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Mitsubishi Pajero 2020 review: GLS off road

Mitsubishi’s Pajero is a genuine seven-seater 4WD wagon with a lot of substance and little in the way of pretence.

It’s functional without being at all flashy and that suits plenty of people – real people – but the Pajero’s traditional styling and paucity of driver-assist tech, compared to some of its rivals, are factors enough when combined to keep its fanbase, only medium-sized but still very loyal.

Read on.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

The Exceed has gone and the GLS is now the top-tier buy of a two-variant range which includes the cheaper GLX.

The current drive-away offer for 2020 Mitsubishi Pajero GLS is $56,990. Beyond all of the standard GLS gear – including heated and powered front leather seats, leather-topped steering wheel, 7.0-inch colour touchscreen media unit (with Apple Car Play, Android Auto and Bluetooth), rear parking sensors, automatic wipers and headlights, 18-inch wheels, and cargo blind – the GLS gets a Rockford Acoustic Design premium sound system with 12 surround-sound speakers and an integrated 10-inch subwoofer. The system has HDMI, two USB inputs and AM/FM/DAB radio.

  • The GLS model scores 18-inch alloy wheels. The GLS model scores 18-inch alloy wheels.
  • The multimedia system comes with Apple Car Play and Android Auto. The multimedia system comes with Apple Car Play and Android Auto.
  • The GLS gets a Rockford Acoustic Design premium sound system with 12 surround-sound speakers and an integrated 10-inch subwoofer. The GLS gets a Rockford Acoustic Design premium sound system with 12 surround-sound speakers and an integrated 10-inch subwoofer.

Of course, in terms of off-road gear, you also get Mitsubishi's Super Select II 4WD system, as well as centre and rear diff-locks.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

It’s still a chunky-looking vehicle, with hard edges and a straight-up-and-down appearance, which is fine, I reckon. It manages to narrowly avoid a generic SUV-look.

With its hard edges and a straight-up-and-down appearance, the Pajero manages to avoid a generic SUV-look. With its hard edges and a straight-up-and-down appearance, the Pajero manages to avoid a generic SUV-look.

The interior is a family-friendly space with plenty of room, simple clean lines, and durable surfaces.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The Pajero has a 3.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine (141kW at 3800rpm and 441Nm at 2000rpm), teamed with a five-speed automatic transmission. The engine is gruff when pushed hard, but it’s very gutsy.

The 3.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel produces 141kW/ 441Nm. The 3.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel produces 141kW/ 441Nm.

The Super Select II 4WD system, of which I’m a fan, is retained.

How practical is the space inside?

The Pajero is easy to get in and out of. Even climbing into the third row, if you’ve been banished there, doesn’t require the dislocation of your own limbs, or the need to adopt a posture not unlike something a yoga master might do in a tight space in order to drink his or her mug of piping-hot dirty chai.

Front-row seats are generally supportive but are on the firm rather than plush side of things. Durable plastic surfaces abound and the seats are covered in “sports cloth with leather-look bolster” (fabric seat trim with synthetic leather bolster in real words), which is all nice-looking enough and able to cope with life’s messiness – yes, I’m talking about everyone’s kids.

The multimedia system is a workable unit with a clear 7.0-inch screen.

The dashboard and controls are still a bit old-school but it’s all easy enough to locate and operate.

The second row, a 60/40 split-fold arrangement, offers enough comfort and is easy to fold and push forward, or lock into place and slide forwards or backwards.

The seats in the second row offer enough comfort for passengers. The seats in the second row offer enough comfort for passengers.

The third row isn’t terrible but it is quite firm.

Second- and third-row passengers get air vents.

As for storage options, driver and front passenger get cupholders between their seats, second-row passengers have a drop-down arm-rest incorporating two cupholders and third-row passengers get a cupholder each.

In terms of cargo room in general there is: 170 litres (with all seats in use); 846-litres (with third-row seats folded away); 1429-litres (with second- and thirds-row seats folded away). There is a listed maximum capacity of 1789-litres (but that’s if the second- and third-row seats are folded away and you pack to the ceiling.)

  • With the second row of seats in place, boot space is rated at 846-litres. With the second row of seats in place, boot space is rated at 846-litres.
  • Cargo space grows to 1429 litres with the second- and thirds-row seats folded away. Cargo space grows to 1429 litres with the second- and thirds-row seats folded away.
  • The second row features a 60/40 split-fold arrangement. The second row features a 60/40 split-fold arrangement.

