Car Advice

2016 Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Exceed – seven-seat practicality test

Robert Pepper’s 2016 Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Exceed seven-seat practicality test.

PRICE : $52,750 (plus ORC); WARRANTY : five-year, 100,000 kilometres; SAFETY : five-star ANCAP; ENGINE : 2.4-litre 4cyl DOHC MIVEC intercooled turbo-diesel, 133kW @ 3500rpm, 430Nm @ 2500rpm; TRANSMISSION : eight-speed automatic, 4WD; BODY : 4.79m (L); 1.82m (W); 1.81m (H); TARE WEIGHT : 2045kg (GLX), 2060 (GLS), 2070 (Exceed); TURNING CIRCLE : 11.2m;  GROUND CLEARANCE : 218mm; APPROACH / RAMP / DEPARTURE ANGLES : 30 / 23 / 24; WADING DEPTH : 700mm;  SEATS : 7; TOWING : 3100kg braked / 750kg unbraked, 310kg TBM; FUEL TANK : 68 litres; SPARE : FULL-SIZE ALLOY; THIRST : 8.0L/100km ADR81/02 combined cycle; FUEL : diesel

WE HAVE DRIVEN the Pajero Sport in Japan ahead of its Australian launch, at its Australian launch and conducted an extensive on and offroad test, but all that was with the five-seater variant. Back in July Mitsubishi announced the Pajero Sport would gain seven seats; the base model GLX remains a five seater but the GLS and Exceed models add a third row. So we borrowed a top-spec Exceed for a week-long test, and as this is the only significant change to the vehicle since our other recent tests we’ll focus this test only on the seating.

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But first, the question on your mind must be addressed.

Pajero or Pajero Sport?

Back in December 2015 we broke the news in Australia that the Pajero was to be discontinued, which was a shame but not a great surprise given it’s not really been developed very much since its launch in 2000. When the Pajero Sport was launched there was immediate confusion; both vehicles are offroaders of about the same size, but at least the Pajero had seven seats, whereas the Sport five. Now the Sport also has seven seats the difference narrows still further, so in brief, why buy a Pajero when you can have a Pajero Sport?

The short answer is it’s hard now to make a case for the Pajero; the seven seat system on the Sport is better, it can tow more, is lighter, more fuel efficient and offroad capability is pretty much equal…and the Sport is less expensive. The only advantages the Pajero has over the Sport are ground clearance, thanks to its fully-independent suspension, a larger fuel tank and a rear-mounted spare which offroaders will like. Both vehicles run the Super Select 4WD/AWD transmission, but the Sport has an efficient eight gear ratios to the Pajero’s 2000-era five. You’d need to get into personal preferences to choose the Pajero over Pajero Sport, because there’s nothing in the specifications sheets or my testing that would indicate the Pajero is a better buy, especially as the Sport is cheaper.

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4WD, SUV or people mover?

Here’s another question we get from time to time – if you need to shift up to seven people; what do you buy? Broadly, there are three categories of vehicle:

  • 4WDs – offroad oriented vehicles that are generally fairly large, tow well and are suitable for rough terrain use. Examples; Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Mitsubishi Pajero, Toyota Prado, Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series, Land Rover Discovery, Isuzu MU-X.
  • SUVs – can be small or large but are designed more for dirt roads (if that) and are limited in towing ability, but are cheaper than 4WDs. Examples; Hyundai Santa Fe, Toyota Kluger, Land Rover Discovery Sport, Kia Sorento, Volvo XC90.
  • Peoplemovers – dressed up vans that have exceptional interior space and comfort, but no offroad capability and can’t really tow; Honda Odysessy, Kia Carnival, Toyota Tarago. Most people that buy SUVs would be better off with a peoplemover, or should at least consider one more closely than they do.

The Pajero Sport is definitely a 4WD. It has significant offroad capability and can tow 3100kg, although at much reduced payload. It will appeal to people who want that offroad/towing capability along with the seven-seat feature.

The Pajero Sport as a seven-seater

So with the context out of the way, on with the review. Evaluating a vehicle as a seven-seater really means looking at the entire interior and how well it works as a people mover, and in the case of the Pajero Sport, how easily it can be converted back to load lugger.

