The Pajero Sport arrived in 2015 and has become one of the country’s best-selling medium 4x4s. It was updated this year and is one of the best-value rigs in the segment. Here’s our 2020 Mitsubishi Pajero Exceed review.
TL;DR: The Pajero Sport is excellent value for money, capable off-road with an excellent four-wheel drive system.
What we like: The Super Select II four-wheel drive system is great; the pricing against key rivals; room under the bonnet for a second battery.
What’s not so great: The cabin feels small; the ride and handling is off the pace.
2020 Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Exceed Pricing and Specifications
Price $59,990 (drive-away) Warranty seven years, 150,000km (until end of June) Safety 5 star ANCAP Engine 2.4-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel Power 133kW @ 3500rpm Torque 430Nm @ 2500rpm Transmission eight-speed automatic Drive four-wheel drive with low-range Dimensions 4825mm long; 1815mm wide; 1835mm high Turning Circle 11.2m Angles 30-degrees Approach; 24.2-degrees Departure; 23.1-degrees Rampover Kerb Weight 2110kg Seats 7 Fuel Tank 68 litres Fuel Consumption 8.0L/100km (combined cycle)
The Pajero Sport copped a styling and accessories tweak for 2020 with the top-spec Exceed variant benefiting most from the update. That’s the one we’re testing.
Full disclosure… we didn’t get a chance to photograph the Pajero Sport while we had it so we’ve made use of press images. These aren’t totally reflective of the vehicle we had. See, our test car was fitted with a genuine Mitsubishi-supplied bullbar and there’s a lot to unpack with that which we’ll get into later in this review.
The Pajero Sport was launched in 2015 and cemented itself as a firm favourite with Aussie buyers looking for something rugged and budget friendly. Indeed, in March, it was the second best-selling medium 4×4 with 670 sales, beating out the MU-X and Ford Everest.
Tell ‘em the price…
Updated earlier this year, the Pajero Sport is available in three trim levels, the five-seat GLX, the five- and seven-seat GLS and the seven-seat only Exceed. Pricing runs from $45,990 (drive-away) through to $59,990 (drive-away) for our test car, the Exceed. There’s only one engine and transmission available.
As far as bang for your bucks goes, the Pajero Sport is one of the best value 4x4s on the market. You really do get a lot for your money. For instance, you get a full active safety suite, front and rear sensors, surround view monitor (this is the view that allows you to look down on the vehicle when you’re parking), 8.0-inch infotainment with native sat-nav and Apple and Android connectivity, dual-zone climate control with air vents for all three rows, leather interior and more.
The Exceed is the only model in the range that works with Mitsubishi’s new smartphone app that allows you to do things like open the powered tailgate, check the fuel consumption, active vehicle finder, and Apple watch connectivity. It’s a gimmick, sure, but one that plenty of other car makers are adding to their vehicles.
As I mentioned, our tester was fitted with Mitsubishi’s Alloy Front Protection Bar in Black which lists for $3513. We wouldn’t recommend this bar and I’ll explain why later on.
The Pajero Sport is narrower than key rivals, right?
That’s correct. Measuring 1815mm wide, the Pajero Sport is almost 200mm narrower than its key rivals and it feels it too. Sure, there’s a decent amount of room in the front and the back seats but you do feel like you’re bumping elbows when you’re in the front. And, in the back, you won’t get three people across the second row; the middle seat is just too narrow.
Travel with four people and you’ll be fine, especially if you’ve never travelled in one of the bigger 4×4 wagons. For instance, I adjusted the front seat to suit myself (I’m six-foot tall) and had plenty of leg and foot room when sitting directly behind the driver’s seat.
Don’t get me started on the third-row. It’s a 50:50 setup and it’s for pre-teens only. I tried to sit back there and while the seats are full size there’s little legroom and no foot room. And that’s even when you slide the second-row seats forward. However, it’s not all bad news because the tumble-forward action of the second-row seats is excellent. The action is smooth and leaves plenty of room to climb through into the back. It’s certainly better than the setup on, say, the Ford Everest and others.
The third-row seats aren’t as easy to set up as those on the Everest, however, requiring two actions; the backrest and the base need to be locked into position.
If it’s narrower, is the boot space smaller?
Yes, obviously, but there’s still a usable space when you’ve got the third-row seats folded flat, if not a very big space with just 502 litres of storage space when loaded to the top of the second-row seat back. Raise the third row and your storage space reduces to just 131 litres. Fold down the third- and second-row and you’ve got 1488 litres of space. The Pajero Sport has a pinched roof line which means the shape of the boot and passenger space reduces at around shoulder height.
There are tie down points and the boot floor is raised with a small storage hatch in the very back of the Pajero Sport. There’s access to the underslung spare wheel release in these bins.
So, only the one engine and transmission?
