Kia Sportage VS Mitsubishi Pajero Sport
- Great ride
- Good standard safety
- Great standard features
- Rivals offer AWD cheaper
- Full safety suite on GT-Line only
- Petrol engine thirsty
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport
- Comfortable on-road
- Capable off-road
- Good value
- Those tail lights
- Ground clearance could be better
If you take a snapshot of the Australian mid-size SUV market, it becomes apparent that the Kia Sportage is an oft-overlooked option in a sea of storied Japanese nameplates.
Perhaps it’s because the Sportage is a bit more controversially styled than its Tucson cousin, or perhaps it’s a victim of its own success, having been an attractive option for populating car-share fleets like GoGet.
But I’d argue that the Sportage is special in more ways than it gets credit for, and shouldn’t be overlooked by Australians on the hunt for a new mid-sizer, even this far into its lifecycle.
Read on to find out why, and which variant in the Sportage’s just updated 2020 lineup is our pick of the bunch.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport
The zombie apocalypse has arrived and you get to pick one car to help you survive. What would it be?
Why? Because I want to remain alive, that’s why. And these well-equipped, tough, off-road capable but on-road comfortable ute-based seven-seat SUVs might just offer the best chance of keeping my family mobile and breathing.
Still, surviving an apocalypse is kind of a niche market. So while it's nice to know it could if it had to, the more pertinent question is what’s the Pajero Sport like to live with, day to zombie-free day?
What changes did the update in April 2018 bring? How many variants are there in the range? Is it a Pajero but just a bit sportier? And what’s the difference between it and a regular seven-seat SUV, like the Toyota Kluger or Kia Sorento?
It’s best to find out now, before the zombies come. And they will. Trust me.
|Engine Type||2.4L turbo|
The Sportage continues to age gracefully, now offering an increasingly finely tuned range of variants to suit most price brackets.
While its engine and transmission choices leave a little to be desired, it continues to offer impressive ride, handing, and technology when compared to many (but not all) Japanese segment rivals.
Our pick of the range is the SX in either engine, as it offers the lion’s share of Sportage spec items at the right price.
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport7.4/10
The Pajero Sport is comfortable enough to live with as a family car, but also offers the capability to head properly off road for a bit of adventure. And it will go further than a Kluger or Sorento, too.
You wouldn't call the Pajero Sport refined or luxurious, but it is great value and offers excellent safety equipment. It's also tough, practical and surprisingly un-truck-like to drive.
School run, holiday road trip and zombie apocalypse-ready, then.
As for the sweet spot in range - it's hard to go past the GLS seven seater, which adds leather seats and a locking rear differential, but remains good value.
What would you pick for your ultimate zombie apocalypse vehicle? Is the Pajero Sport on that list? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
The Sportage isn’t as conservatively styled as its sensible spec would suggest. Clearly influenced by the likes of the Porsche Cayenne, with the bonnet-mounted light fittings, curvaceous edges and strip-light across the tailgate, the overall look aims to put the “sport” in “Sportage”.
It has enough of its almost insectoid personality to be criticised as a straight rip-off though, for better or worse, and its most recent facelift in 2018 accentuated its best features. At least one criticism that can’t be leveled at the Sportage is that it looks boring.
The more aggressive look certainly sets it apart from the conservatively styled Hyundai Tucson with which it shares a chassis, and that’s even more evident on the inside where there’s a sportier asymmetrical dash with a raised centre-console and slick, three-spoke steering wheel.
While everything is ergonomic in here – with an added bonus of dials and shortcut buttons for the climate controls - the screen-in-dash look is getting a bit dated. The same could be said for the interior plastics, which are finished largely in the same drab grey colour, no matter which grade you pick. The design of them is nice, but anything under the soft dash-topper is hard to the touch.
Thankfully, everything is superbly put together with not a squeak or rattle to be heard on any of the test cars I sampled, and the pared-back application of silver highlights in the dash is tasteful. The quad-dial instrument cluster is a classic layout. There’s no option for a digital dash in the Sportage range.
The two-tone alloys look great, no matter which grade you pick, and aside from the flared bits and LED light fittings on the GT-Line, it’s genuinely hard to tell the grades apart from each other, which is good for low-spec buyers.
Overall, the Sportage presents a design which has aged well, thanks to a more risqué approach being taken when this generation first launched in 2016.
