Once upon a time there was the Mitsubishi Triton. Then came the rise of the SUV. Enter, stage left, the Mitsubishi Challenger, a family wagon based on the Triton. Time passes, and now the Challenger is called the Pajero Sport. It’s still based on the Triton, and in GLX form it’s a basic yet comfortable machine. At the time of review it was priced in the mid $40K bracket driveaway.Power is provided by a slightly agricultural sounding diesel with a 2.4L capacity packing 133kW and 430Nm. The useable driving rev range is from 1000 rpm to 2500 rpm and off throttle it’s quiet enough. On throttle and it evokes the diesel rattle of the 1980s. The eight speed auto that’s standard across the range is slick enough however did exhibit some thumps and a jolt, a mild one yes, but a jolt when shifting between Park, Drive, Reverse. It’s not a deal breaker as it’s otherwise a good performer. There’s typical turbo lag, though, from standstill, and perhaps just a little too much of it. Packing 430Nm it’s a little less than others but it’s not all that obvious though. Punch it at highway revs and there’s plenty of torque through the auto to get the Pajero Sport up and hustling. From a standstill, and once the turbo has overcome the lag, it’ll launch well enough in 2WD, and just a little more so in 4WD high range.Mitsubishi has a great economy system. There’s the mandated urban, highway, and combined figures that the government has for all cars, but Mitsubishi is one of a very small number that shows the change of economy depending on how the car is driven, on the fly. Around town the Pajero Sport GLX hovered between ten and eleven litres per one hundred kilometres, but move to the freeway and you can see the economy rate improving, to a final figure of 7.9L/100km. The dash binnacle has a colour LCD screen with a five leaf logo, and it’s here that the driver’s indication of how “eco” they are is on display.The Pajero Sport is a big machine. In GLX form there’s plenty of rear room. Why? It’s a five seater. What this means is that you could fold up a small apartment block, whack it into the cargo area, and still have space for a Great Dane. And an elephant. There’s no skimping on head, leg, and shoulder room either, even with high set seats. Being Triton based does mean it’s a little on the thin side compared to its opposition but there’s ample space for two in the rear seat. The cloth seats are covered in a pleasant weave, are well padded, however there’s a “something” in the right side of the driver’s squab that continually pushed into the thigh when disembarking. It’s also only a manually adjustable seat, meaning that it’s fiddly to get just the right spot.It’s a simple layout for the GLX. No dual zone aircon, an uncluttered look inside, muted shades of black and grey, and a cleanly laid out seven inch touchscreen but the menu system isn’t intuitive for someone that may not be tech-savvy. Apple and Android compatibility is here, naturally, and needed as there isn’t onboard satnav. Surprisingly, also here is DAB or digital audio. It’s a pity that the sound quality was flat and compressed, even after adjusting the sound parameters. Other switch gear is generic Mitsubishi but they’ve managed to have a better look and feel than some competitors in the same market. Being the entry level means there’s spots in the dash that in higher grades have buttons, and although it’s a cost effective measure it looks a bit second rate.Nowadays the call is for USB and 12V sockets to be more available and the Pajero Sport GLX delivers here with four USBs spread between front and rear seat passengers, a 12V in the front, rear, and in the cargo section, and there’s even a three pin plug hidden away in the interior. Red back-lighting is in the tabs and buttons and it looks fab but the icons and fonts being lit tend towards the harder to read side of things. And being entry level it dips out on items like auto headlights, rain sensing wipers, and perhaps a luxury touch by no powered tail gate.It’s a well mannered beast on tarmac, but there’s an odd feeling to the steering rack. Imagine, if you will, a thick rod of lightly pliable rubber. Place either end in the hands and twist, feeling the resistance build. That’s effectively how the steering feels. There’s a full ninety degrees of turn required before there’s a semblance of directional change, meaning there’s some forward planning required for moving left or right. Forward planning is also required for the brakes. There little feel and bite for the stoppers.The Pajero Sport comes with the Terrain Select four wheel drive system. One can dial up two wheel or four wheel drive in high range, or low range with Mud, Gravel, Snow, for some decent dirty excursioning. The Blue Mountains are blessed with numerous tracks suitable for trialing a four wheel drive car, and the Pajero Sport didn’t disappoint. High range modes are swappable up to one hundred kilometres per hour but that’s not recommended at those velocities. The car must be at standstill and in Neutral for the low range options. There are also driving aids for off road work such as Hill Descent Control. This applies the brakes judiciously and for the most part is more than adequate.The GLX’s suspension tune is a compromise, by the car’s user nature, with a hard, quick reacting, feel on tarmac, but a slow and easy slide off road. Driven at velocities of no more than forty kph the ride soaks up the natural irregular surfaces without excessive transmission of those to the cabin. Hit the light reflectors on the highway at the posted speed and that change to bang bang bang is immediately noticeable.Although there’s a ride clearance of 218 mm the Pajero Sport feels like it could do with another ten to twenty. There’s ample approach, departure, wading, and break-over angles (30 degrees, 24 degrees, 700mm, and 23 degrees), and they’re of a level that would be barely explored by the vast majority of buyers. For those that do want to go hard, perhaps a different tyre to the Bridgestone Dueler 265/60/18s fitted may be an option, as they did slip a few times in some sections of the off-road track.Although it’s the bottom of the ladder version there’s still enough mandated safety features to please. Forward Collision Alert is here and it’s a mite sensitive in certain situations, throwing up a false positive and startling the driver. Reverse Camera and guidance is standard, as are parking sensors front and rear. Airbags all around plus the normal traction control features round out the safety package.There’s a limited colour choice for the Pajero Sport, with just four available. The test car was in a colour called Terra Rossa, with metallic paint a $590 option. Warranty is fives years or 100, 000 kilometres. Roadside assist is free for the first twelve months and Mitsubishi offers three years of capped-price servicing at a total cost of $1425 on a 12-month/15,000km schedule.
At The End Of The Drive.
The Pajero Sport suffers from an insidious disease called invisibility. With the advent of SUVs such as Hyundai’s Santa Fe and Tucson, Kia’s Sorento and Sportage, and the like, the need for a high riding, multiple passenger carrying, vehicle based on a four door ute, is declining.
Bespoke designs such as Mitsubishi’s own ASX and Outlander are seen as the preferred alternative by people whose camping lifestyle is sparkling wine and portable gas barbies, not beer cooled in a stream and snaggers cooked over an open fire. But its boofy ute based nature will suit the latter, and for that we remain thankful that cars like the Pajero Sport remain available.