What Are We Testing And Why?
They may not be the top-selling wagons in their class but there’s no denying that the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and Toyota Fortuner represent excellent value for money, and the fact the top-spec Exceed and Crusade models come fully loaded for less than $60k driveaway is pretty hard to ignore.
Take a look over the specifications for the Pajero Sport and the Fortuner and you’ll be surprised by the similarities: they’re almost the same size and weight, they have similar peak power and torque outputs, their off-road angles and ground clearance are almost a match and they have similar payloads and towing capacities.
Like many others in this market segment, the Pajero Sport and Fortuner are based on their respective manufacturers’ 4x4 ute platforms, in this case the Triton and HiLux. They have revised styling to distinguish them from their utilitarian siblings, and both run separate body on chassis architecture, independent strut front suspension, multilink live axle rear suspension with coil springs and four-cylinder turbo-diesel engines.
These top-spec models also come standard with automatic transmissions – the 2.4-litre turbo-diesel in the Pajero Sport is mated to an eight-speed auto and the 2.8-litre turbo-diesel in the Fortuner to a six-speed auto. Both are genuinely off-road capable, and come equipped with a two-speed transfer case for slow-speed driving over technically difficult terrain.
Of course, many Pajero Sport Exceeds and Fortuner Crusades are more likely to find themselves enlisted in school-run duties than off-roading adventures, and as such they both come standard with three rows of seats. They also offer large cargo areas for hauling the groceries and plenty of convenience features to make day-to-day commuting less of a chore.
What equipment do they get?
The Pajero Sport Exceed is fully loaded with standard equipment including 18-inch alloy wheels, Super Select II 4WD selectable on-demand 4x4 system, paddle shifters, traction control, stability control, trailer stability assist, hill start assist, a rear diff lock, multi-information display with trip computer, 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, eight speaker audio system, reverse camera, front and rear parking sensors, climate control air conditioning, leather trim, electric-adjust and heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers, dusk-sensing headlights, headlight washers, side steps, Forward Collision Mitigation, Adaptive Cruise Control, Ultrasonic Misacceleration Mitigation System, Blind Spot Warning and Multi Around Monitor.
The Fortuner Crusade is similarly equipped with standard equipment including 18-inch alloy wheels, traction control, stability control, downhill assist control, a rear diff lock, paddle shifters, 4.2-inch colour multi-information display, a 7-inch touchscreen display, premium 11-speaker JBL audio system, satnav, centre cool box, auto LED headlights, LED DRLs, LED fog lights, reversing camera, rear parking sensors, climate control air conditioning, leather trim, power adjustable and heated front seats, keyless entry and start, roof rails, side steps, privacy glass, power tailgate, LED headlights and a 220V power outlet.
What’s Are The Interiors Like?
If you like black then you’ll love the interior look of the Pajero Sport Exceed: there’s black leather, a black dash, piano black facia, black steering wheel and black door trim. Sure, there are a few silver highlights and white pillars and roof lining to break things up a bit, but the interior theme is predominantly… black.
The Exceed’s dash has a simple layout with the touchscreen up nice and high and within easy reach, and big clearly marked switches. The instruments are nicely illuminated and easy to read, there’s a tidy switch on the centre console for the electronic park brake and a chunky rotary dial for the Super Select II 4WD system.
Although the Pajero Sport offers good leg room, the centre console can intrude on the driver’s leg space, making it feel a bit cramped behind the wheel. The front seats are generous and supportive and there’s rake and reach adjustment for the steering wheel.
The Pajero Sport is one of the narrowest vehicles in its class and it shows in the second-row seat, which is best suited to two adults rather than three. The centre seat position is quite uncomfortable, too, and the seat buckle can dig into the occupant’s posterior.
Access to the Pajero Sport’s third-row seats is pretty good thanks to the second-row’s tumble/fold design. Those in the very back do okay for leg room and have their own air vents and cup holders, but the upswept window line hinders outward visibility.
With all seats folded there’s a generous cargo area with a flat floor in the Pajero Sport, although there are only a couple of flimsy cargo tie-down points.
In top-spec Crusade grade, the interior of the Fortuner is visually appealing with a mix of black leather trim on the steering wheel, park brake and glove box, contrasting with fawn (or dark brown or red) leather on the seats, dashboard and centre-console lid. Of course, there’s also a touch of faux woodgrain, but the rest of the interior has lots of nice soft-touch materials and a generally pleasing design.
The driver’s seat feels a little short in the base although the Fortuner offers good fore and aft adjustment. The touchscreen is situated within easy reach, and all controls and switches are clearly marked and logically positioned, although there’s no dial for the audio system’s volume control, and using the up/down buttons can get a bit tedious.
Selecting 4x4 in the Fortuner is performed using a big dial low on the dash, next to which is a button for the Downhill Assist Control.
Like the Pajero Sport, the Fortuner is not particularly wide, and the second-row seat can be tight of you try to squeeze three adults in there. The 60/40 spilt/fold seat can slide fore and aft and has a tumble fold design for access to the third row, but it’s a bit more difficult to climb into the back than in the Pajero Sport.
