Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Exceed 2020 road test review

Moving Well | Tim Nicholson | Posted on 06 May 2020

Tim Nicholson takes the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Exceed for a road test.

  • Thumbs up

    Value for money, interior space and comfort, useable third row, build quality and general likeability.

  • Thumbs down

    Laggy volume control, average infotainment system, limited front-row storage space.

  • Perfect for

    Off-road adventures and family getaways beyond the city limits.

  • Verdict

    The Pajero Sport is well-built, tough, safe and comfortable, and genuinely enjoyable to drive. It’s simply one of the best off-road SUVs money can buy.


Ute-based SUVs started growing in popularity a few years back and now they are big business. Models like the Ford Everest (based on the Ranger), Toyota Fortuner (based on the HiLux) and Isuzu MU-X (based on the D-Max) have all become popular picks for families keen on off-road adventures.

Add to that list the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport. Based on the impressive Triton ute, the Pajero Sport is not to be confused with the unrelated Pajero, despite both being rugged, ladder-frame 4x4s.

The Pajero is Mitsubishi’s ageing off-road icon – it won the Dakar Rally 12 times if you don’t mind – but the current model has some underpinnings dating back to 1999 and it’s likely to be phased out in the next couple of years. 

The Pajero Sport, however, arrived in 2015 as a replacement for the forgettable Challenger. Fast forward a few years and Mitsubishi has given the Pajero Sport a nip and tuck, with new safety and comfort gear, a refreshed interior and styling tweaks.

The 2015 model’s droopy tail-lights were an acquired taste, but thankfully they’ve been redesigned for the 2020 model. Elsewhere, it gets a higher front bonnet line, new headlights and a refreshed grille treatment reminiscent of the updated ASX and Triton.

The Pajero Sport is offered in three model grades – five-seat-only GLX, five or seven-seat GLS and seven-seat Exceed – ranging in price from $46,990 to $57,190 before on-road costs. That’s very competitive when compared with the aforementioned rivals.

Inside, the cabin has an appealing layout and design and despite the hard plastics on the door and dash, it doesn’t feel cheap. There is a robustness to the interior – it looks like it could take a beating, but it’s also welcoming.

Mitsubishi Pajero 2020
Mitsubishi Pajero 2020
Mitsubishi Pajero 2020

The seats are supportive, and the leather-bound four-spoke steering wheel has clear and convenient controls – although do you really need paddle shifters for a big, diesel off-roader? The central storage bin isn’t massive and the bottle holders in the doors could be bigger.

The new eight-inch central display – up from seven inches in the outgoing version – houses Mitsubishi’s infotainment system and it functions well, but as with many other Japanese manufacturers, it looks dated. Our Exceed test car’s steering-wheel volume control lagged when toggling up or down. The same problem occurred in a different Mitsubishi model the week prior.

Apple CarPlay connected without a hitch and the in-house sat-nav was more than adequate. We are, however, yet to find a better system than Google Maps.

The second-row seats are flat but comfortable and there will be no complaints about space, with ample head and legroom. There’s a couple of USB and 220-volt AC outlets back there and it has roof-mounted air vents, which are much better than the knee-level vents found in most cars. Smart move, Mitsubishi.

The third row is accessible by pulling a lever for the 60/40 tumble-folding second-row seats – a much better option than manual seat folding which can often be cumbersome. When stowed, the third row folds flat into the floor, unlike some of its competitors (hello Toyota Fortuner) which have bulky rear seats that take up cargo space. 

The Pajero can swallow 502 litres with the third row stowed, increasing to 1488 litres with both rows lowered, but when all three are in place that drops to just 131 litres.

Mitsubishi Pajero 2020
Mitsubishi Pajero 2020


Getting in and out of the third row is much easier than expected for a six-foot adult. It was cramped for me, but will be fine for kids. The big D-pillar and small rear-quarter windows means it’s a bit dark back there, but it has storage nooks and more roof-mounted air vents. 

It’s also worth noting that all seven-seat Pajero Sports feature curtain airbags that cover the full length of the cabin – including the third row. The pre-facelift model had a five-star ANCAP rating but the 2020 version is yet to be tested. 

The Pajero Sport’s 133kW/430Nm turbo-diesel engine also found in the Triton is a solid powertrain. It’s got a decent amount of torque and pulls up hills well, but it feels slightly less responsive than the 161-kilogram-lighter Triton.

Mitsubishi has done a good job to suppress engine, road and other noise penetrating the cabin, although there is some vibration through the steering wheel. It’s much quieter than the agricultural-sounding Isuzu MU-X.

The eight-speed automatic transmission shifts when it should, and the steering is heavily weighted and a little doughy – which is not necessarily a bad thing in a vehicle like this. 

Overall the Pajero Sport’s ride is impressive, soaking up all kinds of imperfections on a variety of surfaces. A few kilometres on an unsealed road in 4H highlighted how good it is on gravel, holding the road without a hint of slip. For more adventurous folk, the Pajero Sport has a locking rear differential and a bunch of off-road drive modes – gravel, mud/snow, sand and rock – for proper bush bashing.

Mitsubishi’s combined cycle fuel figure for the Pajero Sport is 8.0 litres per 100 kilometres and we weren’t far off at 9.7L/100km after a week of mixed city, freeway and rural driving.

Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Exceed

PRICING

List price: $57,190 before on-road costs.

Price as tested: $57,190 before on-road costs.

Model range: $46,990-$57,190 before on-road costs.

DRIVETRAIN

Engine / transmission / drive 

2.4-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine, eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive. 

Power: 133kW@3500rpm.

Torque: 430Nm@2500rpm.

Wheels: 265/60R18 110H

FUEL

Type / tank capacity / government ADR figure / CO2 emissions

Diesel, 68-litre tank, 8.0L/100km (government test), 9.7L/100km (RACV test), 212g/km CO2.

STANDARD SAFETY

Autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning, lane change assist, rear cross-traffic alert, front and rear parking sensors, surround-view monitor. 

STANDARD FEATURES

Keyless entry and start, power tailgate, side steps, heated front seats, leather-appointed seats, dual-zone climate control, 8.0-inch touchscreen with sat-nav, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, digital radio and premium eight-speaker audio.

WARRANTY

Five-year/100,000km new-vehicle warranty. Three years capped-price servicing. Service schedule is every 12 months or 15,000km. 

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