There are four tie-downs on the floor at each corner of the rear cargo area.

What's it like as a daily driver?

For a blocky seven-seater 4WD with a listed kerb weight of 2319kg, and at 4900mm long (with a 2780mm-long wheelbase), 1875mm wide and 1900mm high, the Pajero manages to get around rather nicely. It’s quick off the mark and agile and, with an 11.4m turning circle, the Pajero is easy enough to manoeuvre with precision on city streets. 

Because the cabin is straight up and down and its glass areas are so prevalent, all-round visibility for the driver is tremendous, making it easy to position – and that translates into a direct advantage for off-road efficacy as well, which we’ll get to in a bit.

As mentioned, the engine is gutsy, with plenty of low-down urge and, matched with the five-speed auto (really, who needs more than five?), and if driven energetically this Mitsu is a lively drive on bitumen for such a substantial 4WD. 

Speaking of 4WD, how’d it go off-road? I’m glad you asked – see below.

What's it like for touring?

Pretty bloody good.

The Pajero is similar to the Jimmy in that it is very easy to position on any track because you know exactly where each wheel is at any time – and that applies even moreso when you’re low-speed 4WDing than it does for high-speed driving on bitumen or gravel tracks.

Sure, it can seem a tad underpowered every now and then, but don’t be shy in ‘giving it the boot’ and you should be right most of the time.

The easy-to-operate Super Select II has four modes: 2H (two-wheel drive, rear), 4H (4WD high range but, in this, safe to use at high speed on bitumen), 4H LC (4WD/all-wheel drive with locked centre diff; suitable for off-road driving at 30km/h or so) and 4L LC (4WD with locked centre diff and low-range gearing engaged; suitable only for low-speed 4WDing (below 30km/h). Turns out 4H is a good state of play for general driving.

The Pajero’s off-road measures – 225mm ground clearance (minimum, unladen), 700mm wading depth, and approach (36.6 degrees), departure (25) and ramp-over (22.5) angles – are sound without being anywhere near class-leading. I never neared the 700mm fording depth, but I did put the Pajero in a few deep-dish mud-holes.

Armed with good low-range gearing, engine braking and diff locks, the Pajero can get through very rough terrain, especially with 4L LC engaged (centre and rear diffs locked).

It has coil springs all-round and rides on 18-inch Dunlop Grandtrek AT20 All-Terrain tyres (265/60R18), which don’t help its off-road cause, and it has a full size spare.

With regards to cargo carrying for trips away, the Pajero has a maximum payload of 711kg, a max roof load of 100kg, towing capacity of 3000kg (braked) and 750kg unbraked.

How much fuel does it consume?

Fuel consumption is listed as 9.1L/100km (combined). We recorded 10.35L/100km after 640km of general driving, including about 30km of 4WDing (in high range) and about 10km of low-range 4WDing thrown into the mix. The Pajero has an 88-litre fuel tank.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

The Pajero is covered by Mitsubishi’s five-year/100,000km warranty with five-year perforation corrosion cover.

Capped-price servicing is available for the vehicle's first three years (at $479 a pop, for a total cost of $1437). Service intervals are scheduled at 15,000km/12 months.

The Pajero is an old-style 4WD with plenty of heart but sorely lacking safety tech, including stuff like AEB, that’s offered in much cheaper vehicles. Its engine is a bit gruff, its ride is a bit firm and its price-tag seems steep for something so out of step with the current 4WD wagon market.

It is, however, a solid all-rounder: it’s a good daily driver, a decent off-road tourer and it makes a solid towing platform. The Pajero is not flashy or overly stylised – and that’s part of its simple charm. Plus there are heaps of accessories for it including alloy nudge bar, Thule luggage pod, roof-rack cross bars, Thule bike carrier and more.

If it was cheaper, and had more safety tech, it would be a more appealing buying proposition. 

$56,990

Based on new car retail price

Daily driver score

3.5/5

Adventure score

3.5/5

adventureguide rank

  • Light

    Dry weather gravel roads and formed trails with no obstacles, very shallow water crossings.

  • Medium

    Hard-packed sand, slight to medium hills with minor obstacles in all weather.

  • Heavy

    Larger obstacles, steeper climbs and deeper water crossings; plus tracks marked as '4WD only'