Mitsubishi Pajero Sport driven | TopCar

16 Jan 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Mitsubishi Pajero Sport driven | TopCar

Mitsubishi Pajero

Sport driven

September 4, 2013

The bakkie-based SUV segment is a tough-one in which to compete. It’s clear from the sales figures that the Hilux-based Fortuner is South Africa’s favourite (makes sense, given how popular the Hilux is) and the that car has dominated the segment since its inception.

One of its rivals, I feel, has always got a bit of a bum rap. And that’s the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport.

See, I think it’s the best-looking of the lot, with the Ford Everest’s ungainly lines and the Hilux’s dated appearance only adding fuel to that fire. Since things kicked off and the battle was basically between the three aforementioned vehicles, the segment has grown a little, including Chevrolet’s Isuzu KB-based Trailblazer. Even so, though, why is Mitsubishi’s market share so small?

Well, part of it is undoubtedly the fact that the brand doesn’t offer a 4#215;2 option, which makes up 73% of the segment, though it will be introduced imminently.

So, with that, Mitsubishi thought it time to upgrade its 4#215;4 offering, and though visually it remains quite similar (there are differences in the grille, bumper and taillight clusters, and door handles and wing mirrors are now colour coded), it has been mechanically upgraded and the specification offering has been enhanced. Those mechanical upgrades are quite important, as it is the area in which I feel the Pajero Sport always fell shorter than its rivals. It was a bit agricultural to drive, and a little refinement could have gone a long way.

Given that only two per cent of the segment is petrol powered, as before, Mitsubishi has chosen to go only with diesel power for the Pajero Sport, and the new 2.5-litre engine is a significant improvement over the old 3.2-litre one. It boasts a best-in-class 131kW (11kW up on the 3.2) and churns out 400Nm of torque in the manual derivative, which is an impressive 57Nm more than before. The automatic delivers 350Nm.

But more than the power and torque hikes (as well as the efficiency benefits of the smaller engine), it feels much smoother and more refined than before. There’s also a new automatic transmission, this time with five speeds as opposed to the previous auto ’box’s four cogs and it, too, is much more refined. All of this means that the Pajero Sport offers a smoother drive on road.

Over and above the improved on-road performance, there’s plenty of safety and comfort spec on offer. Six airbags and a host of safety acronyms, including ABS, EBD, BAS and TC make up the safety side, while the convenience spec comprises rain-sensing wipers, light-sensing HID lamps, park distance control, a rearview camera and a touch-screen infotainment unit. Then, of course there’s the practical seven-seat layout where the third row folds into the floor (much more practical than rivals that have the seats fold up the side of the cargo area).

While specification may impress, the interior itself does not. There are too many different kinds of trim and that old stripey dashboard material still hasn’t changed. Although the quality itself is acceptable, the design and materials are not, and that is one area in which the Pajero Sport lets itself down.

However, being an SUV, it can’t be judged purely on its on-road ability and comfort. Luckily, the Pajero Sport was given the opportunity to prove itself off the beaten track at De Wildt, where it did just that. Numerous steep and slippery climbs, massive wheel articulation obstacles and a variety of other challenges posed no problems for the Pajero Sport.

It was able to dispatch the obstacles and, although not always with ease, every car in the convoy completed the challenges.

To further enhance the appeal of the new Pajero Sport, Mitsubishi has priced it at the lower end of the segment’s spectrum, even though it offers features closer to those available for around R50 000 more. The manual starts at R435 900, which is R10 000 more than the cheapest Everest, but the automatic is only R10 000 more than that, which is cheaper than the higher-spec Everest and significantly more affordable than the dated, lower-spec segment leader.

To be perfectly honest, all the SUVs in this segment are rather similar. They don#8217;t offer fantastic on-road ability (owed to their bakkie underpinnings) and are all fairly equally capable off road, and the Pajero Sport, with its low-range transfer case and locking centre and rear diffs, is not any better than, say, a Fortuner in that environment. However, as a value offering it impresses more than its rivals and it balances price, spec and ability well to offer an enticing package.

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