Introduced in November 1994, the Mitsubishi Colt started life as a twin-cab 4X4 based on a 4×2 pick-up. It has part-time four-wheel drive with automatic free-wheel hubs. Some early Colts had transfer gearbox failures, a problem which was sorted out fairly early in the vehicle’s production run, so buying second-hand should be fairly safe. Another weakness are its free-wheel front hubs as they are not robust and failures are common.
The second generation Colt is happily not a first-generation Colt with some new body panels and interior; it was a complete revision. Off-road the improvement is excellent: Gone is the harsh ride and lack of wheel travel. And so the Colt became an accomplished off-roader to take its place with the best of Toyota, Isuzu and Nissan. The Colt is also well built and I know many who have successfully used them for the most rugged outback adventures and the vehicle proves itself time and time again as robust and reliable. The Colt’s weakness is its turbo-diesel engine, which can, and oftern is, troublesome after about 130 000kms. These engines, if used for heavy work like towing long distances in high ambient temperatures, do not last particularly long and turbo failures are common. The Colt was the first double-cab to be available with automatic transmission, which I don’t recommend if your intention is rough off-road driving, especially with the V6.
Daimler Chrysler South Africa elected to miss out on an entire model range and at the time of writing its production is winding down in favour of the Triton, a less macho, lighter machine that does not seem to be nearly as popular as the Colt. I cannot understand why as in so many ways, it is far better.
Introduced mid 2007 Triton was launched in addition to the Colt, as Mitsubishi’s premier pickup, and I am sure will soon replace it as Mitsubishi’s one-ton single and double cab pick-up. Its looks appear to be its drawback, as it is not finding the following enjoyed by Colt. The engine lineup is all new, with a 2,5-litre turbo-diesel replacing the 2,8-litre, but producing more power and torque while being lighter and producing lower emissions. There is no big petrol engine option. Transmission is similar to Pajero’s Super-Select four wheel drive. White the Triton is better suited on-road than off, it is still good in the rough, and while not having the Colt’s solid feel, it is gaining a good reputation off-road. When comparing it with the Colt, its a better ride, off and on road, it has better seats, better steering, improved safety and visibility and is a much nicer drive. As a package though, unlike the Colt, it is a modern vehicle and competes well against its competition for performance, if not looks. Early Triton models were available with Super-Select gearbox, but this has ended as a cost-saving measure. The Pajero-Sport, a Triton based station-wagon, not unlike the Hilux-based Fortuner was due to be launched in South Africa in 2009 but was postponed because of the worldwide recession.
When first introduced in the ‘80s, the Pajero was built with 2,8-litre turbo-diesel or 3,5-litre V6 petrol engines and has since evolved into the excellent, dual-purpose vehicle it remains today, home in the city and bush. Through its evolution the Pajero has retained the vital ingredients of a true off-roader, namely low-range gearing and good ground clearance.
One of the Pajero’s selling points is that it is neither a part-time nor full-time four-wheel drive vehicle as the driver may choose to be either. This is Mitsubishi’s ‘Super-Select’ transmission allowing a choice of two or four-wheel drive for use on-road and four-wheel drive for use off-road including low range gears. This system is a mixed blessing: good in theory but in practice less so, because rarely do drivers use the system correctly; engaging four-wheel drive when it rains or even on gravel roads where it is designed to be used for the safety benefits derived from four-wheel drive. Also, I believe that full-time four wheel drive is safer, wears tyres slower, impacts the environment less and provides an altogether better ride than two-wheel drive; all these advantages for an almost immeasurable increase in fuel consumption. I must therefore ask: why offer a two-wheel drive option at all?
Off-road the Pajero is a good performer and is easy to drive. Rear axle articulation is good but at front, where it counts the most, it is very poor. This is why the Pajero is so stable on-road. Even mild off-road obstacles will find the front wheels lifting and spinning. Despite this, this shortcoming can often be overcome by driving technique and the Pajero has gained a vast and devoted following. Some models have a rear diff-lock fitted, a significant advantage with this vehicle.
The short wheelbase Pajero is not as good as its long wheelbase brother either on-road or off. On-road it is not quite as smooth and effortless but, in this sphere, is superior to anything in its class. One thing that struck me when driving the SWB well over the speed limit on a film shoot was its outstanding stability at high speed, not something normally associated with short-wheelbase vehicles.
The 1998 cosmetic changes did not help the Pajero in any way and the additions look like cheap after-sales add-ons and did nothing meaningful other than lower its clearance.
The 2002 model, distinguished by its rounded wheel arches and rally-car styling, is better off-road than it looks: Its bodywork, on first appearance looks low to the ground but off-road it’s quite good, its auto gearboxes working brilliantly in the rough. Add some additional clearance with an after-market suspension kit and the Pajero becomes an off-roader that performs extremely well, even in very challenging terrain. The SWB version is similar to the LWB but, with adults in the back, expect complaints about a severe lack of leg-room and packing space.
Upgrades since 2002 have been mainly cosmetic, and in my view all have made it a better looking vehicle than its first manifestation. Engine options were a 3.8 litre, V6 or the 3.2 litre, 4-cyl turbo-diesel.
The 2007 facelift introduced a better looking Pajero but with no significant performance changes, although I am sorry to say it is beginning to go soft. The GLS high-spec version is too fiddly: it peeps warnings seemingly without provocation, the super-select is slow to inputs (locking the centre diff while moving can take minutes instead of seconds) and it frustrated me off-road as I learnt a bunch of new skills when handling its traction control and hill descent control.
On a dune driving excursion I, for the first time ever, damaged a test vehicle. The front bumper was bent back, the rear bumper was ripped off, the wheel alignment went out and the sump tray was bent. Only the front bumper damage could I assign to a mistake while driving, after I went over a dune slip-face a bit too fast, but all the other damages were due to wear and tear. This kind of damage for this type of terrain is unacceptable for a vehicle claiming to be an off-roader. My conclusion is that parjeo has gone soft and I once really liked it, but no longer do. It still out-performs the Pathfinder off road, but is way behind the Prado and Discovery for robustness. If you want a Pajero and want to go off road, don’t even consider the GLS, but rather go for the GLX version and upgrade the suspension to give a little more clearance. Engine choices are a 3.2-litre, 4-cylinder diesel with common-rail direct fuel-injection for which Mitsubishi quotes 121kW at 3500rpm and a 3,8-litre V6 petrol engine producing 184kW at 6000rpm.