Triton Sport, anyone?

DESPITE THE NAME, THERE’S NO PAJERO IN THE PAJERO SPORT … IT’S ALL TRITON.

MITSUBISHI PAJERO SPORT

MITSUBISHI has been building a wagon based on a Triton ute since 1996, sold here as the Challenger. In some parts of the world it was called a Pajero Sport right from the get-go, but that name was only adopted here in 2015 when this model arrived off the back of the Triton.

Initially the Pajero Sport was only available as a five-seater, but third-row seats were introduced on mid- and top-spec models the following year. The Pajero Sport’s latest update - for the 2018 model year - has seen automatic emergency braking and radar cruise control, features previously exclusive to the top-spec Exceed model, become standard across the range.

What we are driving here is a base-spec GLX; although, it doesn’t present as a ‘budget’ model, even if there’s no third-row seating, a unique feature of the class and possibly one reason behind its strong sales. Not everyone - especially older buyers with grown-up families - needs seven seats.

POWERTRAIN AND PERFORMANCE

THE Pajero Sport shares the same 2.4-litre four-cylinder diesel as the Triton, an all-new engine in 2015. It boasts Euro 5 compliance and comes with the now ubiquitous diesel particulate filter, which is what’s generally needed to bridge the gap from Euro 4 to Euro 5.

The 2.4 is a modern design with relatively low compression ratio (for refinement and lower NOx) and, surprisingly for a relatively small capacity four, it employs counter-rotating balance shafts for improved smoothness. On the road the engine delivers on this promise of modernity and is quiet, smooth and refined, bettered only by the Rexton in this company in that regard.

Despite its smaller capacity it claims the same maximum torque (430Nm) as the 3.0-litre in the MU-X and a little more power (133kW v 130kW), but this doesn’t translate to any performance advantage. Nor does its 2.4-litre capacity make it any better off than the 2.2-litre engine in the Rexton, as it too claims 133kW

Unlike the MU-X and the Trailblazer, the Pajero Sport doesn’t share the gearbox of its donor ute, previously a fivespeed automatic but now a six-speed automatic. Instead the Pajero Sport gets a slick Aisin eight-speed automatic complete with paddle shifters, even on this base-spec GLX.

THE PAJERO SPORT STANDS ALONE IN THIS COMPANY WITH ITS ‘SUPER SELECT’ 4X4 SYSTEM

WHAT’S IN A NAME

IT MAY be called a Pajero Sport, but Triton Sport would be a more accurate name given the Pajero Sport shares nothing with the Pajero and much with the Triton ute upon which it is based. Being ute-based the Pajero Sport has separatechassis construction and a rear live axle whereas the Pajero is a world away with its monocoque construction and fully independent suspension. Ironically, the Pajero Sport is less sporty to drive than the Pajero with its Dakar Rally DNA.

ON-ROAD RIDE AND HANDLING

THE Pajero Sport stands alone in this company with its ‘Super Select’ 4x4 system that allows the driver to select 4x4 on any road surface, sealed or unsealed, wet or dry, and leave it there. It’s effectively a full-time 4x4 system but you still have the option of two-wheel drive. The other three wagons here have part-time 4x4, a relatively rudimentary, less convenient and less safe system.

This alone gives the Pajero Sport a ‘sporty’ edge in this company, also helped by the fact it’s the smallest vehicle here and generally feels more agile in the way it handles. A nicely connected feel to the steering also helps, especially in comparison to the MU-X and the Rexton.

OFF-ROAD

AS WITH the other three wagons here the Pajero Sport isn’t overly endowed with wheel travel and, while better than the Rexton, it can’t quite match the Trailblazer and MU-X half brothers, which still don’t have the wheel travel or the off-road ability of more sophisticated wagons such as Toyota’s Prado and Ford’s Everest.

The Pajero Sport’s electronic traction control isn’t notably effective, either, and while mid- and top-spec models have a driver-switched rear diff-lock, engaging the locker cancels the electronic traction control on both axles so it’s not always a benefit.

The Pajero Sport is still a bit more manoeuvrable and handy in tight spots than the bigger wagons here, and it’s the only one with front and rear recovery points.

CABIN, ACCOMMODATION AND SAFETY

THE Pajero Sport’s cabin is smaller than the other three wagons, something you notice up front and in the second row. The GLX, as tested here, only has two rows of seats but comes out on top in terms of luggage space as a result. It’s also the only one of the three with floor-mounted cargo tie-downs.

Taller drivers may find the driving position a bit cramped, especially for lateral legroom given the wide centre console, but everyone benefits from the steering wheel’s tilt and reach adjustment, something missing in the MU-X and Trailblazer. Good front seats, too.

The Pajero Sport has a five-star ANCAP safety rating and all models have automatic emergency braking, while the Exceed gets blind-spot monitoring.

THE PAJERO SPORT IS STILL A BIT MORE MANOEUVRABLE AND HANDY IN TIGHT SPOTS THAN THE BIGGER WAGONS HERE

PRACTICALITIES

THE Pajero Sport has a 68-litre fuel tank, the second smallest tank here, but on test it had the shortest range given its higher fuel use.

The Pajero Sport has a nominally higher tow rating than the Trailblazer and the MU-X (by 100kg), but if experience with the same powertrain in the Triton is anything to go by that theoretical advantage would evaporate on the road.

The Pajero Sport offers a five-year warranty, four-year roadside assistance, three-year capped-price servicing and 15,000km/12month service intervals.

WHAT YOU GET

ALL Pajero Sport models get ‘smart’ key entry and start, seven airbags, tilt and reach steering wheel adjustment, digital radio, hill-descent control, a selectable ‘Off-Road’ mode, rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, trailer sway control, automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control, LED headlamps and DRLs, and ride on 18s. The GLS adds dual-zone climate, leather, electric seat adjust for driver and passenger, six speakers (up from four), auto headlights and wipers, a rear locker and the option of third-row seats. The top-spec Exceed then adds heated front seats, headlight washers, two additional audio speakers, blindspot monitoring, a tailgate spoiler and third-row seats as standard.