From £26,1994

The Mitsubishi Shogun has its appeal. It needs more chassis finesse, but is still charming

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.

The Shogun used to have a huge market share. It is now a niche product

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.

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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 238 and 245g/km. Performance is reasonable, with the models reaching 62mph in between 10.4 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 three short-wheelbase models and four LWB variants. Entry-level SG2 models get 18in alloy wheels, roof rails, side steps, front foglights, cruise control, climate control, heated seats, Bluetooth, and automatic wipers and lights, while the mid-range SWB Warrior Shogun gets leather upholstery, sat nav, electric windows, a reversing camera, USB connectivity and keyless entry. The range-topping Barbarian model comes with 20in alloy wheels, DAB radio and lots of chrome exterior trim.

The LWB models are available in SG2, SG3, SG4 and SG5 trims. Entry-level models get Bluetooth, USB connectivity, climate control, rear air conditioning, cruise control, 18in alloy wheels, and electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors as standard, while SG3 models get a electric sunroof, tinted rear windows, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, sat nav, a 12-speaker Rockford audio system, DAb radio and adaptive headlights.

The mid-range SG4 trim gets 20in alloy wheels, rear seat DVD entertainment, leather upholstery and heated front seats, while the range-topping SG5 trim adorns the Shogun with premium Nappa leather upholstery, heated rear seats, twin-rear USB sockets and ambient LED interior lighting.  

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.

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Mitsubishi Shogun First drives