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport7/10
Despite being called a Pajero Sport, this SUV is not a sporty version of the Pajero and actually has far more in common with the Triton ute. Yup, it uses much of the same platform and mechanical underpinnings as the ute – albeit with coil-spring rear suspension.
Stylish from the front and side, but with a rear design that may take some (or a lot of) getting used to, the Pajero Sport’s dimensions show it to be 225mm shorter than a Pajero, at just under 4.8m in length, 1.8m tall and 1.8m wide (not including the mirrors).
The Pajero Sport’s cabin is premium-looking and comfortable even in the base grade GLX (have a look at my interior images), with dark, high-quality materials that also appear hard wearing. This is a modern and stylish cabin – sure, those cloth seats on the GLX let the tone down a bit and also attract dirt like magical dust magnets, but the other touch points feel good – from the leather steering wheel, to the console which is padded at the place your left knee meets it when driving.
The Pajero Sport’s colour range is limited to seven paint hues – White, Sterling Silver, Deep Bronze, Titanium Grey, Terra Rossa, Black, and a new colour fresh for this update, Pitch Black pearlescent.
The Pajero Sport comes with a squillion accessories: there’s a rear spoiler, front protection bar, nudge bar, weather shields, under body protection, a snorkel, spot lights, tow bar and tow ball, cargo barrier, a Thule luggage pod, bonnet and headlight protectors, fender arch protectors and stacks more. See Mitsubishi’s website for more details.
Like most Korean SUVs, the Sportage has the idea of practicality cooked-in throughout its cabin. It starts in the front row, where the driver and passenger have access to some large cupholders in the doors and centre console (suitable for 500ml containers), a decently sized top-box and glovebox, as well as a very large trench in front of the shift-lever, which also hosts the USB and aux inputs, as well as dual 12V power outlets.
In the back seat, there are plenty of amenities, with decently sized cupholders in each door, pockets on the back of the seats, air-conditioning vents on the back of the console as well as dual power outlets. Another neat trick is that the Sportage has reclining rear seats, allowing extra comfort for rear-seat passengers, or extra boot space where required.
To its credit, the boot space is easy to use and comes with an adjustable rolling cover. Part of the reduction in sheer capacity is due to a full-size alloy spare living under the boot floor – a big bonus for regional buyers, who may need one as a matter of safety.
Leg and headroom are simply great, no matter which seat you’re sitting in, and the big rear doors on the Sportage open nice and wide – good for low-mobility passengers or those needing to fit a child-seat.
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport8/10
The Pajero Sport scores an eight for practicality - but I’m being generous, because even though it does some things really well it could be better in other areas. Let me explain.
Storage space isn’t bad, but it’s not impressive in the way some SUVs can be. Still, there’s a big centre console bin, six cupholders (two in the front, second row and third row/boot) and smallish bottle holders in all of the doors.
The collection of USB and power ports is excellent, with this update adding two USB chargers in the second row and a 150W/220-volt outlet in the centre console bin. There are also two USB ports in the front, too. Electricity will be hard and risky to find during zombie time, so think of the Pajero Sport as a mobile power station.
Room for humans is good, with seating for seven or five depending on the variant you choose. Second row legroom isn’t bad and, at 191cm tall, I can sit behind my driving position with about 30mm of space between my knees and the seat back. Headroom in the first and second rows is also good, but it's not terrific in the third.
The third row wouldn’t be my first choice of places to sit, but at a squeeze I can get in there. And if the journey is a quick one, I’d keep my complaining to a minimum. It’s perfect for kids and shorter humans.
With the third row folded flat, the Pajero Sport’s cargo capacity is 673 litres (and 1624 litres with the third and second row down). The fold-flat function of the third row is definitely better than the Toyota Fortuner’s fold-up-and-strap method.
Almost every SUV has them now, but there are also tie-down cargo down points in the boot, and handy shopping bag hooks, too. Air vents positioned in the roof for the second and third rows are also good to see.
Wide-opening doors provide good access, although the ride height may make it hard for smaller kids and older grown-ups to climb in – the standard sidesteps are a help though, and so are the A-pillar mounted handles.
