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Mitsubishi Pajero


Mitsubishi Pajero Sport

Summary

Mitsubishi Pajero

If you're in the market for a genuinely large, rugged-duty four-wheel drive diesel wagon, your choices are rapidly diminishing... and if you're looking for one that's relatively affordable, your choices are even fewer.

The Mitsubishi Pajero is one of the company's longest serving and most faithful performers, and when it comes to value for money in the large off-road diesel wagon segment, there are few better.

But has age wearied this old battle horse? We're testing the 2018 update to see if it's still relevant in today's market.

Safety rating
Engine Type3.2L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency9L/100km
Seating7 seats

Mitsubishi Pajero Sport

The zombie apocalypse has arrived and you get to pick one car to help you survive. What would it be?

Me, I’d probably be driving a Pajero Sport. Either that, or one of its rivals, like the Ford Everest. Or a Toyota Fortuner. Or Isuzu’s MU-X, for that matter.

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.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.4L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency8L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Mitsubishi Pajero7.5/10

There's no doubt that the Pajero is getting on in age, and there's no sign of Mitsubishi replacing it any time soon.

Then again, it doesn’t really need to. It sells quite well, it's really affordable, all of the bugs have been ironed out of it, and it's as tough as old boot leather.

It's not the most handsome thing on the road, and its active safety spec is behind that of more modern vehicles, but it's easy to forgive these oversights (okay, not the safety aspect so much) when it's as practical and lovable as this.

Is simple - like the Mitsubishi Pajero - the best? Or is tech the way to go?


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. 

Design

Mitsubishi Pajero7/10

Park your 2018 Pajero next to a model from the mid-naughties and from side on, you would be hard-pressed to tell the difference. Over the years, there have been superficial updates to elements like bumpers and tail-lights, but the Pajero's large boxy visage remains virtually untouched from its 2006 introduction.

It features a huge glasshouse, which makes for a very airy and bright cabin, while its box-like rear section endows the 4x4 wagon with a massive rear cargo space. It's certainly not going to win any beauty awards but that's really not the point of the Pajero.

On the inside, too, the only concession to up to date motoring is the touchscreen multimedia system. Again, there have been small cosmetic changes over the years to the Pajero's design language inside the car, but it really doesn't feel that much different to one of its 12-year-old siblings when you hop aboard.


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.

Still, the Pajero Sport doesn’t look much like a Triton or a Pajero, and a lot more like an Outlander, Eclipse Cross or ASX, thanks to that shiny chrome-looking face worn by Mitsubishi’s new models.

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.

Practicality

Mitsubishi Pajero7/10

The Pajero is sold as a seven-seater and the rear two seats are tucked underneath the boot floor. There is also a 60/40-split fold second row, which can be tumbled forward to make a larger space as well as provide access to those two rear seats.

The third row really is the definition of a jump seat; it’s a narrow bench with short seat backs that are extended by comically oversized head rests, which need to be detached to stow the rear seat under the floor.

In fact, it is quite a complicated system to erect the seats in any sort of hurry and the parts are quite weighty, as well. People of a smaller stature will struggle a bit to configure those rear seats in any sort of hurry.

The same criticism can be levelled at the second-row seats, which basically need two separate movements to revert from tumbled to assembled. In their favour, they do offer a reclining back, which adds to rear seat comfort, and there is absolutely no shortage of headroom or kneeroom for even the tallest passengers.

There are ISOFIX mounts on the second-row outside seats, as well as a pull-down centre arm rest that hides two cupholders. Unusually in a relatively modern car, there are no door cards of any description in the rear doors, which means bottles can't be stowed there.

While the front doors have narrow short pockets, they are not equipped to hold any sort of bottles, either. The only way that you'll hold the drink is via the two cupholders that sit side by side in between the two front seats.

The big Paj is unashamedly aimed at people who like to treat their cars hard and put them away wet, and there is a lot of hard plastics here that will resist the rough and tumble of an outback life but may detract from the Paj’s ambience for suburb dwellers.

Overall, though, the Pajero is incredibly easy to operate and live with. There is an absolute lack of unnecessary bells and whistles and it features just what you need to drive up and over any obstacle in your path.

Visibility around the car is excellent in all directions, though the tall bonnet may make it awkward for some drivers to park the car. There are sensors and a reversing camera for parking, which does make life easy, although there are no line markings on the display to help you line up a trailer.

Our tester is carpeted, and one can easily see large rubber mats placed on the floor for a little bit more off-road resistance.

Internal cargo space rivals that of a panel van, with a low floor, high roof and large door aperture making the 1069 litres (VDA) of space with the second row in place (or 1798L with all rows folded) a doddle to access. The right side-hinged one-piece swinging door won’t suit everyone, though, and we weren’t able to access the rear of the Paj when our trailer was in place.

The spare wheel is mounted to the rear door, which isn't always the easiest thing to access, either, particularly for smaller adults. As well, you'll have to get under the floor to retrieve the jack and the wheel brace, as they are located in with the third-row seat.

There are luggage tie-downs in the cargo area while vents are situated in the roof throughout the car and the third-row passengers also get their own cupholders. Second-rowers miss out on any sort of power points but they do have access to ventilation controls.

And a big tick for the extendable sections within the Pajero sunvisors - such a rarity these days! It’s like no-one commutes north or south any more in car design land...

There's no digital speedo, sadly; in fact, there's not much digital stuff going on at all other than an ageing, but still useful, digital fuel and information gauge on top of the centre console.

