Mitsubishi Pajero has a long history of being extremely capable for a range of tasks, as any medium-large four-wheel-drive wagon should be. A number of owners we spoke to were on their second or third Pajero, which is always a good sign.
Pajero is large enough to do the job on and off the road, without being so big that, like Toyota LandCruiser or Nissan Patrol, it feels bulky or is intimidating to drive. And seven-seat versions add to its appeal.
Pajero underwent an extensive revision with the NS series in 2006, the start of a long-running fourth generation that subtly evolved over the next decade. Equipment levels are modest in early base models but get better as you move into later versions and step up the range into higher-spec versions. While you will find a few V6 petrol examples around, the vast majority are the 3.2-litre turbo-diesels (Mitsubishi discontinued the petrol version in 2014). Most will have a five-speed automatic, although there are some five-speed manuals about.
For the 2009 NT series update, Mitsubishi upgraded the diesel engine and introduced a new five-speed automatic with sports modes. The significant boost in performance, along with a substantial reduction in fuel consumption, makes this model far more desirable. In the late 2009 the short-wheel-base versions were dropped but further emission and fuel economy improvements were made, while the potentially troublesome diesel particulate filter was removed. Mitsubishi continued to reduce fuel consumption and add safety features along the way with the NW and NX series.
For its size, weight and off-road credentials, Pajero still has a reasonably urban-friendly nature with respectable handling and strong performance. Just don’t expect the high-tech presentation or cushioned ride of some of the modern, city-focused SUVs. Independent suspension makes it more agile around town than its larger competitors but it does have a firm ride. The Super Select 4WD system allows you to change between 2WD and 4WD on the move, at up to 100km/h.
The high driving position is comfortable and good all-round visibility adds to the driving ease. Cabin space is sufficient to comfortably accommodate up to seven people with good headroom and respectable legroom, although the third row is more suited to children or small adults. The folding mechanism for both second and third rows is cumbersome.
Thorough check needed
Pajero has a reputation for being solid and reliable but the way any vehicle has been used has a bearing on its condition. Previous owners may have explored rough tracks or taken full advantage of the towing ability. So check under the vehicle for scrape marks and damage that may indicate a hard life. And make sure the 4WD system operates correctly.
Most of the problems RACV vehicle inspectors find are normal wear-and-tear items. High-kilometre examples can ride a little harshly as the suspension bushes wear. Make sure service history is up to date; scheduled servicing is 15,000km or 12 months. Especially check that valve adjustment on the diesels as specified in the owner’s manual has been performed as well as regular replacement of the fuel filter. Early automatic transmissions need servicing every 45,000km; in the later versions it’s 105,000km. There have been some issues with EGR valve clogging.
Some owners expressed concern about the cost of updating sat-nav maps. Mitsubishi has now moved to a smartphone system so maps are automatically updated, but the system is reliant on phone coverage and consumes your phone data.
Used car review: Greg Hill
Fuel consumption. Early versions do 14-16L/100km in normal use but this can climb to 20L/100km when towing. In later versions these figures drop to 10-12L, and 16-18L for towing.
Safety. Models from April 2013 have a five-star ANCAP rating.
Towing. Diesels up to 2009 could tow a maximum 2500kg; it was then upgraded to 3000kg. But there can be ball weight and load distribution issues; it’s worth seeking professional advice.
The competition. Toyota LandCruiser, Toyota Prado, Nissan Patrol, Nissan Pathfinder, Jeep Grand Cherokee.