Sci-fi fans will spot the changes to the 2020 Mitsubishi Pajero Sport straight away, with its revised front end paying a gentle homage to Battlestar Galactica’s original Cylon robots. Okay, that’s probably unintentional, but while the previous Pajero Sport’s Dynamic Shield styling was already in your face, the new model dials things up further.
As an update of an existing car, the changes aren’t sweeping, but new metal forward of the front doors has allowed slimmer upper lights and a new lower lighting pod resulting in a wider, bluffer stance from head-on. At the rear, the controversial long-drop rear lights have been trimmed slightly, but maintain a mostly similar look.
Even in the entry-level GLX version seen here, there’s chrome galore on the mirrors, door handles, window surrounds and through the front bumper. In fact, were it not for a different alloy wheel finish and a lack of privacy tint, there’s little to set the GLX apart from the range-topping Exceed, visually.
As a base model, the Pajero Sport is a five-seater only, starting from a list price of $46,990 before on-road costs (having launched at $45,990 + ORCs earlier this year) or currently on offer with a $45,990 drive-way price plus seven-year warranty and $1500 factory bonus.
While the face may be fresher, mechanically the Pajero Sport is mostly unchanged from before, meaning the 2.4-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder engine (more details further down) and eight-speed automatic are carried over.
Mitsubishi’s Super Select II four-wheel-drive system is also standard, with a driver-selectable choice of two-wheel drive, and traditional off-road 4x4 high- and low-range, but also an on-road 4x4 setting that leaves the centre differential ‘unlocked’ for use on gravel, wet roads or when towing for added traction. In addition, off-road modes for gravel, rock or sand and mud tweak the throttle, transmission and traction control to assist progress depending on the surface type.
The Pajero Sport’s efforts to straddle the line between its Triton-based commercial-vehicle origins and something more family friendly are commendable. The interior design looks and feels like something you’d find in a passenger car, not a ute, with a step up in design and materials.
There’s plenty of room up front, a comfy and natural-feeling driving position, and quite clear outward visibility, although over-shoulder vision suffers thanks to the chunky rear pillars.
In standard form, the Pajero Sport sits high on the road, yet getting in and out is easy enough with the added assistance of standard side steps to help shorter occupants make the step up. The driver’s seat can feel lofty for some. It doesn’t offer a huge range of adjustment, and seems rather close to the ceiling if you fall into the six-foot-and-above class.
The rear seats are mostly comfortable, there’s width best suited to two across or three for short runs, and the ability to recline the backrest. That's handy for rear passengers to stretch out for a nap on the go, but also useful if you need to secure the fitment of a child seat. Like the front seats, the rear seats are positioned high, limiting head room for adult passengers.
The seat trim is a water-repellent fabric, front seats are manually adjusted, the second row has 60:40 split and fold capabilities, and 12V barrel and USB power are available to the rear seats.
Even with only two rows of seats, the overhead air vents cover the second-row seating and beyond into the boot area – a legacy fitment from seven-seat models. It’s a decent idea, too. If your four-legged friends ride in the rear with you often, they’re able to reap the benefits of additional heated and cooled air as required.
The boot is, to put it bluntly, huge. Without intrusion from extra seats, the Pajero Sport can play up its big, square space and boasts 673L of cargo volume to the second row (against 502L in seven-seat models) or maximums of 1235mm cargo length, 1370mm of width and 1000mm between the rear wheel arches.
Take to the road and the Pajero Sport maintains the feeling of resting somewhere between urban and outback. The engine is hardly the most alert of the body-on-frame diesel SUV class feeling a little lethargic at times, though fully laden it doesn’t seem to get much worse, which is something of a positive.
Mitsubishi has rolled out minor detail revisions to the injectors and combustion chambers, and tweaked the variable-geometry turbo to provide more boost in certain conditions. The claim is more responsive acceleration at high speeds – in all honesty, without a back-to-back test against the old one, it’s not easy to pick any significant changes.
Mitsubishi has done a solid job when it comes to refinement. It can’t always hide the diesel up front, but noise and vibration are quite well isolated, and the eight-speed auto is smooth on the go, making the best of the torque available without rocking passengers about, or indecisively shuffling up and down through the gears.
The Pajero Sport wears an official 8.0 litres per 100km fuel consumption rating, and a week of rolling around between the open road with a few light-traffic trips about town returned a promising 8.8L/100km.
The suspension is set incredibly soft, but still has a bit of a load-bearing feel to it. It’ll articulate easily over rough terrain, but at higher speeds it tends to jiggle, betraying its ute origins. In town, this means plenty of dive under brakes and lean through corners for a slightly nautical feel.
On the other hand, the steering is rather alert, which is handy in built-up areas and makes parking a snap. However, in concert with the soft ride, it can be easy to unsettle the front end. There’s a slightly nervous and flighty feel on the highway.
Looking up and down the spec sheet, the mostly manual nature of the Pajero Sport may appease traditionalists, but won’t thrill tech-hungry buyers.
Autonomous emergency braking comes standard, but blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert don’t. Cruise control and speed limiter are included, as well as a reverse camera, rear park sensors, keyless entry and start, single-zone climate control, tilt- and reach-adjustable steering, auto up/down power windows, and full LED headlights, DRLs and fog lights.
Auto lights and wipers aren't to be found, nor is a digital speed display – all of which are handy and often found in much cheaper vehicles. Features like a powered tailgate, leather trim, power-adjustable front seats, auto lights and wipers, and a more comprehensive complement of safety features, are available higher up the range.
Crucially for off-road enthusiasts, getting a factory rear diff lock also means moving up the range to the mid-spec GLS, a step of around $6500 – depending on current offers.
Infotainment is up to scratch with a new 8.0-inch display that can mirror your Apple or Android smartphone and features Bluetooth, AM, FM and DAB+ radio (where available), but doesn’t include inbuilt navigation and is pushed through four fairly ho-hum speakers.
Mitsubishi caps service pricing at $299 per visit for the first three services, at 12-month or 15,000km intervals, whichever comes first. After that it may pay to shop around, as individual dealer quotes could vary for the same service. Mitsubishi’s standard warranty term is five years or 100,000km with 12 months of roadside assist, renewed with each service for an additional 12 months up to four years. As part of the current promotional offer, the warranty has been extended to seven years/150,000km.
Mitsubishi has done a clever thing with the Pajero Sport. It has endowed it with the kind of cabin comfort more often seen in soft-roading SUVs, given it more rugged and capable underpinnings for rough terrain or towing (up to 3100kg), but has kept the price well within reach of Aussie families.
The Pajero Sport GLX may not be fully equipped with high-tech features, bringing a degree of simplicity and serviceability, but nor is it lacking in the basics. It has positioned itself as a high-value and versatile adventure-ready 4x4 in the competitive and quite varied large-SUV market.