Price and features
You did read that right, the Sportage range – despite looking exactly the same as last year’s iteration – has received a mild nip and tuck, which includes new variants and pricing. As before, the Sportage range is offered with a choice of three engines, two petrols and a diesel, with either front- or all-wheel drive across four trim levels. All prices on the Sportage range are drive-away.
Kicking off the range is the S, which is available as a 2.0-litre petrol front-wheel drive in either a re-introduced six-speed manual ($28,990), six-speed auto ($29,990) or as an eight-speed auto diesel AWD ($36,990).
Standard spec, even on the entry-level car, is impressive. Included are 17-inch alloy wheels (no steelies here), LED DRLs (but halogen headlights), leather-trimmed wheel and shift-lever, hard-wearing cloth seat trim, a 3.5-inch dot-matrix info screen in the dash, a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android auto support, dual-zone climate control, as well as rear parking sensors and camera. Another nice touch is that the base S model also scores auto rain-sensing wipers as standard.
Considering the standard active-safety suite explored in the safety section of this review, the S could easily be the pick of the range of any other SUV lineup, but our pick is still the mid-grade SX (previously known as the Si).
Available in the same three drivetrain choices at a $2500 premium, the SX adds larger 18-inch alloy wheels, front-facing parking sensors, a more impressive-looking 8.0-inch touchscreen with DAB+ digital radio and built-in sat-nav, backed by an eight-speaker JBL audio system. We’d say the extra spice is well worth it, making the SX our pick.
Jumping up to the SX Plus (previously the SLi) adds leather seat trim (which is hard-wearing, but isn’t the most luxurious-feeling fake leather on the market), an upgrade to the visual treatment with chrome and gloss black highlights, a larger colour TFT screen embedded in the dash, and, for the first time in a mid-grade Sportage, a powered tailgate. The SX Plus is well equipped, but if you can do without leather seat trim, it's not really worth the $7000 like-for-like switch up from the SX…
Available as an all-wheel-drive only, the penultimate Sportage is the GT-Line. Finally gaining a full suite of LED front lights and, frustratingly, the only way to specify a Sportage with blind-spot monitoring, active cruise control and rear cross traffic alert, the GT-Line is relatively expensive, even for the segment, at $46,490 for the 2.4-litre six-speed auto petrol or $49,490 for the eight-speed auto turbo diesel.
Other fruit for the extra money includes a sports bodykit, aggressive 19-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, flat-bottomed sports steering wheel, a wireless phone-charging bay, and an automatic-parking suite.
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport8/10
How much does a Pajero Sport cost? Well, the Sport was given a freshen-up in April 2018, which added more equipment and a five-seat version of the mid-range GLS grade, but also increased the asking price slightly.
The range now starts at $45,500 for the GLX (an increase of $500 over the previous model), steps up to $48,500 for the five-seat GLS, then $49,500 for the seven-seat GLS (up $1000), and finally, the top-spec Exceed, which lists for $53,650 (up $650).
The price increase is well justified, considering that much of the advanced safety equipment previously only available on the Exceed has now been added to the rest of the line-up. You can read more about this in the safety section below.
The update also saw the GLX given new 18-inch alloy wheels, a 150W/220-volt outlet, two rear-seat USB power ports and a soft-finish centre console trim.
Other standard features include LED headlights, LED tail-lights and LED daytime running lights (DRLs), roof rails, side steps, leather steering wheel, carpet floors, cloth seats, climate control with rear air vents, proximity key and push-button start. There’s a 7.0-inch screen with Apple CarPlay, a rear-view camera, four-speaker stereo, rear parking sensors and dark-tinted rear windows.
The GLS comes standard with all of the GLX’s features, plus picks up two more stereo speakers, switches the cloth seats for leather ones, adds auto headlights and wipers, and gets dual-zone climate control.
Mechanically, the GLX gains a rear differential lock, too. The seven-seat GLS also gains a third row (obviously). Do the airbags stretch that far back? Skip to the safety section to find out.
The top-grade Exceed comes with the GLS’s features, but adds two more speakers to the stereo for a total of eight, plus heated front seats and headlight washers. A third row of seats is also standard on the GLS.
How do the prices compare with the Pajero Sport’s rivals? As a model comparison, the Toyota Fortuner starts at $44,590 and tops out at $56,990, the Ford Everest ranges from $47,990 to $74,701, and the Isuzu MU-X from $42,900 to $56,200.
