The revised Pajero Sport carries more safety and comfort features.
Story Bruce McMahon
Mitsubishi’s Pajero Sport has quite distinctive style and substance. While the wagon’s offbeat looks – a hulking front end and long, drooling tail lights – can polarise opinion, there is little argument about the Sport’s family friendliness and off-road ability. This is a well-credentialled sports utility with 4WD, two-speed transmission and reasonable road manners.
The Pajero Sport is one of a quartet of ute-based wagons in Australian showrooms. The Mitsubishi is based on the Triton, Ford’s Everest on the Ranger ute, the Toyota Fortuna on the HiLux and Isuzu’s MU-X on the D-Max ute. All are capable machines for bush or beach tracks.
While some models and makes struggled through a sluggish market in 2019, solid sales for the Pajero Sport and its SUV stablemates helped Mitsubishi hold fourth spot on the overall leadership board, behind Toyota, Mazda and Hyundai.
The Pajero Sport first arrived here in 2015 as a complete re-work of the old Mitsubishi Challenger. For 2020, the Sport has been upgraded with fresh styling touches, and another round of technology for safety and convenience. New gear this season includes a powered tailgate, trailer sway control, redesigned centre console and a digital instrument panel – very one-dimensional yet quite legible. Styling tweaks give the front of the wagon a broader, more civilised outlook.
Underpinnings remain much the same and that is a good thing. As with the Triton, this wagon runs a full chassis with coil springs on all corners, disc brakes all round and a 2.4L, turbocharged diesel engine with power delivered through an eight-speed automatic transmission and transfer case for two or 4WD.
This is, in some aspects, an old-school set-up in these days of monocoque chassis, electronic controls for all-wheel-drive and hybrid engines. Yet this tried and true combination can mean more confidence when tracks turn tough, although it may not be as ‘sporting’ as some SUVs down the highway. The Pajero Sport is more of a gentle and polite family machine. Steering is light and easy – better able to absorb steering bumps on gravel roads or to swing into the shopping centre carpark – and the 133kW diesel motor needs a decent prod before hitting any speed limit. It operates with a minimum of fuss through a smooth eight-speed automatic transmission and paddle shifters in sports mode. These shifters allow gear changes without hands leaving the steering wheel and are most appreciated when off-roading, whether down a beach track, barrelling over a paddock or crawling over rocks. The Sport uses Mitsubishi’s clever Super Select II 4WD system, which means the wagon can be driven in two or high range 4WD under most conditions. Then there is the ability to lock the centre differential in high or switch to low and again, if need be, lock the centre differential to supply equal drive to all four wheels.
This is almost a foolproof system, aided by switchable modes for various track conditions, which regulates – through engine and transmission responses – how much drive is delivered to wheels for best traction results.
So the Pajero Sport is a decent off-road machine – a better proposition in the muck than most SUVs. It is also a comfortable on-road machine, though the ride could be a touch firm for some tastes. This is a high-riding machine (with 218mm of ground clearance) so cannot be turned as hard into corners as a modern family sedan, otherwise there will be a touch of body wallow.
Mistubishi offers the Pajero Sport in three versions – GLX, GLS and Exceed. All share the same mechanicals and bodies but the GLX is a five-seater only, the GLS can have five or seven seats, while the Exceed is a seven-seater with a full suite of driver aids such as blind spot warning, lane-change assist and integrated satellite navigation.
While the third row in a seven-seater Sports is best left to younger passengers, these cabins are generally accommodating and welcoming. All variants are well appointed and comfortable, with a range of convenience features from smart phone connectivity to push-button start.
The Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, backed by a seven-year warranty, is a good value wagon for those who need a traditional, go-anywhere 4WD for outback travels or town folk looking to get up the beach for the weekend.
This story excerpt is from Issue #130
Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2020