Starting at the back there’s initial good news; the third row is a 50:50 split, unlike the Pajero which is either both third row seats up, or both down. The third row also folds flat into the floor… or nearly does. The Sport has a design I’ve not seen before, where the seatback folds flat, but the seatbase folds up against the rear of the second row.

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Third row is split 50:50, and with variable seatback angle.
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This is odd. Never seen a seven-seater where the seat base folds up against the second row. The release for the second row is visible on the left on the top of the second row – that’s easy to operate and see.

I’m not a fan, as you lose a good 100mm of loadspace, and it makes the cargo bay a bit of an awkward shape. When touring, I like to use that space right up against the back of the second row for heavy gear you won’t often need such as extra tools. Other manufacturers manage to make their third row entirely flat-folding, so it shouldn’t be beyond Mitsubishi. It also means that you’ll need a different cargo barrier design for 5 and 7 seaters.

There is another problem in that area too, and that’s a lack of a tie-down point. The five-seater version has four tie-downs, the seven misses the two next to the second row. That is a pain in the backside if you’re going to try and secure cargo. There’s also a bit of a gap next to the folded-up third-row seatbase, just waiting for something to be lost down there. Ideally, you want a nice flat floor.

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Because the third row seatbase folds up against the second row you cannot fold the right-side second row seat (the 40% split) down and then get a long loadspace while having the other second row seat up. It works the other way around – fold the 60% split left-side second row down and then there’s enough space for folding the third-row seatbase down.

When the second row is folded down the gap between the third and second row an be eliminated by this carpeted plate:

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That’s good, but ideally the seats should be designed in such a way that it isn’t needed at all.

Next to the tailgate is a handy box that can be used to store a useful amount of kit; tools, recovery gear and like. However, it might need to be buried under other gear so if you’re going to jam the cargo area chock full of gear consider access to the box. 

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Cargo box. The spare release point is the circular thing in the centre. The only two tie-down points in the back are visible left and right.

It’s great that the spare wheel is a full-sized alloy, and underslung so you don’t need to unload the back of the car to get to it. However, the release point may require some unloading to access. Ideally, the release point should be in the door jamb so it’s not accessible unless the door is opened, and doesn’t require any cargo unloading.

The Sport has three child restraint points, which is as expected. What’s not good is their location, which is in the roof. Compared to the best location of halfway down the second row seatback, the roof location is much harder to access and interferes with not only cargo in the back, but a cargo barrier, and even the occupants of the third row. Again, this design is not what you’d expect to see on a vehicle launched in 2015. There are two ISOFIX points in the second row.

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Visible here are two of the three child restraint points in the ceiling, the ceiling-mounted second-row-middle seatbelt, and the vents for the second and third row. There’s a control for the vents in the middle of the ceiling, easily operated by the second row occupants.

The second row of the Pajero Sport could also do with some improvement. First, the seatbelt for the middle position is roof-mounted, not mounted to the second row seat itself. That’s inconvenient to use, and it’s something else hanging down from the roof to get in the way and obstruct visibility. It also makes the seat less suitable for small children as the seatbelt point places the belt too high up close to the throat; we had the same problem with some Subarus. The Sport also has a very small distance between the second row middle seat seatbelt points – 180mm, whereas our Ranger is more like 340mm, and a friend’s X-Trail was similar. A gap of 180mm is enough for one bum cheek, not two.

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That’s an very small second row middle – only about 180mm between the two seatbelt points.

The second row is a 40:60 split. That’s usual for 7-seaters, although some of the best are 40:20:40. The seatback angle can be adjusted on the second row, and there’s a fold-down centre tray. That’s again quite normal. What the Pajero Sport misses is the ability to slide the second row seats fore/aft, which is handy to eke out a bit more cargo space, or trade legroom between second and third rows. It’s good there’s two seatpockets on the back of the second row seats, but the omission of a 12v or USB outlet is an omission that is increasingly painful these days. There are two USB ports in the centre console, so those could be used for charging with a long enough lead, but it’s still not ideal.

