Mazda CX-5 VS Mitsubishi Pajero Sport
- Gorgeous styling
- Interior fit and finish
- Added off-road capability
- Road noise still too high
- Firm ride
- No hybrid options
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport
- Comfortable on-road
- Capable off-road
- Good value
- Those tail lights
- Ground clearance could be better
Mazda’s CX-5 has long reigned as Australia’s favourite mid-size SUV, but 2020 is likely the year it loses that title to the much-improved, new-generation Toyota RAV4.
To try and keep up with fresher competition though, Mazda has introduced rolling updates to the popular CX-5, including a new off-road mode for all-wheel drive (AWD) variants that better equips the stylish SUV for rough terrain.
Pairing its new capabilities with the same high-calibre interior fit and finish as before, as well as a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, means the new CX-5 is the arguably the most complete package it has ever been, but is it still good enough for your consideration in 2020?
|Engine Type||2.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
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 latest round of spec enhancements don’t add too much to the already-winning formula, but the Off-Road Traction Assist function is a nice box-ticker for buyers worried about the CX-5’s sure footedness.
Class leading safety and catwalk-worthy styling remain strong attributes, but buyers will have to forgo a little comfort and no electrified engine options.
We love that crucial safety systems are fitted to all grades of the CX-5, meaning even the base Maxx variant is a compelling buy.
If we had to pick though, we'd go for the AWD 2.5-litre Touring for $40,980, which is loaded with nice creature comforts such as a head-up display and keyless entry for a price that doesn't break the bank.
The mid-size SUV field is as strong as it has ever been however, with the battleground set to heat up even more thanks to new and refreshed entrants arriving in the near future, meaning the CX-5 might soon need a big leap forward instead of just iterating to remain ahead of the pack.
For now though, the Mazda CX-5 still has the substance to back up its style, even three years on from the market launch of its latest form, though only just.
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 first of Mazda’s models to adopt its latest design language, the second-generation Mazda CX-5 hit Australian showrooms in 2017 and has remained largely the same since.
That’s no bad thing mind you, as the CX-5’s smooth panels, sharp edges and subtle creases embrace a more timeless and classic design philosophy relative to the dated design elements of its rivals.
Every touch point inside the CX-5 feels top-notch, including the steering wheel, door trims and seats, while buyers can also personalise the interior with colours such as black, white and brown.
Our top-spec Akera test vehicle came fitted as standard with nappa leather, which feels ultra-luxe and premium.
The interior is laid out with a clean and crisp design, with all controls well placed, and large swathes of black surfaces broken up with textured materials.
We don’t have much to complain about in with the CX-5’s design, inside or out, but at the risk of nit-picking, we’d say the multimedia screen is starting to look dated, especially when stacked up against the well-designed unit of the Mazda3 and CX-30.
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.
Measuring 4550mm long, 1840mm wide and 1680mm tall, the CX-5 is slightly shorter than the likes of the Toyota RAV4, Nissan X-Trail and Hyundai Tucson, but its generous 2700mm wheelbase is larger than most of its peers.
Which means interior room in the CX-5 is excellent, especially in the front seats, where there is plenty of head, shoulder and legroom.
The fantastic driving position in particular has to be called out, as our CX-5 test car serves up an electronically adjustable seat and steering column that let us get in just the right place for our hands and legs.
Mazda’s driver-focused philosophy applies to all its models, and the CX-5 family hauler is no exception.
Rear seat room, while adequate, will just about fit three adults sitting abreast, but a full row of children or even teenagers shouldn’t be a problem.
Keep in mind though that second-row legroom can be compromised for taller passengers, but there is plenty of headroom.
Amenities in the second-row also include air vents and, in our top-spec grade, heated pews and two USB sockets, the latter found in the fold-down armrest that also houses two cupholders.
As for the boot, the CX-5 will also swallow 442 litres of volume with all seats in place, extending to 1342L with the pews stowed.
In real world terms, that means the CX-5 will easily cart around a family of five with the weekly groceries and folded stroller in tow, but it is noticeably smaller than the 580L/1690L capacity.
We will also point out that we couldn’t find any bag hooks in the back of our test car, though there were handy seat-folding tabs that could stow just the centre seat or each of the outbound pews with just a simple pull.
Storage throughout the cabin is also just OK, with a shallow glovebox and small storage tray below the climate controls.
The centre storage cubby however, is sizeable, and comes with a tray to keep items like a phone or wallet close to the surface to prevent you having to reach in a fish them out.
Door pockets also offer decent storage up front, but rear passengers will only be able to fit a water bottle in their doors.
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
Though Mazda has slightly increased the pricing of its CX-5 for the 2020 model year, there's still a wide selection of grades available from $30,980, before on-road costs, to $51,330.
Our test car, the AWD Akera grade paired with a 2.5-litre turbo-petrol engine, is priced at $50,830, making it the second-most expensive variant available.
Standard features across the range include an 8.0-inch multimedia display, 17-inch wheels and push-button start, but our test car was also kitted out with dual-zone climate control, satellite navigation, a powered tailgate, head-up display, leather interior and power-adjustable mirrors.
However, it’s the huge array of standard safety equipment that stands the CX-5 apart.
All CX-5s, including the entry-level Maxx, are fitted with features such as adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency braking, which are sometimes relegated to higher grades or options in competitor SUVs.
The Akera grade also gains 19-inch alloy wheels, ambient interior lighting, heated and cooled front seats and heated rear seats, as well as a frameless rearview mirror, heated steering wheel and woodgrain interior panels, It’s these small details that elevate the CX-5 from its peers.
There’s equipment here that is rarely seen in anything outside models from the big three German brands, and though a Mazda badge doesn’t quite hold that level of cache, the CX-5 is also not priced quite as highly as a BMW, Mercedes or Audi, either.