The Pajero Sport is priced super competitively and, considering the quantity of the standard features, is great value for money.
Engine & trans
The Sportage is offered with a choice of three engines, all of which are unremarkable.
These engines are also starting to show their age, but the fact that you can choose either petrol or diesel across the range will be a win for some consumers.
The 2.0-litre petrol offered as the front-wheel drive option on the S, SX, and SX Plus grades produces 114kW/192Nm and can be chosen with either a six-speed auto, or a six-speed manual on the bottom two grades.
The 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine offered across the range with only an eight-speed automatic in all-wheel drive produces a better-sounding 136kW/400Nm (hence the price hike).
The GT-Line is the only grade that can be had as a petrol in all-wheel drive, it benefits from a larger 2.4-litre petrol engine with outputs set at 135kW/237Nm, paired only to a six-speed automatic.
It would be nice to see higher tech turbocharged petrol engines make it to the Sportage range for the sake of both power and fuel efficiency, but these kinds of dated petrol powertrains are par-for-the course in the Australian mid-size SUV landscape.
A benefit to many drivers will be the torque-converter automatic transmissions, rather than their lacklustre CVT counterparts, which appear in most of this car’s Japanese rivals.
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport7/10
The Pajero Sport has a 2.4-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel, which has plenty of grunt at 133kW/430Nm. This is the only engine you can have (you can’t have a petrol Pajero Sport), which is fine, because this turbo-diesel is a fairly smooth and quiet engine, and it's teamed up with with an eight-speed auto (with shifting-paddles on all grades).
The Pajero Sport is a capable off-roader with two-wheel drive high range, plus full-time four-wheel drive with low and high ranges, plus a locked centre differential. The GLS and Exceed come standard with a rear differential lock.
Suspension up front is double wishbone with coils and a stabiliser bar, while the rear gets a three-line coil and stabiliser bar setup.
The Pajero Sport has a braked towing capacity of 3.1 tonnes.
A downside to old engines with rigid transmission ratios pulling heavy SUV bodies is a notable cost in the fuel-consumption department.
The 2.0-litre front-drive variants carry claimed combined fuel-consumption figures of 7.9L/100km, but the figure most people will experience is in the rather more honest official “urban” figure of 10.9L/100km.
In my back-to-back tests of the 2.0-litre petrol versions of the SX and SX Plus I produced figures on either side of that number, scoring 10.5L/100km and 11L/100km in the real world, over about 350km of testing respectively.
Not great, then, and those figures are easily bested by CVT rivals – even the 2.5-litre all-wheel-drive Forester – according to real-world figures put on the board in recent CarsGuide reviews.
Mercifully, the Sportage is capable of drinking base-grade 91RON petrol to fill its 62-litre tank.
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport7/10
Mitsubishi says the Pajero Sport should only need 8.0L/100km when driven on a combination of urban and open roads. I put more than 800km on the clock of the my Exceed, and naturally the economy being reported on the trip computer varied a lot between peak-hour city commutes and country miles.
I saw a combination of both average at 14.1L/100km, while after four hours on a motorway the figure settled down to 7.4L/100km.
It's a proven fact that diesel will be easier to source than petrol during the zombie apocalypse, too (going by movies - think farms, abandoned bus depots and old industrial sites for your siphoning needs).
The Sportage’s engine choices don’t offer the most modern drive experience on the mid-size SUV market, but its locally tuned suspension really makes it stand apart from the pack. This means it’s at its best in most driving scenarios you’ll experience in Australia. I’ve driven Sportage variants on long-distance freeway drives, across the worst, most potholed streets Sydney’s CBD has to offer, as well as rutted gravel tracks on the other side of NSW’s Blue Mountains, and all of them behaved admirably, everywhere.
On the axis of sport-to-comfort I’d say the Sportage’s ride sits slightly to the sportier end of the equation. It’s a stiffer ride than the Honda CR-V, Nissan X-Trail, or the new Toyota RAV4, for example. Yet it seems to strike a more comfortable balance than the sporty CX-5.
The handling is really nice for an SUV this size, as I’ve said in previous reviews – it’s nimble and feels almost like you’re piloting a giant hatchback. For reasons I can’t seem to pin down, I vastly prefer the Sportage’s ride and handling to that of the Tucson. It just feels more balanced all round than its Hyundai cousin.
