In many ways, a seven-seater 4WD wagon can scrub up to be the perfect choice of family prime mover. These days, they're pretty safe and easy to drive, have their fair share of tech, and offer the allure of adventure on weekends and holidays beyond the constraints of bitumen.
A consistently high performer in this regard is Mitsubishi's Pajero Sport. And we've got the more pragmatic seven-seater option here: the GLS.
This specification, which includes the third row as standard, sits in the middle of the Pajero Sport range with a $52,490 asking price before on-road costs. It’s a sharply priced proposition, especially when you consider standard kit, and made sharper still with a current $53,990 drive-away offer, plus a further $1500 discount applied at point of purchase – so $52,490 then in reality.
This new-look 2020 Mitsubishi Pajero Sport benefits from a recent facelift, which gives a redesign to the front and rear ends. The front looks similar to the new Triton with a low vertical stack of fog lights. At the rear, those long and thoroughly polarising stoplights have been shrunk down, slightly.
Inside, there are also a couple of big and welcome changes. Firstly, a new 8.0-inch infotainment display has turned up complete with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. There’s also some new storage built into the sizesome centre console, making it a much more practical set-up than before.
There’s leather trimming in this specification, and the front seats get electric adjustment (but no heating). There’s also adaptive cruise control, auto headlights and wipers, power tailgate and privacy glass.
Compared to the Exceed, this GLS specification misses out on a 360-degree camera, TomTom navigation, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and parking sensors front and rear. Exceed also has something called an ‘Ultrasonic mis-acceleration mitigation system’, which uses those parking sensors and can apply the brakes if you’re likely to collide with a nearby object as you drive off – a safeguard if you've mixed up the pedals or selected the wrong direction of travel.
This spec doesn't get the new digital instrument display like the Exceed, but it’s far from the best of its kind, so I think you’re better off living without it and looking at the clear analogue instruments instead.
The 2.4-litre turbo diesel, of the few oilers with an aluminium alloy block, uses variable intake valve timing (MIVEC) and a single variable-geometry turbocharger to develop 133kW at 3500rpm and 430Nm at 2500rpm. For 2020, Mitsubishi added some extra boost into the equation, along with redesigned combustion chamber and injector spray pattern. From all of that, peak power and torque outputs remain unchanged.
Unlike the Triton, this engine is hooked up to an eight-speed automatic gearbox. The Pajero Sport uses Mitsubishi’s unique ‘Super Select II’, which gives the ability to run 2WD and 4WD on the road, while also locking the centre differential in high-range and low-range. In addition, the Pajero Sport also gets a rear differential lock and a HDMI port, which I can safely say I have never used before. In any car.
The interior of the Pajero Sport is plenty comfortable, with wide and soft front seats and good adjustment available. Extra storage takes the built-up centre console from silly to more sensible, giving you room to stow stuff like phones and wallets. Some of the chrome-looking materials and touchpoints are decidedly plasticky, however, and the interior on a whole still isn’t as practical and storage-laden as other options. The design of the centre console, in particular, leaves the first row feeling a little claustrophobic.
The second row is spacious enough, and benefits by the provision of two USB points, 220V power and air vents. Leg room is in decent supply, but the base does not slide. That’s important, because the third row is pretty tight. Not helped by that funny little triangle pane of glass, visibility and general space are on the scant side. Consider this more of a part-time seven seater.
The third row folds away in a unique manner, with the seat squabs flipping forward into the second-row seat back. And then, the seat base goes back into the floor. It’s mostly flat, but is tricky to deploy either way.
The top-tether solution is less than elegant in the Pajero Sport. There are three anchor points in the roof, but only the centre point was ready for use. To fit more or move a point, you need to raid the glovebox and break out the spanners. It does the job, but the long strap run does eat into third-row head room and storage space. Seat-back-mounted tether points are better.
For those less enamoured by the flexibility of seven seats, the Pajero Sport GLS is also available as a permanent five-seater, boosting cargo capability for $1500 less than the seven-seat model.
In terms of boot space, there's a fairly paltry 131 litres of storage available with all three rows employed, which is enough for a decent load of groceries. Fold down that third row, and the space is obviously much more expansive with 673 litres on offer. This is a little less than a five-seater Pajero Sport, because that third still takes up space when folded into the floor.
The 2.4-litre turbo diesel engine is refined, and a little more gutsy than the on-paper specifications might hint towards. While it doesn’t have a big surge of turbo-induced torque at any point in the rev range, it’s more linear and steady. There’s enough power there for most scenarios, and the eight-speed automatic transmission is mostly faultless. It makes good shift decisions on the go, but can also deliver the occasional thumping whack.
The Pajero Sport’s ride is mostly soft in its nature. While steering is responsive, there’s a bit of body roll and wallow to contend with. It’s comfortable in some situations, but bigger imperfections and undulations can induce unwanted oscillations as the 2105kg kerb weight shimmies around.
The 2800mm wheelbase yields a decent turning circle for a big rig (11.2m), but visibility ain’t so good. The rear window can feel like a porthole at times (with what has to be the smallest wiper-sweep area on a production car), and it’s hard to get a gauge on where your corners are. The Exceed’s 360-degree camera helps, but this GLS goes without.
If you're keen to tow, the Pajero Sport has a 3100kg towing capacity. Though we didn't tow this time, have a look at this review for more on towing performance.
In terms of fuel economy, the Pajero Sport seems to dwell closer to 10.0 litres per 100km instead of the claimed (combined) 8.0L/100km. After our driving, we registered 9.8L/100km.
The Pajero Sport has the unique ability to be run in 2WD and 4WD on the blacktop thanks to the Super Select II driveline. It’s a handy feature, leaving the Pajero Sport feeling much more sure-footed on damp or low-traction surfaces and through corners when all four wheels are driven. Steering does get a little heavier, but it’s a worthy compromise.
4HLc refers to a locked centre differential, which is equivalent to 4-High in most other part-time 4WDs. It should only be used away from the blacktop, where the Pajero Sport proves to be a solid companion. Ground clearance is a bit low, especially in between the front wheels and in comparison to the competition. Traction systems are pretty good, with some selectable off-road modes and a locking rear differential. They’re all nice to have, although they aren’t the best examples of their breed.
Capped-price servicing only runs for three years and 45,000km, or three visits to the dealership. Each one is slated to cost $299, which is quite reasonable. However, no capped price beyond that means those visits are likely to increase in cost.
While Mitsubishi’s standard warranty offering is five years, it’s still capped at 100,000km. Most of the competition offer a similar time span but more kilometres right now, though along with the drive-away price and discount offer, Mitsubishi is offering a seven-year/150,000km warranty on the Pajero Sport and Triton ranges.
If you don't need or want the off-road ability of the Pajero Sport, you're undoubtedly better off looking elsewhere. There is no shortage of options that have a better ride, cheaper running costs and more spacious interior.
Now with better tech and updated looks, the Pajero Sport remains as compelling as ever. It's good value and easy to live with, although there are some foibles in the interior and driving experience.
Don't forget, Mitsubishi is renowned for offering sharp deals on its stock, so shop around for a good price on the Pajero Sport. On top of the current advertised deals, there's no shortage of cheaper-still deals available that make for even sharper value.