From £26,1994

The Mitsubishi Shogun used to enjoy a massive market share thanks to the number of buyers seeking a robust, rugged but comfortable SUV without the Range Rover price tag.

Since then, environmental pressures - both financial and social - have polarised the SUV market. Upmarket models sell in good numbers as an alternative to luxury cars, but the volume arena has shrunk, succeeding mainly where buyers need them for more practical reasons.

It's no surprise that the Shogun sells best in rural areas. As it's never had the 'Chelsea Tractor' tag, its less sensitive to changes in fashion, hence why the Shogun last received its significant revamp in 2006, before the latest changes in 2012.

The major mechanicals were introduced at the turn of the millennium. Two passenger car versions are available, alongside a commercial vehicle version. The models of interest to Autocar are the five seat short and seven seat long wheelbase configurations.

Both models have the air of ruggedness in their design, with the spare wheel mounted on the tailgate and plastic mouldings around the bottom of the car. Its off-road credentials back up the look. It has four driving modes - rear wheel drive, full time four-wheel drive, four-wheel with a locking centre diff and low-range gearing for more extreme off-road use.

Changes for the 2012 model year include some styling tweaks, but most importantly, a Euro V-compliant engine. Fundamentally though, the Shogun and its engine are dated.

The Shogun's 197bhp, 325lb ft, 3.2-litre four-cylinder engine is noisy and lumpy compared to the latest six and eight-cylinder units, but emissions have been cut to between 207 and 224g/km. Performance is reasonable, with the models reaching 62mph in between 9.7 and 11.1sec.

It doesn't go down the road too well. The primary ride is okay, especially for tall car; it resists excess roll and float but coupled to that, is an unsettled secondary ride across smaller lumps and imperfections. On the plus side, it has good off-road credentials and can tow 3500kg.

The cabin is feels built to last, but it lacks the tactility of the more upmarket models in its class. Equipment levels are reasonable, with all models receiving cruise and climate control and heated seats, and most versions adding leather seats and cruise control.

The Shogun might have an enviable reputation in reliability surveys, but high-end models are pricey - a £40,000 sticker price isn't hard to achieve - putting it in the firing line of some seriously desirable metal. And while the Shogun has undeniable talents, the price tag of high-end models doesn't correlate.

Top 5 Large SUVs

  • Range Rover Sport
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  • The Porsche Cayenne is available as a hybrid for the first time

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  • BMW X5
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  • Land Rover Discovery
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  • The Mk2 model, also based on the Porsche Cayenne, is lighter, roomier and more economical than the first

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