Two family favourites fresh from the plastic surgeon. How do they shape up?

Every now and then a good fight is in order. This one is necessary as both the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and the Toyota Fortuner have been through the mangle, so to say. Both just come back from the plastic surgeon’s knife promising a fresh new look and very similar set of answers to the same driving question, to offer us a more than intriguing shootout to ponder.


If both the cars in the images look different, you’d be quite correct. They are. The Fortuner gets a larger, blacked-out wave-mesh pattern grille atop a silver skid plate for a tougher, more integrated look. New, even sleeker daylight running Bi-LED headlamps get prominent chrome eyelids that bridge the grille. Add LED fog lamps and LED strip turn-signals in the lower bumper that double as additional puddle lights after dark.

Moving across to the ‘most stylish Pajero Sport to date’, the tweaked Pajero Sport brings several additional luxuries to ‘the boss of the Mitsubishi Stable’. It also benefits a robust upgraded new Dynamic Shield front grille for a stylish, more modern look. Like the Toyota, it has LED headlamps with daytime running lights and fog lamps and it is now also fitted with cornering lamps.

The big change comes at the rear of the Mitsubishi, which has been toned down a little with shorter LED rear combination lamps. The Fortuner also gets new taillight clusters with striking night-time signature and both cars have neat roof spoilers and 18-inch alloys, metallic silver on the Toyota and polished on the Mitsubishi.


Stepping inside, Both these seven-seaters are finely appointed with the likes of automatic multi-zone climate control, power front seats, multiple power outlets and cup holders. The Toyota gets one-touch operation on all four windows versus auto-down for the Pajero driver only; park distance control and a cooled upper glovebox. The Pajero Sport has a Power Tilt and Sliding Sunroof and an electric tailgate with dual kick sensors.

Both vehicles have full leather interiors with leather-clad tilt and telescopic multi-function steering wheels for audio and cruise control settings at your fingertips. The latest Fortuner has a new metallic-blue dialled traditional instrument cluster with white needles and an elegant new font, while the Mitsubishi has a full-colour digital dials.

Fortuner’s major cabin advance comes via latest generation infotainment with seamless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto mobile mirroring as well as Bluetooth and USB connectivity. Add Google Maps and Waze navigation and Apple Music, JOOX, Spotify and Sound Cloud, and Audio Visual Navigation. The Mitsubishi likewise boasts large 8” touch screen, smartphone-link display audio also has a Car Play, Auto, Bluetooth and hands-free voice control.


The Fortuner has better quality components, more creature comforts, and a quieter cabin. It also trumps the Pajero Sport in terms of infotainment and sound quality. Its controls are also more solid and its finish slightly superior overall. Mitsubishi would do well to bin some of that plasticy trim and finicky switchgear.

The Mitsubishi however benefits better visibility with a higher seating position as well as the fact that the third row seats rise out of the floor, rather than hang off the side like the Fortuner’s and don’t block the rear quarter windows as they do in the Fortuner. On top of this, the Pajero’s rear window extends lower, allowing for greater visibility from the rear view mirror.

Both cars get the full array of airbags, ISOFIX child seat restraints and seatbelt pre-tensioners and electric parking brakes with auto hold functions, as well as active stability and traction control, ABS anti-lock braking system with electronic brake-force distribution and emergency brake assist. The Fortuner’s Toyota Safety Sense additionally integrates a pre-collision system, lane departure alert, adaptive cruise control and road sign recognition.


The Toyota has Connect telematics including in-car Wi-Fi and 15Gb complimentary data for the MyToyota App, while the Pajero comes with Mitsubishi Remote Control Connectivity.

The biggest change in the new Fortuner however comes under the bonnet. It adopts the recently enhanced 1GD Hilux 2.8 GD-6 engine. Now 20kW up to 150 kW, with an additional 50 Nm to hoist torque to 500Nm, it certainly improves performance and fuel economy and is far quieter running too. A larger roller bearing turbocharger and new 250 MPA common-rail injection system are the culprits behind crisper, stronger throttle response.

The Mitsubishi continues with the trusty 2.4-litre intercooled four-cylinder turbodiesel, which while it seems meek in comparison with ‘just’ 133 kW and 430 Nm output, punches well beyond its weight. The Pajero all but matches is bigger, more powerful and stronger rival in almost every performance parameter and the Sport certainly benefits its 110 kilo weight advantage. As well as an additional couple of ratios in its 8-speed automatic ‘box.


That said, while the Toyota finds over a second, the Mitsubishi is a few tenths of a second slower than its predecessor to 100 km/h. But right here, right now, these cars are split by thousandths of a second to 100 km/h. Which leads us to concur that some of its newfound kit, like that moon roof, have stolen a little of the Mitsubishi’s performance. But we’d say it’s all worth those fractions of a second.