The engines are a bit of a letdown, however. While all are adequate for city-commuting duty, on the open road and up hills the petrol drivetrains get thrashy and noisy quickly – and at higher revs the limitations of these engines' outputs become apparent.
That having been said, both automatic transmissions are slick and predictable. When power is needed they also lock into gear nicely, unlike their CVT competition. We are yet to sample the re-introduced manual variants.
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport7/10
The Pajero Sport may be based on the same platform as a commercial vehicle but it’s a more civilised and comfortable experience than piloting the Triton ute thanks that multi-link rear and double wishbone suspension up front.
The 11.2m turning circle is also smaller than the Triton’s, which makes the Pajero Sport a bit more city friendly.
The car I test drove most recently was the base-spec GLX five-seater, and while 800km were indeed clocked up, all of it was on bitumen or gravel where I found it a comfortable easy-to-drive SUV, but no serious off-roading was carried out.
CarsGuide has taken the Pajero Sport off-road before, and we’re convinced it’s capable over tough terrain with its ladder frame chassis, high- and low-range four-wheel drive, an approach angle of 30 degrees and a departure angle of 24.2 degrees. Ground clearance isn’t astounding at 218mm, however, compared with the Fortuner and Everest - which both have 225mm. The Pajero Sport’s wading depth of 700mm is good, but not as impressive as the Everest’s 800mm.
That turbodiesel is fairly smooth, and that eight-speed auto is excellent. The cabin itself was found to be well insulated from road and wind noise, too.
Thinking about a Toyota Kluger or Kia Sorento instead? Well, you’ll be comfier, because they handle and ride more like cars, and sure, they have all-wheel drive, but what’s going to happen if you need to scale the concrete rubble mountain of what remains of the town hall with zombies clinging to the tailgate? I’ll let you work that out.
Even just last year, the Sportage’s standard active-safety equipment would have been considered pretty good, even a whole point better than what I’ve given it here. The thing is, though, thanks largely to ANCAP and EuroNCAP’s far more stringent analysis of active technology in the last year, the game has been raised by many of the Sportage’s competitors.
It would be nice, for example, to see active cruise control and blind-spot monitoring available on the SX Plus grade, or, better still, available as an option pack across the range, a-la-Hyundai’s approach.
And now, with the introduction of high-tier active-safety suites on low-spec variants of the Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5 and Subaru Forester, it’s hard to give the Sportage flying colours in this department.
Still, the fact that auto emergency braking (AEB), lane-keep assist (LKAS) and driver-attention alert (DAA) ship on the base-model S is reasonably impressive.
Outside of that, all Sportage grades get six airbags, the expected stability and brake controls, as well as three top-tether and two ISOFIX child-seat mounting points.
The Sportage carries a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating as of this-generation’s launch in 2016.
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport8/10
The Pajero Sport scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2015.
The update in 2018 added AEB and adaptive cruise control across the range. The top of the range Exceed comes standard with more advanced safety technology, such as blind-spot warning, and comes with a 360-degree camera. Seven-seat Pajero Sports come with full-length curtain airbags for the third row as well.
Side note; just because it's the zombie apocalypse doesn't mean you shouldn't wear a seat belt. You'll have to stop suddenly to shake them off the roof, so wear it.
Kia continues to lead the pack with a seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, which is two years more than the acceptable segment standard. That’s also backed by eight years of roadside assist if you service at an authorised dealer.
There’s also a comprehensive capped-price-servicing program for the life of the warranty, averaging out to a not-particularly-cheap $391.71 per year for the 2.0L petrol, $408.14 for the 2.4L petrol, or $511.43 for the diesel.
The Sportage will have a battle on its hands in the coming years, with fellow Korean competitor, Ssangyong, looking to launch its new-generation Korando with a highly competitive seven-year ownership program.
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport7/10
The Pajero Sport is covered by Mitsubishi’s five-year/100,000km warranty. Servicing is recommended every 12 months or 15,000km and is capped for three years at $400 for the first 15,000km service, $475 for the second and $550 for the third.
You'll probably be doing the services yourself during the zombie apocalypse, but fortunately the Pajero Sport has a fairly simple mechanical nature and parts should be easily scavenged - feel lucky you didn't choose a Range Rover.