That’s right. The engine is the same updated 2.4-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel as the one in the Triton, and it’s mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The engine makes 133kW at 3500rpm and 430Nm of torque at 2500rpm. It’s not the most powerful engine available but, you know what, it gets the job done. There’s enough grunt available to keep up with traffic and it maintains momentum with ease on longer hills.
During our test, I loaded the Pajero Sport with my family (four people) but didn’t have luggage onboard and the thing handled the load just fine, as you’d expect. I didn’t get a chance to tow with the Pajero Sport but expect the performance to be blunted significantly.
It’s worth noting the Pajero Sport is a bit of an oddity in the class in that it’s four-wheel drive system (Super Select II) allows it to run in either two-wheel drive (rear drive) or four-wheel drive high range on high-traction surfaces, like bitumen. Most other vehicles in the segment are either full-time four-wheel drive or part-time four-wheel drive and can only run in four-wheel drive on low-traction surfaces. The benefit of the Pajero Sport’s system is that you can run the thing in two-wheel drive on the highway in the dry or select four-wheel drive if you’re out in the rain and what better grip. Having run a Pajero as a long-termer at another publication, I can’t speak highly enough about the Super Select II system.
Engine’s okay but what’s the ride and handling like?
In a word, okay. It’s comfortable enough at around town speeds, although the front-end struggles to deal with harder edged hits and gives the sensation of head-butting the ground on speed humps.
That sensation is exacerbated by the bullbar that was on our test car. Clearly, Mitsubishi’s engineers didn’t do enough validation work because at around town and highway speeds, the weight over the front end is really noticeable. Turn into a corner and the response feels slow and a little clumsy with the Pajero Sport rolling substantially on turn in. This thing is a long way behind the 4×4 wagon benchmark-setting Ford Everest.
Indeed, the bullbar taints the on-road driving experience and creates a general feeling of jitteriness and heaviness to the way the Pajero Sport moves.
This is completely at odds to how it feels at off-road speeds. It’s not quite as pronounced a difference as chalk and cheese but it’s pretty close to that. Driven off-road, the Pajero Sport feels more comfortable than it does on-road, and it’s clear the dampers and springs have been tuned for lower speed response rather than coping with higher speed hits.
That’s not to say it’s perfect. Drop down off a rock ledge and the front flops and there’s not a lot of travel and so it’s very easy to pick up a wheel in uneven country. Fortunately, the Pajero Sport’s traction control system is one of the best in the segment. But there’s a but…
And that is that when you’re in low-range with the rear diff-lock engaged the traction control on the front end is killed. And that’s not ideal. See, sometimes you want both. It means, you’re better off relying on the electronics which do a better job than driving with the diff lock in and the traction control off.
Beyond that, the Pajero Sport, as I’ve said, is better off-road than it is on-road. It’s got decent high- and low-range gearing and the Super Select II system really is excellent. The Pajero Sport offers driving modes, including gravel, sand, mud and snow (in four-wheel drive high-range) and rock when low-range is engaged. These tweak things like throttle response, brake force and transmission response with the intention to optimise the vehicle to the terrain you’re driving on.
We didn’t set out to torture test the Pajero Sport but we did find a couple of nasty hills, the last of them was a lot steeper than it looked when I approached it… In low range (the centre diff is locked) the Pajero Sport climbed up the hill with very little fuss and with better tyres (the Toyo Open Country rubber was designed for the Pajero Sport and is light-truck construction but the tread is highway focussed) it would have been even better. I climbed that hill twice but that was only so I could test out the Hill Descent control. And it’s excellent. I tried it first in low-range first gear with no hill descent control and the thing ran away and bumped and skidded its way down the hill. The second run was with hill descent control engaged and it was very good indeed, slowing the thing to walking pace with excellent control.
As good as the Pajero Sport is in rough country, you need to pay attention to its ground clearance (measured at 225mm) and its approach, departure and rampover angles which are only okay (30.1, 24.2 and 23.1-degrees respectively). The fording depth is a decent 700mm. An ace up the Pajero Sport’s sleeve is how much room there is under the bonnet with plenty of room for a second battery.
What about payload and towing?
The Pajero Sport offers a payload of 665kg which covers everything from fuel to people, luggage and accessories that you fit on the thing. And don’t forget, if you’re towing, you’ll need to subtract the towball download from the payload.
The Pajero Sport’s kerb weight is 2110kg and the gross vehicle mass is 2775kg. The maximum braked towing weight is 3100kg with a 310kg towball download, and the gross combined mass is 5565kg.
The Pajero Sport’s pretty safe, right?
Yep, it gets a carried over five-star ANCAP rating (from 2015) but there’s a fair chance if it was tested in 2020 it would achieve the same rating. It gets a full raft of active safety features from blind spot monitoring to autonomous emergency braking, rear cross traffic alert and more.
What’s the warranty and service schedule like?
Mitsubishi has extended its seven-year, 150,000km warranty until the end of June, which is good news for those in the market. The Pajero Sport also has five-years capped price servicing at $299/service (12 months or 15,000km).