By: Jason Woosey
Things are becoming rather heated in the 'bakkie wagon' market and although the Toyota Fortuner continues to enjoy something of a sales stranglehold, consumers are becoming increasingly spoiled for choice.
In the past year, Chevrolet's Trailblazer has entered the fray and Nissan has repositioned its Pathfinder as a more affordable alternative. Now Mitsubishi is following suit with a revitalised Pajero Sport.
While it looks much the same on the surface, Mitsubishi has given it a new turbodiesel engine and set the pricing at R435 900 for the five-speed manual and R445 900 for the five-speed automatic model - undercutting the equivalent Fortuner and Trailblazer by around R40 000. A five-year/90 000km service plan is also part of the deal.
SMALLER ENGINE, MORE POWER
The previous 3.2-litre engine makes way for a new 2.5-litre unit and the smaller cubic capacity does not amount to a muscular downgrade. In fact, it sits at the sharp end of the pecking order with outputs of 131kW at 4000rpm and 400Nm from 2000rpm in the case of the manual model, the auto being detuned to 350Nm between 1800 and 3500rpm.
Naturally it's a more efficient option and Mitsubishi claims combined consumption figures of 7.8 l/100km for the manual and 8.5 l/100km for the auto, although you can expect it to drink more than 10 l/100km in real-world driving.
The vehicle's launch route allowed us to put the Pajero through its paces on asphalt and dirt country roads north of Johannesburg and although the motor lacks responsiveness, something no doubt aggravated by the automatic gearbox fitted to the test units, it ultimately delivered satisfying performance when called upon.
The route eventually led us to some hard-core off-road trails, where the Pajero's Super Select four-wheel drive hardware was given a chance to shine.
This is a pukka off-roader with all the traditional kit along with a 215mm ground clearance and respective approach and departure angles of 36 and 25 degrees. Shifting the transfer case to 4LLc and engaging the rear diff lock allowed it to tackle massive dongas and steep inclines with relative ease. I was particularly impressed by the smooth throttle response and cushy suspension that made for a smooth ride quality.
The Pajero Sport is only available as a 4x4 for now, but Mitsubishi plans to introduce a more affordable 4x2 variant in the near future.
There is only one spec level and it's indulgently kitted with leather seats, climate control with separate rear controls, multi-function steering wheel, cruise control and a six-speaker touch-screen audio system with reverse camera. Safety highlights include six airbags and Active Stability and Traction Control.
The interior accommodates three rows of seating and while the cabin wins points for practicality, the cockpit looks rather old-fashioned and a big functionality bugbear is that the steering can only be adjusted for height, not reach.
Like the Pathfinder, this Mitsubishi is starting to show its age in places but when one looks at the features and overall capability on offer for the price, it is a compelling deal nonetheless and well worth a place on your 4x4 shopping list.