Shootout: Mitsubishi Pajero Sport vs Toyota Fortuner
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 30.88 – 31.29 lakhs (Mitsubishi Pajero Sport), Rs. 29.98 – 32.61 lakhs (Toyota Fortuner)
Having a lot in common, both these SUVs from Japan offer road presence and space
Times keep changing in the Rs. 20-30 lakh SUV space, the segment of course was dominated by the Mitsubishi Pajero before this segment was officially formed. When there were no options, people chose to buy imported vehicles and it was the Pajero which was on the top of everyone’s list, Mitsubishi even launched the second generation model in India with the SFX moniker. By 2009, there were plenty of options in the segment and the Ford Endeavour was a popular choice but then Toyota launched the Fortuner and everything changed, it instantly became the segment king and sold more than all its rivals combined. There is no real direct rival to the Fortuner, except the Pajero Sport so among these locally assembled Japanese SUVs, which is the better vehicle?
Motor Quest: The Toyota Fortuner is 10-years old and is in its first generation, it was launched globally in 2005 while the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport made its world debut in 2008. Toyota launched the Fortuner in India in 2009 while Mitsubishi bought the Pajero Sport to the country in 2012. Both companies are testing updated versions of these SUVs, due for launch next year.
Styling – Design is a very subjective thing and between both these cars, it’s difficult to decide which is the better looker. There are of course way too many Fortuners on the road and thus the Pajero Sport does come across as striking in comparison. Both cars are big in size and run on the same tyre size, both subscribe to the ‘chrome is good’ mantra with Toyota using it around the fog-lamps while Mitsubishi has pasted chrome on the rearview mirrors. Both these vehicles are big in size, have massively flared wheel arches (more on the Pajero Sport) and both have similar roof rails too.
Mitsubishi does believe in simplicity being the ultimate sophistication so there aren’t too many design highlights to talk about unlike the Fortuner where Toyota has given the car so many nice styling elements like the blackened alloy wheels, hood scoop and the after market like clear lens tail lights (some like it, some don’t). The Fortuner is actually bigger than the Pajero Sport in every dimension but somehow, the Mitsubishi feels bigger in appearance and its size does intimate other smaller vehicles on the road.
Interiors – Both these Japanese cars are similar yet different. What is similar are the equipment levels, both these SUVs gets front airbags, steering mounted audio controls, touch-screen infotainment system with USB, AUX, Bluetooth connectivity (the mic, speaker and wiring on the Pajero is exposed like it’s an aftermarket job), navigation, reversing camera, rear parking sensors, electric driver seat adjustment, multi-information display on top of the centre console (the Pajero Sport has more to display like elevation, etc.), leather seats and projector headlights. The Fortuner does get more features like DVD playback, voice commands, digital climate control, automatic headlights and cruise control. The audio system and sound quality on the Pajero Sport is better and it also feels more appealing as far as the dashboard design goes. The beige interior in the Mitsubishi feels more airy than the all-black cabin of the Fortuner.
When you step inside both cars one after another, you immediately notice that the Fortuner is wider as revealed by the dashboard itself and that’s something the spec sheet states too. Due to this very fact, the Toyota is more welcoming for a third passenger in the second row and both these cars are spacious with nice supportive seats but the Pajero Sport is better in this regard. Storage spaces are plenty in both these cars and it’s the Mitsubishi which is better in comfort when it comes to all three rows, the Toyota also missing out on cupholders in the second row arm rest. Third row seating isn’t for adults in either of these cars but the Pajero Sport fares marginally better, it also has the better boot as one can fold flat the rear seats while one has to fold them up in the Fortuner.
Performance – The Pajero Sport and Fortuner are both offered with 2.5-litre diesel engines but the Toyota is also available with a 3.0-litre oil burner. Due to the pricing of the 3.0-litre version and the output from the 2.5-litre Pajero Sport, we leave out the 2.5-litre engined equipped Fortuner in this comparison. In spite of the lower displacement, the Mitsubishi engine has more power on offer, the Pajero Sport producing 178 PS and 350 Nm of torque (400 Nm on the manual which comes with 4WD as standard while the automatic is 2WD). Toyota offers the 2.5-litre engine (144 PS, 343 Nm) in the Fortuner paired to both manual and automatic transmissions but with 2WD only while the 3.0-litre engine produces 171 PS of power and is available in 2WD manual, 2WD automatic, 4WD manual and 4WD automatic variants. Torque output is 360 Nm on the automatic and 343 Nm on the manual.
