Pajero Sport is the car you want when you can’t afford a full blown Pajero.
It’s one of a new breed of 4WDs that are based on utes, in this case the Triton utility.
It explains the rather odd profile that sweeps up towards the rear and to some extent the presence of those enormous tail lights.
Sport replaces the previous Challenger and bridges the gap between soft road Outlander and long-serving Pajero off road wagon.
It’s available with five or seven seats, and is powered by an economical turbo diesel with low range gearing that delivers real off road capability.
If you don’t want or need the extra seats, the luggage area is cavernous, easily capable of swallowing all the gear that goes with a family holiday.
Our daughter and her husband have two young children and have started to outgrow their Mitsubishi Outlander which has performed flawlessly until now.
The problem for them and other young families is that the step up to something larger is a stretch.
Pajero Sport certainly fits the bill in terms of size, but it’s still a 50 per cent hike on the price they paid for their Outlander.
What’s it cost?
Prices start from $44,990 driveaway for the entry GLX with five seats.
Then comes the GLS, at $49,990, again with five seats, GLS 7-seat for $50,990, Black Edition 7-seat for $52,240 and top of the line Exceed 7-seat for $54,490.
Our test vehicle was the humble GLX, with an 8-speed auto, Super Select II 4WD system and Off-road Terrain Control System.
GLX doesn’t look or feel low rent, with an electric park brake, keyless entry and push-button start, Smartphone Link Display Audio, reversing camera and rear parking sensors.
It also comes with water repellent cloth trim and single climate control air, with a rear cooling unit and air outlets in the roof to keep the grommets happy.
There’s 18-inch alloys with a full-size alloy spare, digital radio, LED head and tail lights as well as day time runners, plus trailer stability assist.
Auto emergency braking, called Forward Collision Mitigation (FCM), is also standard, along with adaptive cruise control.
It is fitted with with seven airbags including a driver’s knee bag and has a five-star crash rating.
What’s it go like?
Pajero Sport puts away the kilometres comfortably and uses little fuel in the process, with plenty of room in the back for bags and body boards and the rest of the trappings that go with family holidays.
The 2.4-litre MIVEC turbo diesel engine produces 133kW of power at 3500 revs and 430Nm of torque at 2500 revs.
It’s paired with an economical 8-speed Aisin transmission, with a wide spread of ratios that aid acceleration and reduce fuel consumption.
Neutral idle reduces transmission drag, when the vehicle is stationary and in gear, reducing fuel consumption.
The Super Select II 4WD system, operated via a selector dial between the seats, allows the driver to switch between four drive modes with a locking centre differential.
Suspension is double wishbone with coil spring set up at the front and a more compliant, three-link rigid axle with coil spring suspension at the rear, instead of the leaf springs found under the back of the ute.
It can tow a 3100kg braked tailer.
Rated at 8.0L/100km, we were getting 7.1L/100km from the 68-litre tank after close to 1400km, although we should in fairness point out the trip computer keeps re-setting (as it has in the past with other Mitsus we’ve tested).
Months later we’re still waiting for a satisfactory answer on that one.
Our trip took us several hundred kilometres down the coast, on motorways and the winding Pacific Hwy, with a short but treacherous crossing of a mountain range in the wet and dark.
The Sport feels old school, sitting high with plenty of rock n’ roll in corners, but sophisticated electronics to stop the driver from losing control.
The suspension can be jarring at times, with the part time four-wheel drive system needing to be engaged manually when required.
Surprisingly, at this price point, it gets gear shift paddles which come in handy keeping the engine on song over winding mountain roads.
If you’re not in a hurry, the transmission does an okay job otherwise.
On the downside this model does not come with satellite navigation, but you can connect your mobile phone to the car via CarPlay or Android Auto, which projects the map on screen.
The idea is sound but it took several attempts to connect a late model Samsung Galaxy S8+.