s about time the cheapest way into Mitsubishi’s rugged SUV nameplate stepped up to the review spotlight.
At $45,500 list, a nominal $500 price hike seems a fair trade for additions such as 18-inch wheels, forward collision mitigation, adaptive cruise control, added soft touchpoints in-cabin, and a smattering of extra ports and outlets to keep the family’s appetite for electric device charging satisfied.
In the ute-based, diesel-powered, auto-equipped, off-roadable wagon stakes, the GLX undercuts similarly capable competitors in the Everest, Colorado 7 and MU-X, and only really undercut in list price by Toyota’s Fortuner GX ($42,590 list). That said, at the time of writing, the base Pajero Sport can be had for a smoking hot $44,990 drive-away offer.
That’s quite enticing given that the GLX gets the same 133kW/430Nm 2.4-litre turbo-diesel four, eight-speed automatic transmission and switchable high-to-low-range all-wheel drive – complete with centre diff-locking function – as all other pricier Pajero Sport variants, though it does lack a rear differential lock and only comes exclusively as a five-seater.
Now that 18s are standard, the GLX’s jacked high, robot-inspired appearance is now almost visually indistinguishable from versions perched further up the fiscal ladder. If there’s anyone on a single-handed mission to make exterior chrome brightwork cool again, it’s the designers responsible for the Pajero Sport.
But you do miss out on some detail goodies. There are no auto wipers or headlights, there’s no tailgate power or self-dimming rear-view mirror, though the wing mirrors do power-fold. It does fit the same reversing camera, parking sensors, keyless entry and pushbutton start found elsewhere in Pajero Sport Land, but trim is cloth and the front seats are completely mechanical in adjustment. And while the touchscreen infotainment gets DAB+ audio and CarPlay mirroring, there’s no proprietary sat-nav.
Impression-wise, the Pajero Sport departs from its Triton roots successfully in some areas, such as the multi-function wheel design, centre stack and console design, but less convincingly in parts that include instrumentation and switches. You do sit quite high in the driver’s seat, which only offers pitch adjustment for the seat base, and that makes the roof seem low – a pleasing position perhaps for shorter front occupants, but less than ideal for taller ones.
There’s nothing high in class or too low in rent with the look and feel inside. It’s a pleasant place to spent time, if one with scope for improvement. The finely detailed red-lit buttons are nearly illegible for those without excellent vision, there are too many blank panels filling holes for deleted functions, and the power window switches are tucked awkwardly behind the door handles. The column-mounted paddle-shifters, too, should be filed away in a box labelled ‘Why?’, and there’s no digital speedo that, these days, is an essential ally in the war against government revenue-raising.
The modest 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system is merely make-do: a clunky interface, poor audio quality, audio setting adjustment needlessly hidden in distracting submenus. The digital radio and Apple smartphone mirroring may find favour with urbanites, less so with regional owners – and regular off-roaders – prone to patchy mobile coverage given sat-nav is now device-reliant. Good luck finding food, water or fuel out in the sticks using the standard-fit GPS positioning readout. The reversing camera is pretty decent, though it’d be nice if the camera lined up with the (optionally fitted) tow ball to better aid hitching up a trailer or caravan.
For a large SUV, its relatively narrow body makes for more mid-sized second-row accommodation, with decent leg room but a little snug by all other measures and all compounded by very high seat bases. As for ambient space, it’s about on par with a Volkswagen Polo compact hatchback we had handy with which to compare: ideal for kids and perfectly serviceable for two adults. Handy are the grab handles mounted not only in the first-row A-pillars, but also in the B-pillars in row two so that rear occupants can brace themselves during off-road adventures.
There are roof air vents – in row three, as well, to cool the groceries perhaps – but none in the back of the centre console, though you won’t run short on power supply: there are four USB outlets, a 12V outlet and a 150W/220V three-pin plug outlet – plus an HDMI input – in and around the console housing. The 60:40 split-fold rear seating assembly can tumble forward, expanding the already cavernous load space further (to 1624 litres) to allow for a seriously bulky payload. Tie-down points, grocery bag hooks and another 12V outlet – plus some seven-seat hangover cupholders – round out the Pajero Sport’s innards.
