Car reviews - Mitsubishi - Pajero Sport - seven-seater range
Cabin refinement, price, clever auto, versatile 4WD system, cargo space, off-road ability, safety features
Room for improvement
Throttle response, rear-end aesthetic and tow bar fitment, small fuel tank, narrow front footwell, third row storage and foot space, no powered tailgate, thick D-pillar
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27 Oct 2016
IT SEEMS any excuse to get off the beaten track is good enough and adding two extra seats to the Pajero Sport – which really should have been there from the get-go – is enough of a reason to get the off-roader dusty again.
Mitsubishi has seen fit to again demonstrate the considerable off-road prowess of the Pajero Sport, this time in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia’s mid-north. However, there’s only ‘roos and emus running around in the scenery and rarely a rugrat in sight with which to test the third row.
The third-row seat backs fold into the floor but the bases come up to rest against the middle row backrest as a result of the spare tyre storage design, but boot space still takes just over 500 litres of cargo.
The third row is not overdone for foot room and is a primary school student zone for anything other than a short trip. In fact, we suspect even a young child might find the seating space uncomfortable in the terrain we tested the Pajero Sport.
The drive program included open-road cruising on sealed roads that ranged from smooth to shattered, given recent rains, which was more than ample to test the ride and refinement of Mitsubishi’s SUV.
Cruising in 8th equates to just under 2000rpm for the state limit and that’s enough to keep the thirst in single digits – worthwhile given the small fuel tank – and generally the journey isn’t interrupted by road, wind or engine noise to any great extent.
The workhorse heritage is betrayed by the nose-heavy handling and body roll at unsociable speeds but for the most part it’s a competent open-road cruiser.
The ability to switch to an all-wheel-drive mode on sealed surfaces does give the Pajero Sport a little more poise maneuvering in bends, but the benefit of all-wheel drive is noticed more on fast dirt roads.
The improved traction and driver control derived from the ability to select 4WD high range with the centre diff open is a level of flexibility not offered by all of its key competitors.
However, the engine outputs are not the best, nor the worst, and most open-road work is completed without serious concern highway overtaking is an exercise in patience as there’s some lag once the throttle is floored.
Getting into slower and more rutted countryside is easily achieved, with the 4WD system locked in low, terrain mode matched to the track ahead and – if fitted – the rear diff lock employed, the Pajero Sport clambers over the hard, red rocky tracks of the Flinders Ranges with minimal scrabbling from the bitumen biased rubber.
Dust on the touchscreen conspired with direct sunlight to make some functions hard to see and the narrow front footwell remains an issue for leg space – although bracing knees against it has its advantages off-road.
Paddle-shifters fixed to the steering column aren’t ideal but can work in cars that don’t have 3.8 turns lock-to-lock, but when in low range and using the manual mode, the Pajero Sport’s good engine braking and clever transmission means it has little need for the electronic hill descent control system.
The four-wheel-drive system feels unfazed by loose rocky trails, but the driver will have to get used to a strobe light effect from some of the warning lights on the dash complaining about reduced traction.
The fuel economy quickly climbs in such conditions, at one stage showing high teens at low speeds which makes the 68-litre fuel tank look insufficient if the vehicle’s decent off-road prowess is to be exercised on a regular basis.
The addition of seven seats makes the Pajero Sport a more complete package as a family car – sports teams and school runs are well within the scope of its duties with the extra pews, as well as retaining genuine off-road ability at a sharp price.
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