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Car reviews - Mitsubishi - Pajero Sport - Exceed

Our Opinion

We like
Superb value, standard active safety technology, attractive and roomy interior, efficient diesel, slick automatic, comfortable suspension
Room for improvement
Questionable rear-end styling, average on-road dynamics, slow steering, diesel should be quieter, boot lacks practicality

The Mitsubishi Pajero Sport makes for the finest all-rounder in its class

Mitsubishi logo19 Dec 2018

Overview

IT TAKES a canny and cunning product planning department to take a model that was already deemed the best value in its segment, and then stage a model-year revision that gaps the opposition by an even greater margin. But that is absolutely the case with the new Mitsubishi Pajero Sport.

From second quarter 2018 production, every version of the three-year-old Pajero Sport comes with adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking (AEB) as standard, all from a $46K entry-level pricetag only $1000 higher than the launch price.

Indeed, not only does this Mitsubishi remain cheaper than its entry-level Holden Trailblazer and Isuzu MU-X equivalents, and it remains better equipped than the slightly cheaper Toyota Fortuner, but none of those rivals get adaptive cruise or AEB in any model grade, including their flagships.

Meanwhile this as-tested Pajero Sport Exceed lobs in with more kit once again, while still being cheaper than two of the three flagships from the competition. Talk about being canny and cunning.

Price and equipment

The GLX 5-seat now costs $46,000 plus on-road costs, $1000 higher than before but still with an auto and four-wheel drive standard. As well as 18-inch alloy wheels, keyless auto-entry, climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, adaptive cruise and AEB – all lacking in the $44,590 Fortuner GX 4x4 auto – all models gain soft-touch console trim, rear USB ports and a powerpoint.

A new $49,000 GLS 5-seat enters for the first time, below the existing $50,000 GLS 7-seat, the latter of which costs $100 less than the entry-level MU-X LS-M 4x4 auto. Yet here the Mitsubishi is at middle-tier specification with foglights, automatic on/off headlights and wipers, auto-dimming rearview mirror, and leather trim with electrically adjustable front seats all missing from that rival.

Finally, to the seven-seat-only $54,200 Pajero Sport Exceed tested here, which is $2790 more affordable than a Fortuner Crusade plus $2000 cheaper than an MU-X LS-T. It is $1710 pricier than a Trailblazer LTZ, though all rivals lack a surround-view camera and an electrically adjustable passenger seat.

The only missing items here include the electric tailgate of the Crusade only, the lane-departure warning found in LTZ only, and integrated satellite navigation found in all rivals, with owners having to rely on Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring and data-taxing maps.

Interior

The Exceed makes up for its extensive use of hard dashboard and door plastics in several ways. The graining, for a start, is dimpled and rubbery rather than feeling flat and hollow like some varieties in this segment do. Fit and finish is superb, right down to the solid-feeling vertical door grabs, while an interplay of gloss-black trim and woodgrain, with silver and chrome highlights, is fairly tasteful.

The leather trim quality is average, but the front seats are comfortable yet supportive and the tilt functionality of the electric adjustment is plentiful. A trend emerges, because both the middle bench and those duo of third-row seats are all tilted upwards too, helping to provide under-thigh support.

Newly added twin-rear USB ports now complement roof-mounted air vents for both back rows, along with separate fan control for the centre riders as well. That centre bench tumble-folds forward in an easy fashion for rearmost riders to enter the cabin, however the 60:40-split bench is clearly designed for left-hand drive markets as the smaller portion is on the driver’s side for our market, which would have kids most easily flipping the seat from the traffic side in our country.

Beyond that issue, there is a slight lack of shoulder space in the middle row, owing to the Pajero Sport being narrower than most rivals. However, legroom and headroom is excellent there, and average for sixth and seventh passengers. Mitsubishi does not quote boot space, but with all seats up there is little left for luggage. Fold the third-row down, and it requires the base to flip up against the centre row first – which is also an inelegant solution that hampers load-through versatility.

Engine and transmission

Every Pajero Sport gets the same 2.4-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder as in every Triton ute, with the same 133kW of power and 430Nm of torque. Only here it gets an eight-speed (versus five-speed, although the updated Triton gets a six-speed unit) automatic transmission that proves to be a handy improvement, delivering both a short first gear for decent off-the-line response and a relaxed top ratio that spins the engine at 1750rpm at 110km/h.