The Fortuner’s third-row seats fold down from the sides of the cargo area rather than pop up from the floor, and when they’re not in use they eat into valuable cargo space. They can be removed altogether for those who don’t need them, or for trips away, but then you’ll have to find somewhere to store them, as well as allocate some time to reinstall them for those times you do need seven seats. While the Pajero Sport’s third-row seats fold into the floor, this does result in a higher floor height, but it’s still a better solution than the Fortuner’s clunky set-up.
There are no cargo tie-down points in the rear of the Fortuner, which is somewhat of an oversight.
What Are They Like To Drive?
Both the Pajero Sport and Fortuner have well-sorted suspension systems that offer good compliance and control on bumpy backroads and on gravel. The Pajero Sport feels a bit nimbler, and also has an advantage on slippery sealed surfaces thanks to its class-leading selectable on-demand 4x4 system, allowing engagement of full-time 4X4 on both sealed and unsealed surfaces to ensure there’s always plenty of traction available.
While the Pajero Sport has a slight torque disadvantage, its excellent eight-speed auto negates any performance deficit. In fact, the Pajero Sport feels spritely on the road, whereas the Fortuner’s tall gearing blunts performance and results in its six-speed auto dropping back a cog or two at the hint of an incline.
Both vehicles are reasonably economical but once again the Pajero Sport has the edge (on test we recorded an average figure of 11.2L/100km in the Pajero Sport and 11.8L/100km in the Fortuner). But when it comes to touring range the Toyota triumphs – the Pajero Sport has a smallish 68L fuel tank compared with the Fortuner’s 80L tank.
While the Pajero Sport is more engaging on the road, the Fortuner feels more refined, with a smoother, quieter engine and better wind and road noise suppression. The Fortuner’s tall gearing also means it feels more relaxed at freeway speeds with the tacho needle hovering around the 1300rpm in top gear, but the Pajero Sport’s better technology package, which includes adaptive cruise control and blind spot warning, takes some of the effort out of long freeway stints.
What Are They Like Off Road?
With similar off-road armaments, it’s hard to pick a winner in when it comes to outright off-road capability. Both vehicles have excellent low-range reduction, good ground clearance, reasonable approach, ramp-over and departure angles, and a claimed 700mm wading depth.
Neither vehicle has particularly good front wheel travel, and both are prone to kicking their front wheels in the air over undulating terrain, but their effective electronic traction control systems overcome this to some degree. And while both have standard locking rear diffs, engaging them annoyingly deactivates their traction control systems, so in some circumstances you’re better off leaving the diff-lock switch alone.
When it comes to off-road practicalities, both vehicles have enough space under the bonnet to fit an auxiliary battery, both wear 265/60R18 rubber (these days there are several Light Truck tyre options in this size) and, if you get into strife trying to find out which vehicle will go further off-road, you’ll be pleased to know that both are equipped with decent recovery points front and rear.
What Safety Features Do They Get?
Both vehicles were awarded a five-star ANCAP score in 2015, but the Pajero Sport Exceed trumps the Fortuner Crusade for safety features thanks to the inclusion of Blind Spot Warning, Lane Change Assist, Forward Collision Mitigation, Adaptive Cruise Control, Ultrasonic Misacceleration Mitigation System, and Multi Around Monitor.
Both vehicles are equipped with ABS, TC, stability control, trailer sway control, seven SRS airbags, Hill Start Assist, hill descent control, second-row ISOFIX points and various other standard safety features.
Which One Wins And Why?
While these two vehicles have many similarities, the Pajero Sport Exceed is a clear winner thanks to its superior selectable full-time 4x4 system, more comprehensive safety package and better third-row seat solution. Having said that, the Fortuner Crusade wins in the styling stakes, both inside and out, and is a slightly more refined drive on the road.
Whichever way you go, you will not be disappointed with the value for money equation provided by both these capable seven-seat off-road luxury wagons.
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Exceed
Pricing $56,990 driveaway Warranty five-years, 100,000km Service 12 months/15,000km Safety Five star ANCAP (2015) Engine 2.4-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel Power 133kW at 3500rpm Torque 430Nm at 2500rpm Transmission eight-speed automatic Drive selectable full-time four-wheel drive Kerb weight 2105kg GVM 2710kg Payload 605kg GCM 5400kg Towing capacity 750/3100kg Dimensions 4785mm (L); 1815mm (W); 1805mm (H) Track 1520/1515mm Turning Circle 11.2m Ground Clearance 228mm Approach 30° Rampover 23.1° Departure 24.2° Wading depth 700mm Spare Full size Fuel Tank 68L Thirst 8.0L/100km (combined)
Toyota Fortuner Crusade
Pricing $57,990 driveaway Warranty three-years, 100,000km Service 12 months/15,000km Safety Five star ANCAP (2015) Engine 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel Power 130kW at 3400rpm Torque 450Nm at 1600-2400rpm Transmission six-speed automatic Drive part-time four-wheel drive Kerb weight 2135kg GVM 2750kg Payload 615kg GCM 5545kg Towing capacity 750/2800kg Dimensions 4795mm (L); 1855mm (W); 1835mm (H) Track 1540/1555mm Turning Circle 11.6m Ground Clearance 225mm Approach 30° Rampover 23.5° Departure 25° Wading depth 700mm Spare Full size Fuel Tank 80L Thirst 8.6L/100km (combined)