Whether you agree with Mazda Australia’s decision to push some models upmarket with higher price points and more equipment, there's no denying the blend of luxe and value presented in the CX-5.
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
We’ve tested this engine before, and while nothing has changed on the powertrain front, we’re still big fans of this mill’s effortless oomph.
As one of the most potent petrol engines you can get in the mainstream mid-size SUV class, coming away from the line is expectedly brisk and the engine will enable a zero to 100km/h in an almost-hot-hatch-bothering 7.7 seconds.
Overtaking at freeway speeds is also easy, with the smart-shifting automatic transmission smoothly kicking down a cog for some extra shove.
Speaking of, peak torque is available from 2000rpm, making the CX-5 a delight to drive at slower speeds instead of a slow-moving bothersome chore.
However, we reckon the six-speed auto need another gear for freeway driving, just to keep revs and engine down a little more.
If the flagship 2.5-litre turbo-petrol engine isn’t your speed, there are other powertrains available in the CX-5 range, including a base 115kW/200Nm 2.0-litre petrol unit that is paired to a six-speed manual gearbox and an automatic-transmission-only 140kW/252Nm 2.5-litre petrol.
Diesel is also offered in the CX-5 range, an increasingly rare occurrence as the Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape and Subaru Forester are no long offered with oil-burning options, and in Mazda’s case is a 140kW/450Nm 2.2-litre twin-turbo unit.
However, unlike the three aforementioned mid-size SUV competitors, Mazda does not offer its CX-5 with any sort of electrified powertrain.
One could argue that in 2020, Australia is yet to fully embrace the electric vehicle future, but for those wanting the latest in hybrid or plug-in powertrain technology, the CX-5 does not yet have an answer (like most competitors).
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.
Official fuel consumption figures of the 2.5-litre turbo-petrol CX-5 peg it at 8.2 litres per 100km, but with our short stint in the car we managed 9.8L/100km.
To be fair, our driving consisted mainly of inner-city suburban streets and a brief stretch of highway driving, as well as some hard acceleration.
For those looking for a more frugal CX-5 though, the diesel engine is also available that will sip just 5.7L/100km, while the 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre petrol units are also less thirsty at 6.9 and 7.4L/100km respectively.
Again, a petrol-hybrid option here would help lower fuel-consumption even more, so if stretching your dollar further at the bowser is a concern, you may want to look elsewhere.
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 big headlining change to the new CX-5 is the added off-road driving mode added to AWD variants.
Dubbed ‘Off-Road Traction Assist’, the system locks the rear differential at the push of a button, enabling torque to be sent to the wheels that have grip.
In theory, the system is designed to better allow the CX-5 to get out of a sticky situation, such as deep mud or some particularly tricky terrain, and in practice it does what’s advertised.
Don’t get us wrong, the CX-5 isn’t transformed into a Jeep Wrangler or Toyota LandCruiser because of the new feature, but it certainly helps that Mazda has added extra go-anywhere assurance to its popular model.
Also keep in mind that the CX-5 will still be limited by ground clearance and its approach angle.
On the occasion that the CX-5 ventures down an unsealed road or rough terrain in inclement weather when venturing to a remote Airbnb or holiday home, the Off-Road Traction Assist button will surely be a welcome addition.
Aside from the new off-road mode, the CX-5 drives largely the same as before – for good and bad.
Steering is sharp, direct and communicative, while also being light and pleasant enough to manoeuvre around town.
However, the trade-off for a nice steering SUV is that suspension is still a bit too firm, for our tastes at least, which is of particular note in a five-seat family hauler like the CX-5.
Don’t get us wrong, its not back-breaking by any stretch, and on smooth surfaces, the ride is perfectly liveable.
Unfortunately, Australia – and in this particular case, Melbourne – is full of more than just smooth roads, with the occasional large dip and bump (not to mention the juttering of travelling over tram tracks) transmitted right to occupants.
Mazda said it has also improved the NVH levels of the new CX-5 thanks to extra sound deadening, but without driving the old car and new one back-to-back, it is a little hard to tell the level of enhancement.
However, we are happy to report road and wind noise was kept to a minimum in our time with the car, even at freeway speeds.
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.
Safety is where the Mazda CX-5 stands heads and shoulders above the competition.
Lane departure warning, lane-keep assist, reversing camera, rear parking sensors, driver attention alert, autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and adaptive cruise control, as well as auto high beams, wipers and headlights, are all included as standard across the entire Mazda CX-5 line-up.
But wait, there’s more as our Akera test car also has front parking sensors, traffic sign recognition and a surround-view monitor to make parking a breeze.
New in the 2020 model-year upgrade however, is night-time pedestrian detection for the AEB system.
The list of safety equipment included in the CX-5, even at its cheapest, is the yardstick from which all other cars – including models from premium brands – should be measured.
No surprises then that the Mazda CX-5 carries a full five-star ANCAP safety rating when it was first tested in 2017.
The Mazda mid-size SUV scored 95 per cent in the adult occupant test, while the child occupant protection examination yielded an 80 per cent score.
As for the vulnerable road user and safety assist categories, the CX-5 notched 78 and 59 per cent respectively.
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.
Service intervals are every 10,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first.
Basic service costs will alternate between $347 and $378 up to 160,000km or 16 years, but additional scheduled maintenance items will cost extra.
For example, the cabin filter will need to be replaced ever 40,000km, costing an additional $80, while spark plugs will need to be refreshed every 60,000km interval at a cost of $327.
As such, the first five years of servicing, by our calculations for the 2.5-litre turbo-petrol CX-5 Akera, will cost buyers $2092.
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.