The Fortuner has better city performance while the Pajero excels on the highway, both are quick
The Fortuner is around 50 kgs lighter than the Pajero Sport and that along with lower turbo lag helps it in posting better 0-100 km/hr timings. Low-end performance is better on the Toyota as peak torque comes in much earlier while one does have to wait for the Pajero Sport to get going. We timed the Fortuner 4WD AT at 10.99 seconds for the 0-100 km/hr sprint on the VBOX while the Pajero Sport 2WD AT did the same run in 11.21 seconds. Both cars feel punchy and have performance in plenty, quickly picking up speed when you floor the throttle hard. Overtaking isn’t an issue in either but the Pajero does have a better top-end while mid-range is excellent in both.
Both cars get a 5-speed automatic gearbox and both these units are similar as they lack urgency in shifting gears, the unit on the Pajero being marginally better. Both the transmissions like to unnecessary draw in some revs from the engine which can be quite irritating. The Fortuner gets Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) which is Toyota speak for traction control, cutting down power when it senses slip while the Pajero gets steering mounted paddles which are long and excellent to hold. The paddle shifts are a big boon and help you to completely take control of things as the INVECS-II transmission doesn’t intervene by upshifting when you get into manual model. Neither cars aren’t much frugal as mileage figures are around 8-9 km/l with the Pajero being slightly more efficient. But the Toyota has a 10-litre bigger fuel tank (80-litres) which gives it a bigger cruising range.
Driving Dynamics – Both cars are underpinned by a ladder frame and both are top heavy, thus having quite a lot of body roll. While both handle decently, the Pajero Sport is slightly better on the dynamics front with a steering which is more feedback rich. The Toyota has a lighter wheel at low speeds than the heavy one on the Pajero which makes it slightly better in the city, both are still heavy though. But it’s the Pajero Sport with a lower turning radius so taking u-turns is easier in the Mitsubishi (5.6-metres against the Fortuner’s 5.9-metres). The NVH levels on the Mitsubishi are slightly better than the Toyota.
Where the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport absolutely trumps the Toyota Fortuner is in ride quality. The top selling SUV in the segment has a poor low speed ride and the stiffness can be felt by all occupants while the Pajero glides over the worst of tarmac like an SUV should. Even braking performance in the Mitsubishi is far superior. The ground clearance on both cars is 215 mm but with no 4WD AT on the Pajero Sport, one has to choose between the convenience of an automatic or the go anywhere abilities offered by the Super Select 4WD system. The 4WD Pajero Sport is more capable than the 4WD Fortuner although the Toyota is no slouch when it comes to taking the road less travelled.
Safety and After Sales Service – These cars cost Rs. 30 lakhs and it’s a shame that they only get two airbags when cheaper cars come with six airbags. Safety systems are strictly basic, the Pajero Sport gets the same equipment that a top variant of a hatchback gets (dual airbags and ABS), with the Fortuner only having VSC as an extra. These cars aren’t sold in developed markets so big safety agencies like Euro NCAP and IIHS haven’t tested them. Toyota has a much bigger service network than Mitsubishi, it also offers a better sales and service experience with spare parts not being an issue at all.
Verdict – It is quite clear, the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport is a better engineered product than the Toyota Fortuner and since it’s also the newer car in comparison, feels fresher too. The big ace up the Fortuner’s sleeve is the Toyota badge on the hood as the company’s reputation of service, reliability and resale is top notch. That is where the Pajero Sport falters as even though it has better ride, handling, braking, quality, appeal and gearbox, Mitsubishi’s lack of seriousness for the Indian market means there are very few dealerships (heck, there is no dealer in Mumbai!) for this Japanese brand in the country, limiting sales. In the Philippines, the Pajero Sport does outsell the Fortuner which is testimony to the fact that with the right dealer network, Mitsubishi can pose a serious threat to Toyota but with that unlikely to happen, the Innova’s elder sibling will continue to top the charts.
Toyota has more variants of the Fortuner and also offers the TRD kit on the SUV to woo buyers. But the Pajero Sport is the better machine which can’t pose a fight due to Mitsubishi’s lackadaisical approach to the Indian market, the lack of sales and service outlets hurting what is otherwise a fantastic product.
Further Reading –
Picture Editing – Sri Manikanta Achanta