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Reviewed & tested: 2021 Mitsubishi Pajero Sport 2.4 MIVEC Turbo Diesel

20658
VIEWS

A quartet of 4×4 trails and winter thrown into the muddy mix makes for a great adventure

  • Excellent on & off-road ability
  • Great interior refinement
  • Lots of space
  • Highly affordable pricing
  • 3 year/100 000km warranty
  • 5 year/90 000km service plan
  • 5 year roadside assistance

My recent winter foray to the Cederberg Citrusdal area in a Mitsubishi Pajero Sport with an Invader Duo in tow was a great way to test the vehicle. I must say, I had my doubts when the vehicle was delivered to our SA4X4 premises but after spending many hours behind the wheel, and many more hours on 4×4 trails of varying difficulty, I can safely report that the Pajero Sport handled admirably. I can even be overheard saying in one of the off-road videos while traversing a very sandy obstacle, “It’s inconceivable that such a heavy weight (the car) can get up such steep soft sand gradients.” But I also spent many hours traversing very rocky 4×4 trails with the tyres deflated to 1 bar to avoid punctures.

Yes, there were some hairy moments, when angles of lean were getting close to rollover, where certain sections were do or die and when slipping off the mountainside and tumbling a few hundred metres down a steep cliff face into the valley below was a possible outcome. At one point my copilot decided it was safer to walk during a particular hairy section. Luckily, with careful driving, a good spotter and a healthy dose of adrenaline, the only damage to the Pajero Sport was a small crack in the bumper caused by a protruding rock in a river crossing and a few hairline scratches from encroaching Cape fynbos. This type of superficial damage unfortunately goes with the territory and is almost impossible to curtail, even with the most careful and calculated driving.

The “Tree of Shame” pictured above at Boegoeberg 4×4 campsite is testament to even the toughest 4x4s with seasoned and accomplished drivers falling prey to very difficult conditions. The array of bumpers, fenders, mud flaps, stub axles, control arms, number plates, running boards, CV boots and other bits and pieces that were torn off 4×4 vehicles during off-road meanders is impressive. Yes, I put a small crack in the Pajero’s bumper, but at least I didn’t leave a bumper behind to be added to the “Tree of Shame”.

The cracked bumper occurred during a river crossing with a steep exit angle

The trip started out at Bushmans Cave 4×4, which is about 30 km outside Clanwilliam and is home to some great 4×4 trails. From there we spent two days at Marcuskraal 4×4, two days at Koningskop 4×4 and finally two days at Boegoeberg 4×4. During our stay at these venues, many hours were dedicated driving the various 4×4 trails and getting to know the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport.

The Mitsubishi Pajero Sport handled the varied & testing off-road conditions well

UNDER THE HOOD

The Pajero Sport is fitted with 2.4 MIVEC Turbo Diesel motor that pushes out a healthy 133kW of power @3500rpm and 430Nm of torque @2500rpm. We were towing an Invader off-road caravan on the trip that had a GVM of 1500kg and the Pajero Sport had no problem towing this added load on severely potholed and rain washed gravel roads. Engine noise levels for a diesel are diffused and interior cabin noise is kept to a minimum. I found the Pajero Sport to be good on the long road and off-road.

The 2.4 MIVEC Turbo Diesel motor ticked over nicely during the entire trip

DISPLAY & ENTERTAINMENT

The digital colour instrument cluster is easy on the eye and the entertainment system with 8“ touch screen offers very good sound, though there is an absence of GPS. I used the cruise control on the long road often and the multi-function steering wheel offers a variety of functions at your fingertips. The steering column mounted paddle shifters offer an added element to driving, though I seldom used this function. The Pajero Sport has Bluetooth with hands-free voice control and smartphone-link display audio (SDA) for added convenience. The automatic dual-zone air conditioning keeps the temperature just where you want it and there are controls for rear passengers.

Interior refinements are next level though it could do with navigation

SEATING, COMFORT & SPACE

The leather seating is very comfortable offering great cushioning for the long road, coupled with a firm drive. Talking of the passenger seating, it offers extensive leg room. The boot also offers extensive packing space and the two rear jump seats fold away neatly into the floor of the boot, allowing for added space. Its competitor the Fortuner has jump seats fold up to the sides of the boot, limiting boot space.

Seating is supremely comfortable and space is generous

SUPER SELECT 4WD SYSTEM

Once I had familiarised myself with the Super Select 4WD system, changing between 2H, 4H, 4HL and 4LL was easy, allowing me to find just the right mode to suit the particular terrain. The 8-speed auto gearbox moves seamlessly between gears.

LET’S GO OFF-ROAD – MARCUSKRAAL 4X4

I was very impressed with the Pajero Sport’s ability to negotiate thick loose sand, mud and rocky obstacles. At Marcuskraal 4×4 I participated in one of their 4×4 tracks on a drive that took about two hours. The 4×4 track starts at the bottom of a small mountain, making its way up to the top on some very steep loose rocky inclines. The route then plateaued out followed by a steep descent which was equally difficult with large rock obstacles, loose rock, tight turns and high angles of lean.