The Bluetooth-ready head unit is similar to those found in other Mitsubishi products and features Apple Car Play and Android Auto. It's reasonably simple to use, though some of the submenus are quite hidden, making them hard to access. And the USB ports are mounted in the glovebox; not a drama, per se, but more inconvenient than most.


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

Mitsubishi Pajero8/10

In terms of its value, the $58,990 Pajero GLS presents very well against its most logical rival, the $59,990 Toyota Prado GXL. It's arguably got more capability than than the younger Prado, though size- and ability-wise, the Paj isn’t too far off the venerable LandCruiser GXL, which is almost $25,000 dearer.

It can also be cross-shopped with seven-seat 4x4s like Hyundai's Santa Fe and the ladder-framed Ford Everest.

Out of the box, the Pajero GLS comes with automatic lights and wipers, a leather-clad steering wheel and shifter, leather-bolstered seats with cloth inserts, heated front seats, a rear diff lock, front and rear fog lights, regular (non-adaptive) cruise control, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system with Apple Car Play, Android Auto and Bluetooth streaming. There is no navigation fitted to this particular version.

The Paj features a multi-stage 4x4 system that Mitsubishi calls Super Select II, as well as independent suspension front and rear, and the company's tried and trusted 3.2-litre DiD four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine mated to an old-school five-speed automatic gearbox. It rides on 18-inch alloys that are shod with a more street-orientated all-terrain tyre.


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

Mitsubishi Pajero8/10

The fourth-generation Pajero was updated in 2011 with the then-new 4M41 3.2-litre four-cylinder direct injection turbo diesel engine, and it instantly transformed the Pajero into a much nicer rig.

Even seven years on, the engine still feels refined and powerful, and it gives nothing away to its more modern, smaller capacity four-cylinder turbo diesel rivals. It musters up 141kW of power and 441Nm of torque – the latter number sounds a bit anaemic in this age of 500Nm utes, and the two-tonne-plus weight of the Paj plays against it too, but in use, even with a two-tonne race car/trailer combo on the back, it did the job perfectly well.

The engine connects to Mitsubishi’s Super Select II 4x4 system via an old but tough five-speed auto.

The Super Select II system allows the driver to pick rear-wheel drive, or three distinct 4x4 modes. High-range 4WD (centre diff unlocked) is suitable for everyday use, and should arguably be the default setting. High-range 4WD (centre diff locked) is better for dry and loose conditions, while low-range 4WD is your go-anywhere, do-anything mode, especially when combined with the lockable rear diff.

What does that do, you ask? It basically prevents the diff from sending all power to the wheel it thinks needs it the most, enabling both rear wheels to help when the going gets slippery. It's a definite no-no on the streets, though; you'll 'wind up' the diff by not allowing the other wheel to rotate freely when you're turning a corner, and it doesn't like that.

If you want to tow with the 2255kg Pajero, it can haul 3000kg of braked trailer, and has a generous gross vehicle mass figure (total legal weight of car, trailer, passengers and load) of 6030kg. If your trailer is over 2500kg, the downball weight maximum is 180kg, which increases to 250kg if the trailer is under that figure.

Sure, the Pajero not getting any younger, but it all works brilliantly well... and that's testament to its basic good character.


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

Fuel consumption

Mitsubishi Pajero9/10

After 380km aboard the Paj, including 55km with a laden trailer behind it, we returned a dash-indicated fuel figure of 10.4 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined fuel economy cycle, and our 38 litres of fuel used equated to a real-world 10.0L/100km.

Against a combined fuel economy claim of 9.1 litres, this is a great result.

The Pajero’s tank holds 88 litres of fuel, giving it a theoretical range of 980km.


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).

Driving

Mitsubishi Pajero8/10

Around town and between cities, the Pajero is a big, soft, cuddly, easy-to-drive companion on both tar and gravel. It's not exactly precise through the helm, but it stays away from being overly agricultural, and compares well to younger rivals like the Everest.

In fact, it's surprisingly easy and comfortable to drive every day, with a responsive, well modulated power delivery through the five-speed auto, good brakes and good road manners at cruise. It's easy to manoeuvre in town, too, though there's no doubting that it's a big car from behind the wheel.

On paper, it seems like it’s a little less sophisticated than some of its more modern rivals when it comes to off-road ability, but with the rear diff lock and low-range capability, the Paj does perfectly well without modern niceties like hill descent and ascent control modes.

The gearbox can be overridden so a gear can be held when clambering up or ratcheting down a steep terrain, and while the more citified tyres are a little bit of a compromise when the going gets really rugged, dropping the pressures will help immensely to find additional grip when needed.


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

Mitsubishi Pajero6/10

This is where the Pajero’s age plays against it. It’s equipped with six airbags (including full-length curtain bags) and brake assist, as well as a reversing camera, but its architecture prevents the addition of driver aids like lane departure warning and auto emergency braking (AEB).

It still holds a maximum five-star ANCAP safety ranking, which was achieved in 2011. If it were retested for 2018, it could potentially lose up to two stars for the missing driver aid equipment.


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.

Those third-row seats don’t have child restraint systems, however. But you will find two ISOFIX points and three anchor mounts in the second row. A full-sized spare tyre is under the vehicle.

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.

Ownership

Mitsubishi Pajero7/10

Mitsubishi offers a five-year/100,000km warranty on the Pajero.

It also offers a fixed-price service deal for the first three years of the Pajero’s life, with service intervals of 15,000km or 12 months (whichever comes first).

The first three services over 36 months total $1810 (which is $460 more than the Pajero Sport, by way of comparison).


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.