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When the Pajero Sport was launched last year the Exceed featured an in-car DVD player with a roof-mounted screen. This has been dropped, and frankly I think that’s no loss as every kid I know has at least one device on which they are addicted to watching YouTube or playing Minecraft. The days of discs are dead, downloads are dying and streaming is where it’s at.

A good feature of the Sport for the second row is cooling vents which can be controlled by the rear-seat occupants. That will make a significant difference on warmer days, and it’s also nice to see privacy glass on the second row.

The third-row itself is, as usual with these vehicles, fairly cramped but it’s not as bad as you might think. I’m just under 6 ft and still had a little headroom, and the third-row seatback is adjustable so you can choose your preferred angle.  image140515_b

There is a drinks holder on the right only, no storage at all for the left seat.

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You can see the cargo blind mounts at the top of the grey trim section. The drinks holder serves both left and right occupants. The 12v socket is next to the seatbelt.

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There’s around 300mm of space behind the third row which is enough for small bags and the like – good for this class of vehicle.

Not supplied with our test car was the cargo blind. There are a few positions for it as shown on our previous test with the five-seater:

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Gallery – click any image to start the slideshow for more images with captions.

Pricing and Range 

The Pajero Sport has only been on sale for about a year, so there’s no major changes to the models since our last test, just a few refinements which are:

  • GLS and Exceed – curtain airbags extended to cover third row occupants (GLX is still a five-seater).
  • All variants – roof-mounted air vents for second and third row occupants. Second row roof-mounted fan control.
  • Exceed – rear entertainment system deleted (DVD player with central roof-mounted screen).

GLX $45,000 plus onroad costs

  • 18-inch wheels.
  • Roof mounted air vents for second and third row, roof mounted fan control.
  • Offroad Mode adaptive terrain system.
  • Apple Carplay/Android Auto.
  • Keyless entry.
  • Reversing sensors and camera.

GLS $48,500 plus onroad costs

  • 7 seats.
  • Rear differential lock.
  • Leather seat facings.
  • Rain sensing wipers.
  • Power driver/passenger seats.
  • Cargo blind.
  • Dusk sensing headlamps.
  • Dual zone aircon.

Exceed $52,750 plus onroad costs

  • 7 seats.
  • Multi Around Monitor (360 camera).
  • Ultrasonic misacceleration Mitigation System (UMS).
  • Blind Spot Warning.
  • Forward Collision Mitigation (FCM).
  • 8 speakers.
  • Heated front seats.
  • Metallic/pearlescent paint is an extra $550.

The driveaway offers at publication are:

  • GLX – $47,500 plus bonus $1,000 EFTPOS Card.
  • GLS – $51,000 plus bonus $1,000 EFTPOS Card.
  • Exceed – $56,000 plus bonus $1,000 EFTPOS Card.

Out of that lot; if you want a 7-seater then the extra safety features of the Exceed are tempting and not bad value. Those not wanting seven seaters – tourers and towers – will perhaps be better off with the GLX as much of the safety gear is more applicable to suburban situations. The annoyance for offroaders is that there’s no differential lock on the GLX…shame because many will want the Sport without 7 seats but with the locker.

Summary

Most of the 4WD seven seaters designed for offroad use and heavy duty towing are a step behind the more road-oriented SUVs when it comes to the interior, and the Pajero Sport is no exception. I’d put it a bit below the average for its class on the basis that the second row doesn’t slide fore/aft, the fold-down of the third row is messy, the narrow second row, lack of forward tie-down points and the location of the child restraint points in the roof, to name but a few criticisms. Unfortunately, the vehicle doesn’t fight back with any particularly impressive features to make it stand out from the crowd. The result is a bit surprising as our review of the Outlander showed that Mitsubishi know how to make a cleverly designed seven-seater which addresses most of the shortcomings we’ve listed here. 

Further reading

 


Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper is a motoring journalist, offroad driver trainer and photographer interested in anything with wings, sails or wheels. He is the author of four books on offroading, and owns a modified Ford Ranger PX which he uses for offroad touring. His other car is a Toyota 86 which exists purely to drive in circles on racetracks, and that's when he isn't racing his Nissan Pulsar. Visit his website: www.l2sfbc.com or follow him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/RobertPepperJourno/ or buy his new ebook!