The 2.4-litre diesel is a little noisy at lower RPM in a 1000–2500rpm band where it tends to comfortably spend most of its time, such is the assertive tractive effort on tap and the manner of the eight-speed auto calibration. Once on the move, it’s quite a smooth powertrain combination, though it can thump a little when shifting from drive to reverse or into park and back.
Mitsubishi claims a combined consumption figure of 8.0L/100km, though even with a light throttle around town and the little econo-meter sitting happily in the ‘green for good’, coaxing its thirst to below double figures takes some effort.
We’ve put the Super Select II all-wheel drive and its computer-controlled Off-Road Terrain Control System’s various capabilities through their paces numerous times to date – from Stockton sand dunes to the rigorous gorges of the Melbourne 4x4 off-road facility in Werribee – and it has always proven its beaten-track mettle. It’s also got suitably go-anywhere (218mm) clearance, fording depth (700mm), and approach (30 degrees), departure (24 degrees) and break-over (23 degrees) angles.
The three-link coil-sprung suspension errs on the firmer side to help control two tonnes of SUV on the rough stuff without crashing through. Yet, there’s also a decent amount of inherent ride compliance apparent during this mostly on-road, urban road test assessment.
Of course, the suspension isn’t without compromise. Understandably, it’s not as pliant and cosseting as a soft-roading SUV. The primary ride can get a little fidgety around the ’burbs, and while it absorbs large bumps well, sharp-edged imperfections do transition up through the chassis conspicuously. It’s good, and much nicer than the leaf-sprung Triton, but it’s no silky carpet ride, and is susceptible to some ungainly ‘body wobble’ whenever the suspension articulates over speed humps or driveway entrances.
As a plus, there's almost nothing in the urban jungle that can't be simply driven over. As a minus, that jacked-to-the-heavens ride height and slightly vague sense of the vehicle's outer extremities from behind the wheel makes the driver conscious when tackling multi-storey shopping centre carparks or the seemingly shrinking urban car spaces.
On the move and in the clear, though, the Pajero Sport is nicely planted and pleasant, the steering is a little vague if reasonably faithful, and it’s quite easy to park thanks in part to the visibility from the high seating and the body’s narrow-width nature. It's actually quite a nice machine to point towards the sticks and set sail for road trips or any kind of extended driving.
If there’s an annoyance that creeps into the daily driving experience, it’s that the automatic braking warning and intervention system is conservatively calibrated and prone to unnecessarily triggering. Interestingly, a constant throttle seems to negate the (early onset) autonomous braking function so that, by design or not and for better or worse, you can actually drive through the forward collision-warning process.
Ownership-wise, the Pajero Sport GLX is covered by a five-year/100,000km warranty, with a minimum of 12 months of free roadside assist (and up to four years conditionally). Mitsubishi offers three years of capped-price servicing at a total cost of $1425 on a 12-month/15,000km schedule.
When launched, the Pajero Sport was a huge leap forward over the Challenger it replaced. But in just a few years since, the core vehicle has started to feel old-hat in places. The recent sprinkling of equipment fairy dust goes some way to maintaining some shine to its appeal, if wrapped more in a context of price-led value than anywhere else, especially here at the range's entry point.
Is the Pajero Sport GLX a beaut choice as an affordable family-hauler with proper off-roadability? Absolutely. Is it the shrewdest buck-banging SUV option if you’re urban-dwelling and rarely likely to hit the rough stuff (even if you’re seduced by the jacked-up mud-flinging aesthetic)? No it’s not. For similar coin, there’s more spacious comfort to be found in soft-roading land with nameplates such as Santa Fe, Sorento, CX-9 et cetera.
Nor is the GLX the sweetest spot in the range: a few grand more for the GLS’s leather, rear LSD, auto wipers and headlights, and other niceties, is money well spent, lifting the Pajero Sport's game in key areas where the most basic version is left a little too conspicuously wanting.
If you do ignore some key shortcomings (no proprietary navigation), as perhaps a more regional-focused do-all runabout for the fiscally flush, the GLX really starts to make more sense than on test here thrust into the thick of the big smoke. Despite its rudimentary nature, there's still a helluva lot of all-terrain metal, glass and rubber for its $45,500 list price, let alone as a $44,990 drive-away bargain (if you get in quickly).