Indeed, this Mitsubishi is more cruiser than bruiser. With a kerb weight of 2105kg, it never feels at all brisk. Yet beyond the initial stage of acceleration, where there is too much clatter, the engine smooths out and the auto shuffles briskly through its ratio set to aid refinement and economy (a decent 10.2 litres per 100 kilometres on test, up from an 8.0L/100km combined-cycle claim).

Most importantly, the Exceed rarely feels like an uncouth or unrefined ute-turned-wagon. Having the option of rear-wheel drive, four-wheel drive with an unlocked centre differential (which is rare for the class and assists with manoeuvrability around town), four-wheel drive with a locked diff and high- or low-range, plus a separate button for a locked rear diff, all makes for benchmark flexibility.

It is all quickly accessed via a twist-and-turn dial on the fly, too, which is handy. So while this medium-sized off-road wagon cannot match the Trailblazer’s trailblazing 500Nm and the Fortuner’s 450Nm, and it merely matches the MU-X’s 430Nm, it is the broad talent and (mostly) smooth execution of this drivetrain that impresses more than outright performance.

Ride and handling

With the exception of unwieldy, too-slow steering that seems to be a common, perplexing Mitsubishi trait, the Pajero Sport’s suspension otherwise continues the trend set by its drivetrain – that is, it fails to hit overwhelming highs, but never comes close to dipping to disappointing lows.

In fact, the word ‘balanced’ comes to mind. This is a vehicle with 3.1-tonne towing and impressive off-road credentials, including angles of entry (30 degrees), ramp-over (23.1deg) and departure (24.2deg) that combined tally 77.3deg. We make this for comparison’s sake, because a Toyota Prado totals 75.4deg. With decent (218mm) ground clearance 1mm behind that pricier, popular model, it is no surprise that this fellow Japanese unit crawled over every bit of steep and sharp terrain with ease.

Yet, unlike a Prado, there is little on-road wallow from this suspension, and unlike the Fortuner, there is little harshness either. The Exceed simply delivers exceedingly comfortable yet controlled progress whether on the road or off it, so much so that it may well be its maker’s best current effort.

Of course there is never the sense that this is a dynamic chassis, but also of course, that should not be the priority for this sort of vehicle. Instead, a level of compliancy and composure should be at the forefront of development, and here this model reaches up towards the pricier Ford Everest breed.

Safety and servicing

Seven airbags (including dual front, front-side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee protection), ABS, electronic stability control (ESC), blind-spot monitor, forward collision alert with autonomous emergency braking (AEB), front and rear parking sensors and surround-view camera are all standard.

ANCAP has tested the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport in 2015, and it achieved 36.22 out of 37 points for a five-star rating.

Annual or 15,000km service intervals are standard these days, and Mitsubishi’s capped-price program asks a reasonable $400 for the first check-up, $475 for the second and $550 for the third.

Verdict

The updated Pajero Sport answers questions before rivals have a chance to raise them. Not only does it remain one of the most affordable contenders in the large off-road wagon segment, but it delivers the highest level of active safety technology and among the most standard equipment.

Mitsubishi does not need to brag about having the most torque or the widest cabin, because rather than focusing on bold headlines, this model consistently and pragmatically moves from one criteria to another, while a tester dishes out a number of ticks along the way.

Make the engine a bit quieter on light throttle, sharpen the steering a fraction, improve some cabin plastics and add an electric tailgate or ventilated seats to this top model grade, and there would be little to complain about (beyond questionable rear-end styling that is).

Speaking of the flagship, given how well-equipped that GLX 7-seat is, it would be the value pick within this value-oriented model. Only we say ‘would be’ because this Exceed only asks $4200 more for lots of extra kit. You could call it a canny and cunning way to step buyers up in the range.

Rivals

Holden Trailblazer LTZ from $53,490 plus on-road costs
Talks the torque, and great value, but interior and fit-and-finish not to Pajero Sport standards.

Toyota Fortuner Crusade from $56,990 plus on-road costs
Expensive, fully equipped, but lacks the active safety tech and ride comfort of the Mitsubishi.


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