Initially, about 250 metres from the start, I thought I had taken a wrong turn, such was the very steep gradient presented before me. To ensure I had not taken a wrong turn (the road ahead looked ominously steep and rocky) I had to reverse all the way back along the single lane track to the starting point and relook at the route again. It turns out the route I was on was the correct one, so off I went for the second time, to face the tough conditions ahead. After about two hours of crawling through the rock obstacles in the mountains above Marcuskraal 4×4, I made it to the exit gate. Serious off-road driving takes incredible concentration. On this 4×4 track the Pajero was in full low range with rear diff lock and hill descent control activated.

BOEGOEBERG 4X4

At the Boegoeberg 4×4 trail I also put the Pajero Sport through its paces and here too, it proved it was up to the task, negotiating rock obstacles, steep gravel roads, encroaching bush, mud and thick sand. This is where the Pajero Sport’s bumper took a hit during the river crossing, as the departure angle, the bumper overhang and a protruding rock in the stream were in conflict. In typical girlie fashion, the videographer Nathalie screamed out from the river bank above “You’ve torn off the bumper!” My heart skipped a beat as I envisioned the bumper bobbing off down the stream leaving a naked Pajero in its wake. This was not the case, and a slight exaggeration by the videographer. Much to my relief, there was only a slight crack in the bumper.

KONINGSKOP 4X4

The 4×4 trails at Koningskop range in levels of difficulty and I was fortunate that Izak the owner accompanied me on the trip to act as a spotter and to suggest the best routes. We undertook the slightly easier 4×4 track and later I ventured up the more difficult track where I eventually had to turn around due to failing light. A word of caution here: if you do attempt a tight single lane 4×4 track with a very steep gradient, it is incredibly difficult to turn around and head back the way you came. I had to either reverse out for about a kilometer due to thick encroaching bush or turn around in an incredibly tight maneuver. I decided the latter would be more fortuitous and after a 37 point turn, I was able to extricate myself from the claws of the Koningskop 4×4 trail and head back before sunset.

BUSHMANS CAVE 4X4

The Bushmans Cave 4×4 trails vary in difficulty, and the Pajero handled the Cape Fynbos trails with ease. Some of the sections had heavily encroaching fynbos which is really no good for a vehicle’s paintwork. There’s that spine tingling squeeeeeeeeeeek as the hardy bushes do their best to scratch graffiti into the car’s paintwork. To make matters worse, our test Pajero Sport was no other than dark Graphite Grey, which tends to highlight paint anomalies such as fynbos scratches. Both the other colours offered in the Pajero Sport range would have been far better choices to hide the scratches, namely Diamond White or Sterling Silver. Quite honestly, and merely my opinion after spending many years in the motor industry, white is the best colour for any vehicle, particularly if it’s going off-road. White is also easier to repair and less costly than metallic paints.

STANDARD EQUIPMENT

The Pajero Sport has a long list of standard equipment and the vehicle I was in, has the second highest specification in the range. Electric windows, USB ports, accessory sockets, sunglasses holder, power plug, tailgate spoiler, sidestep accents and 18” alloy wheels are standard. The 8-speed auto gearbox moves seamlessly through its gears and gearing is a good mix for on and off-road driving. The Super Select 4WD system is easy to operate, as are the column mounted paddle shifters.

TOWING & ANGLES

  • 2700kg Towing Mass (Braked)
  • 30º Approach Angle*
  • 2º Departure Angle*
  • 1º Ramp Breakover Angle*
  • *4X4 MODELS ONLY

RIMS & TYRES 

The Pajero Sport has 6-spoke alloy rims and is shod with Toyo Open Country 18” tyres which coped well off-road and on-road. I had to deflate the tyres to 1 bar when going off-road to prevent punctures. My feeling is that a higher profile tyre, such as a 15” or 16” tyre will be more suited to tougher off-road conditions. With the standard 18” tyres on the Sport, you need to be a bit more circumspect when it comes to sharp rock protrusions or you will have to get on first name terms with the spare tyre. What’s more, if your vehicle is teetering on the edge of a cliff ready to topple, it does create extra stress when having to change a tyre.

FUEL CONSUMPTION

The consumption of the Pajero Sport is claimed to be 8.1 litres on a combined cycle, though I could not verify these figures as I was towing a large off-road caravan and spent much time munching through diesel while on 4×4 tracks.

FINAL THOUGHTS

After spending over a week travelling on some tough terrains towing an off-road Invader Duo weighing in at 1500kg, I can safely say that Mitsubishi had got it right this time. What’s more, the Pajero Sport is a whole lot cheaper than its same class rivals. The Mitsubishi Pajero Sport might be the underdog in the SUV market but is poised to garner a greater following even with the likes of the Toyota Fortuner and Ford Everest in the mix. After many days spent enjoying the Pajero’s comfort, interior refinements, space and off-road abilities, I can safely say that many loyal customers to opposing brands will be jumping ship. Remember, the top of the range Mitsubishi Pajero Sport is between R110 000 and R140 000 cheaper than its closest competitor. In monetary terms, this means you could spoil yourself twice by adding a new Pajero Sport and a new off-road trailer or small caravan to your purchase for the same price. That’s good value!

To find out more about pricing, availability, customisation, optional extras and finance, please click on this link below which will take you directly to the Mitsubishi website in South Africa: click here for more