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2020 Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Exceed Review

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Imagine having to compete with the likes of the Toyota Fortuner and Ford Everest. There are other competitors like the Isuzu Mu-X and Haval H9 and there is some new competition coming from Nissan in the form of the new Pathfinder, but the Fortuner and Everest are the top sellers in the class and for good reason.

In order to take market share away from the top dogs you need to offer something different, preferably with a stand out feature to set your vehicle apart.

This is where the Mitsubishi is pitching the Pajero Sport. Right off the bat, the styling is very different and doesn’t follow trends. It’s quite easy to make a vehicle look aggressive, draw some straight angular lines and hey presto. The trick though is to make it blend in with the rest of the vehicle, something Mitsubishi has nailed on the head. Every line of the menacing front facia leads to a line down the side of the vehicle, making the vehicle look longer than it actually is.

The LED headlights are complemented by LED fog and turning lights and finished off with crystal inspired running lights. The rear styling is slightly controversial. If you spend time with the vehicle it grows on you, but a few people I encountered in my time with the vehicle said that the taillights need some work. Fortunately, once you show them a photo of what they looked like on the previous model, they more than likely said “Oh okay then it’s not too bad”.

Climb into the vehicle and your met with an interior that is perfectly adequate for the price. In front of the driver is a fully digital display which to be honest, could do with a slightly higher resolution screen. It’s not bad but compared to some other displays available on vehicles now it is a bit behind. Granted those vehicles cost almost twice as much. The center display also a bit outdated, but is thankfully fitted with Android Auto and Apple Carplay, pretty much my go-to system of choice if vehicles have it, irrelevant of how good the OEM infotainment system in a vehicle looks or feels.

Another area where the Pajero Sport ‘Exceeds’ is a cabin that feels like it wraps around you, while not encroaching on space. Even a 1.86m broad-shouldered guy like myself fits in the Pajero Sport without any issues (I’m looking at you original Defender’s).

For the 2020 model update, Mitsubishi added a power boot that can be operated via the key, a button on the boot itself or by swinging your foot under the bumper (I’ll get back to that in the driving section).

If you want to know how a vehicle compares to its rivals, you need to test it on the same terrain in similar conditions. The Fortuner was tested at Ou Trekpad on a medium hot day and so will the Pajero Sport.

Sand is one of the surfaces that is ever-changing, no two runs up a section are the same. Whenever I test a vehicle I always start out as slow as possible, with all available systems engaged to see what the vehicle can do when it is left to make the decisions.
The Pajero Sport is fitted with the 2.4L Mivec turbodiesel, pushing out a fairly adequate 133kW and 430nM, paired with Mitsubishi’s Super Select II offering four different drive modes. The 4H drive mode distributes torque in a 40:60 ratio between the front and rear wheels via a Torsen limited-slip differential for safer on-road driving in slippery conditions i.e. gravel and wet roads. 4HLc (4WD High range with center diff locked) distributes torque equally between the front and rear wheels for improved traction on sand, dirt and snow. 4LLc (4WD Low range with center diff locked) provides greater torque for extreme off-road conditions.

I will admit between filming the review video and forgetting to deflate the tyres, I may have got a bit stuck on an incline, chassis deep in sand. With no shovel or max tracks, digging with my hands would be the only way of getting out. This is where I discovered something quite odd about the vehicle and its ‘swing your foot under the bumper to open the boot’ feature. While removing the sand from behind the rear wheels, the boot kept opening. No big deal, maybe the button was just getting pressed in my pocket. I put the key on the sand next to me, but it kept happening. Turns out, swinging or moving a hand or foot anywhere under the rear of the vehicle opens the boot. Not ideal, but it’s a minor aspect I wouldn’t be too worried about.

Lesson learnt, tyres deflated to 1.2 bar and decent progress was made in the sand. In 4H with Traction Control on, wheel spin is well managed ensuring as long as you select the right line, you shouldn’t have any problems. Approach, departure and breakover angles are 30, 24.2 and 23.1 respectively. For comparison the Fortuner’s figures are 30, 25 and 23.5 while the Everest’s are 29.5, 25 and 21.5.

Where the Pajero Sport also punches above its weight class is in the handling department. With the Sport nomenclature you would expect minimal body roll, at the expense of a firm ride. Even though the Pajero Sport has less body roll on fast tarred roads than its competitors, its suspension is no harsher. This is down to some cleverly engineered anti-roll bars.

As a package, the Pajero Sport is a viable alternative to the big guns. It’s superior road holding abilities is it’s stand out feature and one that is a key selling point in the eyes of many buyers, as tar driving is where the vehicle is probably used most often. Priced at R704 900 for the top of the range Exceed model, it offers great value for buyers looking for a vehicle that stands out from the crowd.