A Mitsubishi tilt at the family-friendly SUV market, the Challenger, is now dead. Long live the 2016 Mitsubishi Pajero Sport.

Based on the Triton, the five-seater Pajero Sport now faces off against ute-based seven-seater rivals, such as Toyota Fortuner, Isuzu MU-X, Holden Colorado 7 and Ford Everest, in a bustling, highly competitive and very popular segment.

And it might just give them all a run for their money because, through all of its three models (GLS, GLX and Exceed), the Pajero Sport is an attractive value-for-money option.

Pricing kicks off from $45,000 (GLX), lifts to $48,500 (GLS) through to $52,750 (plus on-roads) for Exceed. Pretty good dosh for large SUVs.

All models have the Triton's 2.4-litre, four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine that knocks out 133kW at 3500 rpm and 430Nm at 2500rpm.

Standard features include 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and daytime running lights, keyless entry and push-button start/stop, smartphone connectivity, and digital radio. The GLS (our test vehicle) also has leather trim and dual-zone aircon, Exceed adds eight-speaker audio, power-adjustable and heated front seats, and rear-seat DVD entertainment system and eight-speaker audio system.

Expect a seven-seater Pajero Sport in the not-too-distant future.

Design

The Pajero Sport, for better or worse, has Mitsubishi's dramatic new Dynamic Shield design at the front. Some are sure to like the eye-catching look; others may loathe it. Check out the photos, see what you think.

The strong, sweeping design continues through to the back end, with its huge tail-lights. The rear is, to be polite, a like-it-or-lump-it style.

However, the interior is very impressive. The GLS has a real quality feel to it; stylish, comfortable and cosy. Leather trim all-round, shiny accents abound and a clear, high-console dash with a 7.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system tops the look of luxury in this mid-grade offering.

The steering wheel has reach and height adjustment. It also has paddle shifters.

The wide, comfy seats (power driver and front passenger) are very supportive, ideal for long-range touring, and there is stacks of room for five people. Second row is a 60:40 spilt with two ISOFIX points and three tether points.

There's no third row of seats, so the cargo area is big; 673 litres (seats down); about 1624 litres when seats are folded away. And having that sort of space available is tops for camping enthusiasts.

About town

The turbodiesel engine is a punchy unit but, mated with the eight speed, a first for Mitsubishi, it's a bit slow off the mark when a lot is demanded of it – say, for quick moves through city traffic.

Visibility is great (open glass everywhere as well as huge wing mirrors); steering is nicely balanced – perfect for cruising on open roads as well as slow-going on city streets – and the claimed turning circle (11.2m) makes this big SUV a cinch to whip around when you make a wrong turn.

Another first is the electronic parking brake.

The Pajero Sport has a five-star ANCAP rating; there are seven airbags, including a driver's knee bag. Other safety gear, standard across the range, includes ABS brakes with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution, rear-view camera, rear parking sensors, hill descent control, hill start assist, trailer-stability assist and emergency stop signal. GLS also gets a diff lock; dusk-sensing headlights; and rain-sensing wipers.

Exceed adds to that with multi-around monitor system (cameras show a bird's eye view of the Sport), blind-spot warning, forward-collision mitigation, and ultrasonic misacceleration mitigation system, a new safety feature designed to detect vehicle obstructions, while stationary or at speeds of up to 10km/h, and regulate engine power if the accelerator is mistakenly stomped instead of the brake.

On the road

The Sport is a cool driving SUV. Ride is comfortable, seemingly tuned to our bitumen, and it mostly holds firm in corners – although there is a touch of extra body roll and pitch when energetically thrown into corners.

It's based on Triton but instead of Triton's rear leaf springs, Sport has a three-link coil spring set-up, managing to cop the worst from lumps and bumps without any stress.

The eight-speed auto feels more at home on the open road, coping well with overtaking moves, where punchy acceleration is needed.

NVH is generally okay but, at highway speeds and with the radio off, wind-rush around those big wing mirrors becomes substantial.

Claimed fuel consumption is 8.0L/100km. With considered driving we reckon you could nudge a consistent 9.5L/100km or less.

The Pajero Sport can tow 3100kg.

And off

In the grand Pajero tradition, the Sport is very handy off-road. It has Mitsubishi's tried-and-tested Super Select II 4WD system: two-wheel drive (2H) and four-wheel drive (4H), as well as 4HLc (locks centre diff) and 4LLc (locks centre diff and maximises low-range gearing). The driver can switch between 2H and 4H at speeds up to 100 km/h; the vehicle must be stationary and in neutral for all other changes.

GLS and Exceed have rear and centre diff locks. Diffs are locked via a console dial.

The Sport also has a few ‘firsts' to bolster its expected off-road nous, namely hill descent control and a new off-road mode terrain control system with Gravel, Mud, Snow, Sand and Rock settings.

A bonus for those planning touring in the Sport, there is a raft of accessories available, including bull bar, underbody protection and wheel arch flares. A minus for tourers is the 68-litre fuel tank.