Con­tender, de­spite flaws

ROAD TEST/ Ler­ato Matebese spent some time at the helm of the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport to see how it fares against ri­vals

Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS -

The lad­der-on-frame SUV seg­ment is a lu­cra­tive one for any man­u­fac­turer that also plays in yet an­other money spin­ning seg­ment, that of the ubiq­ui­tous dou­ble cab bakkie.

Toy­ota has the Hilux, which spawned the For­tuner, while Ford has the Ever­est that is spun off the Ranger plat­form. Mitsubishi has the su­perb Tri­ton, which is the ba­sis of the Pajero Sport. In essence, all these SUVs are aimed at a sim­i­lar seg­ment.

Nis­san is yet to see a replacement to the Pathfinder, while Volk­swa­gen has al­ways shot down any prospects of bring­ing an Amarok-based SUV to the mar­ket, but I won’t be sur­prised if it fi­nally caves in to the pres­sure and joins the es­tab­lish­ment.

We have sam­pled the For­tuner and Ever­est in their var­i­ous guises and both are a marked im­prove­ment over their pre­de­ces­sors when it comes to over­all re­fine­ment and drive pol­ish. So when the Tri­ton launched ear­lier this year and turned out to be a pleas­ant sur­prise for the team, par­tic­u­larly on re­fine­ment and ride qual­ity, you can imag­ine how we an­tic­i­pated its SUV sib­ling, the Pajero Sport, to be even bet­ter.

First we need to cast our at­ten­tion to the styling which, from the front and side pro­file at least, ar­guably sits be­tween the For­tuner and the Ever­est. There are sharper lines over­all and chrome em­bel­lish­ments up front that give the model a more dis­tinct de­sign com­pared to the Tri­ton. I like it, although things get rather unin­spir­ing to­wards the rear as I feel the de­signer’s pen seemed to have run out of cre­ative ink. It is rather slab-sided back there with too much metal ex­panse and too thin rear light clus­ters.

Thank­fully, the cabin seems to have jogged some creativ­ity back as the over­all tac­tile and per­ceived qual­ity feels more SUV than util­i­tar­ian with plush leather seats (elec­tri­cally ad­justable for the driver’s side) and enough head­room for all three rows of the seven-seat ve­hi­cle. How­ever, I still find the ac­tual floor of the ve­hi­cle is set a tad too high, which as a re­sult means your legs as a driver are slightly more bent than in its ri­vals. It is some­thing that also af­flicted the pre­vi­ous model.

The trade-off, though, is that the model has very good ground clear­ance, which mea­sures a size­able 215mm, which is great for clear­ing ob­sta­cles dur­ing of­froad ex­cur­sions. In fact its prow­ess off-road is firmly in its DNA and with 30° and 20° ap­proach and de­par­ture an­gles re­spec­tively, it can eas­ily scale and de­scend some of the steep­est in­clines with rel­a­tive ease.

The Su­per Select 4-II four­wheel drive sys­tem now utilises a much fancier, but eas­ier to use, ro­tary dial in­stead of the pre­vi­ous model’s gear lever setup. Add fea­tures such as hill des­cent con­trol and Off-road Mode Con­trol and it re­mains ca­pa­ble and eas­ily on a par with ri­vals.

If there is an area where the Pajero Sport seems to be lag­ging it is the low max­i­mum tow­ing ca­pac­ity of 1,800kg (braked trailer), with most ri­vals hav­ing a max­i­mum of 3,500kg. Lug­gage space mea­sures a gen­er­ous 813l with the rear­most seats folded and 193l when they are in use.

Then there is the as­pect of do­ing the mun­dane, daily chore of com­mut­ing the fam­ily and the model for the most part ticks all the right boxes in terms of util­ity space and func­tion­al­ity. The en­gine copes well with the daily rigours of ur­ban traf­fic and the trans­mis­sion is gen­er­ally great.

What was a lit­tle dis­con­cert­ing was that the rear sus­pen­sion tends to be in­ces­santly bouncy, per­haps even more so than the Tri­ton when it is un­laden. Then there is the body sway over un­du­la­tions, which makes for a rather un­pleas­ant ride for those who eas­ily get car sick.

Per­haps I was sim­ply ex­pect­ing a bit more from the Pajero Sport. I ex­pected it to be a more pol­ished prod­uct given that the Tri­ton’s ride qual­ity had thor­oughly im­pressed me. I feel these is­sues could be ad­dressed with a few sus­pen­sion tweaks. Also, the steer­ing wheel tends to Type: Tur­bod­iesel Ca­pac­ity: 2,442cc Power: 133kW at 3,500r/min Torque: 430Nm at 2,500 r/min Type: Eight-speed au­to­matic Type: Four-wheel drive 0-100km/h: N/A Top Speed: N/A Fuel Con­sump­tion: 8.1l/100km Emis­sion: 214g/km not self-cen­tre it­self af­ter ini­tially fol­low­ing the road cam­ber should you take your hands off it, which was rather bizarre.

Then there are the ser­vice in­ter­vals which are pegged at 10,000km, be­low par of the seg­ment stan­dard of 15,000km.

The Pajero Sport, mi­nor flaws apart, re­mains a wor­thy in­clu­sion in the seg­ment and is worth a sec­ond look if you are in the mar­ket.

EN­GINE TRANS­MIS­SION DRIVETRAIN PER­FOR­MANCE (claimed) STAN­DARD FEA­TURES

Mul­ti­func­tion steer­ing wheel, cli­mate con­trol, in­fo­tain­ment with touch­screen CD/MP3 and USB port, Blue­tooth with hands-free voice con­trol, cen­tral lock­ing, six airbags, LED head­lights, day­time run­ning lights, rear park dis­tance con­trol with rear view camera, 18-inch al­loy wheels

COST OF OWN­ER­SHIP

War­ranty: Three-year/100,000km Main­te­nance Plan: Five-year/90,000km Price: R599,995 Lease*: R13,007 per month

The Pajero Sport def­i­nitely stands out for its slightly more flam­boy­ant de­sign.

The in­te­rior is spa­cious and well-ap­pointed but the high floor will make some taller oc­cu­pants feel a bit cramped. The rear de­sign, be­low, is a lit­tle strange com­pared to the lines of the rest of the ve­hi­cle.

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