The Toyota of course has had its six-speed automatic refreshed by revised ratios and an earlier lockup point, all of which clearly helps too, although the Mitsubishi’s better spread of eight ratios will always be an advantage overall.

The Fortuner however feels more connected to the road and its powerful new engine lets it cruise at total ease. The difference in driver connection (specifically to the front wheels) and cabin noise and comfort, is amplified off road. Its cabin is quieter than the Pajero’s. The Pajero seems to have more rolling resistance off the throttle, possibly due to the smaller engine’s higher compression ratio.


As far as keeping an eye on your rival goes, these Japanese guys do all that rather well. Park these cars side by side and take a close look at them and dimensionally there’s not much the eye can see different. The Mitsubishi is 10 mm shorter than the 4795 mm Toyota and it’s 40 mm narrower at 1815 mm. The 1835 mm Toyota is 35 mm taller and rides on a 55 mm shorter wheelbase at 2745 mm.

The biggest difference is that the Mitsubishi’s 880 mm front overhang is 110 mm shorter than the Toyota’s, but it has a 45 mm longer rear overhang. That all comes across in their relative off-roading statistics. The Pajero’s class-leading 30 degree approach angle beats the Toyota by one, but Fortuner beats the Pajero’s 24.2 degree departure angle by eight-tenths of a degree.

There’s nothing really in the break over angle and there’s just a millimetre difference in ride height with the Mitsubishi closer to the ground at 218 mm. It makes up by turning half a metre tighter full circle and the two tie on a 700 mm wading depth. The Pajero spun off a Triton chassis feels a bit floatier and it rattles slightly more on gravel than the already rough Hilux framed Fortuner.


Both seem more than capable in the trickier off-road bits however, where one’s advantage here, is offset by a disadvantage there, but the biggest difference is the Tri-Star car’s 110 kg curb weight advantage over the 2.19-tonne Toyota. Regular towing capacity is once again a tie at 750 kg, but Fortuner strikes back with a 600 kg superior 3.3 tonne braked trailer towing rating and a 12-litre bigger fuel tank. Both important scalps in this tussle.
Both cars come with a 3-year/100 000 km manufacturer’s warranty, while the Mitsubishi has a 5-year 90 000km service plan at 10 000 km service intervals, while the Fortuner comes with a 9-services/90 000 km service plan. Horses for courses. Again!

At the end of the day, this one comes down to a price-to-credibility call. Were both of these cars parked in the same dealership with the same badges on their handsome grilles, the Mitsubishi’s price doesn’t quite make up for it’s downfalls in comparison to the Fortuner at only R80K less. It’s a solid all round vehicle, but the Fortuner’s premium is well justified. That said, it’s still a very close call.


But bring that all important ’Toyotaness’ into the equation and it becomes quite another matter. That makes an ever so slightly car a far stronger contender and that is the biggest difference here.

Unless of course you are one of those who is sick and tired of going with the flow. In that case, you have a more than capable alternative in the Mitsubishi. It’s just as good, if not better than the Toyota in many significant ways. Shades of grey, as they say…

Story & images: Giordano & Michele Lupini

Car:              Mitsubishi        Toyota
Model:            Pajero Sport      Fortuner 2.8
                  2.4DI-D 4x4       Exceed GD-6 4x4
Engine:           2.4-litre         2.8-litre 
                  turbodiesel I4    turbodiesel I4
Output:           133 kW 430 Nm     150kW 500 Nm
Transmission:     8-speed automatic 6-speed automatic
Drive:            4x4               4x4
Length:           4785 mm           4795 mm
Width:            1815 mm           1855 mm
Height :          1800 mm           1835 mm
Wheelbase:        2800 mm           2745 mm
Front Overhang:   880 mm            990 mm
Rear Overhang:    1105 mm           1060 mm
Turning Circle:   11.2 m            11.6 m
Ground Clearance: 218 mm            219 mm
Approach Angle:   30.0 degrees      29.0 degrees
Break Over Angle: 23.1 degrees      23.5 degrees
Departure Angle:  24.2 degrees      25.0 degrees
Wading Depth      700 mm            700 mm
Braked Towing     2700 kg           3300 kg
0-60 km/h:        4.30 sec          4.26 sec
0-100 km/h:       9.88 sec          9.79 sec
0-120 km/h: 1     14.08 sec         13.24 sec
0-160 km/h        26.99 sec         24.36 sec
400m time:        16.9 sec 1        6.7 sec 
400m speed:       133 km/h          136 km/h
80-120 km/h:      7.31 sec          6.50 sec
120-160 km/h:     13.43 sec         11.12 sec
VMax:             180 km/h          180 km/h
Fuel:             8.1 l/100 km      7.9 l/100 km
CO2:              214 g/km          209 g/km
Warranty/Service: 3y 100K/5y 90K km 3y 100K/9s 90K km
LIST PRICE:       R704K             R785K
RATED:            7                 8
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