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Road Test: Mitsubishi Shogun Sport 4

Can the Shogun Sport live up to its namesake’s go-anywhere reputation? Alex Grant finds out.

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SECTOR Large SUV PRICE £39,775 FUEL 31.4mpg CO2 222g/km

The Shogun – or Pajero in most markets – is as fundamental a part of the Mitsubishi brand identity as the carmaker’s triple-diamond logo. It’s a by-word for rugged off-road ability, relied on for decades by emergency services the world over. And yet, for the moment, it’s also a suspicious gap in the line-up. At least in part.

For now, Mitsubishi’s flagship off-roader is the Shogun Sport and, although unrelated to the recently-discontinued full-size Shogun, it’s certainly up to the name. In a market saturated with SUVs, the emphasis here is on utility rather than sports – a ladder-frame chassis derived from the L200, selectable low-ratio gears and locking differentials, with space for bulky loads or three rows of passengers on board.

Shared DNA with a pickup isn’t always a selling point for a passenger car, as anyone who’s driven a one-tonne load hauler unladen will know, but this isn’t just a commercial vehicle with windows. There are no panels shared with the L200 and the rear suspension is a coil-sprung multi-link setup instead of the leaf springs on its stablemate. So, while the ride quality can be a bit busy on poor surfaces, it drives more like a car rather than a commercial vehicle.

That said, it’s perhaps best tasked with rougher terrain. The Shogun Sport shares its 179bhp 2.4-litre four-cylinder diesel engine with the L200, but uses its own eight-speed automatic gearbox and comes with all the right hardware for a life off the beaten track. There are settings for two and four-wheel drive, high and low ratios, and the ability to lock the centre differential, as well as selectable driving modes to suit different surfaces. It can wade through 700mm of water and tow up to 3.1 tonnes.

There are a couple of downsides. The Shogun Sport has no problem achieving its official combined fuel consumption in two-wheel drive mode but, at a little over 30mpg, it’s a costly way to cover long-distances. And, at 222g/km, it’s unlikely to find much company car favour unless drivers absolutely need what it can offer.

That said, for the occasional long journey, it’s a perfectly respectable motorway car. Once you’ve hauled yourself up into the high-set cabin, the seats are excellent while accents of silver and piano black help stop it feeling too utilitarian. The engine can be a little gravelly at low speeds, but the eight-speed gearbox keeps the noise down while cruising and there’s not much wind roar over the cabin either. Body roll is surprisingly well-controlled and the only real adjustment is the relative lethargy with which it responds to steering and throttle inputs. It takes a while to get up to speed, even in Sport mode.

Mitsubishi offers the Shogun Sport as a two-seat commercial vehicle, but passenger versions offer space for two rows of progressively higher seats, seating seven, and the option to fold everything flat for load-carrying. Third-row seating is basic but offers plenty of legroom, if not so much headroom, easily accessed by tipping row two forward, but the downside, as a family car, is that the rear bench is a little narrow for three occupants. Particularly if they’re in child seats.

Global fuel economy standards and the declining demand for very large, very utilitarian off-roaders might mean the end of the Shogun as we’ve come to know it. But for drivers with a need for serious off-tarmac use and some comfort and space on it, there is at least a viable alternative.

What We Think:

The Shogun Sport is most at home off road, particularly with the running costs of a drivetrain designed for heavy-duty use. But it’s also a surprisingly comfortable and accomplished long-distance car when the need arises.

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Alex Grant

Trained on Cardiff University’s renowned Postgraduate Diploma in Motor Magazine Journalism, Alex is an award-winning motoring journalist with ten years’ experience across B2B and consumer titles. A life-long car enthusiast with a fascination for new technology and future drivetrains, he joined Fleet World in April 2011, contributing across the magazine and website portfolio and editing the EV Fleet World Website.