Johannesburg - With the Toyota Fortuner and Ford Everest locked in battle for supremacy of the bakkie-based SUV market, Mitsubishi has now tossed its all-new Pajero Sport into the ring.

Available in 4x2 and 4x4 guises, Mitsubishi’s seven-seater has morphed into a more grown up and sophisticated adventure vehicle with a new-generation engine and updated infotainment, while the all-wheel drive system has been modernised with electronic assistance.

The Pajero Sport rides on the Triton bakkie’s ladder frame chassis but adopts coil-spring multilink rear suspension in place of the Triton’s solid axle and leaf springs. 

This was done to improve the ride quality and it’s had the desired effect, with none of that choppy, lose-your-breakfast feel you can get from unladen bakkies. Our week testing the Pajero Sport included some long-distance drives and game-viewing sessions, and it delivered a cushy ride on all kinds of tar and gravel.

As with all bakkie-based vehicles it’s not the nippiest handler, but under all the top-heavy wallowing it grips the road pretty well and doesn’t deliver any nasty surprises when you turn the wheel.

The other big mechanical change is a move from the five-speed auto of the Triton to an eight-speed automatic with sport mode and paddle shifters. This is paired with Mitsubishi’s new-generation 2.4-litre turbodiesel engine with 133kW and 430Nm at its disposal.

It’s a gutsy all-round deal with a relaxed cruising nature that takes steep hills in its stride. The vehicle feels well refined, with no excessive agricultural sound from the turbodiesel engine. It cruises fairly quietly and wind noise is also well kept at bay, and the auto transmission shifts smoothly and on cue. 

The trip computer shows only instant fuel consumption so we couldn’t work out the town/freeway average, but on the open road laden with five people and luggage this bulky boy drank a respectably economical 9 litres per 100 km.

A service plan comes standard but you’ll have to take this Mitsubishi for an oil change every 10 000km – the same as a Fortuner but twice as frequently as a Ford Everest. 

There has been an attempt to modernise the new-generation Pajero Sport but, starting with that rather basic trip computer, some of it seems a little half-hearted. There’s the obligatory touchscreen for the audio system with Bluetooth and USB music inputs, but the screen’s quite small compared to the big tablet-sized versions becoming popular nowadays.

Also, there’s curiously no one-touch function to raise the electric windows – only to lower them.

For the rest this Mitsubishi’s well sorted in the functionality and user-friendliness stakes, including its multi-zone climate system that gives middle-seat passengers their own vents and controls.

The new cabin’s adopted a swankier look with neat finishes and leather upholstery, and there are silver decorative inserts to brighten up the black interior.

We don’t normally spend much time commenting on the subjective issue of styling, but we don’t believe this Pajero Sport will go down as one of Mitsubishi’s best design efforts. The front is very busy with overstyled chrome work, while at the back the tail lights give the uncomfortable impression that they’re melting down into the bumper. 

With a 2+3+2 layout the vehicle’s intended as a true seven-seater and the third row is just about roomy enough for a pair of adults, if perhaps a little cramped for extended journeys – and the third row conveniently folds flat into the rear floor to open up a spacious cargo hold. The cabin’s too narrow to have three adults comfortably seated in the second row though.

The most appealing thing about the Pajero Sport is its sub-600 grand pricing, which undercuts its Toyota and Ford rivals without skimping on spec. Standard fare in the Mitsubishi includes a smart key that you can leave in your pocket to lock/unlock doors and operate the ignition, LED driving lamps, electrically-adjustable driver seat, cruise control, a reversing camera, and automatically activated headlamps and wipers. There’s a full safety suite of stability control, ABS brakes and six airbags.

Underpinning it all is a robust chassis made for hard offroad work, and with its selectable all-wheel drive and low range, rear diff lock, and tall ground clearance, this hefalump can pretty much go where it likes in the great outdoors.

The Super Select 4-II 4WD system now also boasts electronic off-road assistance with the addition of Hill-Descent Control and modes for Gravel, Mud/Snow, Sand or Rock settings which alter the engine output, transmission settings and braking to suit varying turf. And it’s all easily selectable by a rotary dial instead of the old model’s extra gearlever.

VERDICT

Notwithstanding some curious omissions like the window auto-up function, and styling that might be difficult to swallow for some, Mitsubishi’s latest Pajero Sport is all set to go family adventuring. 

It’s become more refined whilst retaining the brand’s well-known offroading ability with a comfy ride and good versatility, and at a keen price.

MitsubishiToyota Ford
Pajero Sport Fortuner Everest
2.4 D4 4x4 AT2.8 GD-6 4x4 AT3.2 XLT 4x4 AT
Ride height215mm279mm225mm
Approach30 degrees29 degrees29.4 degrees
Departure24 degrees25 degrees25 degrees
Engine2.4 4-cyl tdi2.8 4-cyl tdi3.2 5-cyl tdi
Power/torque133kW/430Nm130kW/450Nm147kW/470Nm
Rear suspensionIndependent, coilSolid axle, coilSolid axle, watts link
Fuel tank68 litres80 litres80 litres
PriceR599 995R624 100R639 900
Warranty3yr/100 000km3yr/100 000km4yr/120 000km
Service plan5yr/90 000km5yr/90 000km5yr/100 000km
Service interval10 000km10 000km20 000km

Drive360