Shogun Sport name returns to the UK, attached to a seven-seat 4x4 that, Mitsubishi hopes, deftly combines practicality, comfort and toughness

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The Mitsubishi Shogun Sport is the Japanese manufacturer’s new flagship SUV, sitting atop a growing family of ruggedly styled, high-riding models.

This car, also known as the Pajero Sport in some markets, is designed to combine practicality — in terms of seating for up to seven people — with the ability to tow sizeable loads and the toughness to cope with excursions off the beaten track.

Customers will be quite singular of purpose; it is estimated that about 90% of Shogun Sports will be specified with a tow bar

At 4785mm long, 1815mm wide and 1805mm high, the Shogun Sport is smaller in every key dimension than the long-wheelbase version of the full-fat Mitsubishi Shogun, but the current version of the latter is being put out to pasture after many years on sale and Mitsubishi hopes its dealers will deftly guide existing and would-be Shogun owners towards this new vehicle.

It marks the revival of the Shogun Sport model name last used here back in 2007 and is billed as an altogether more refined and luxurious 4x4 than the Shogun. For all the talk of sophistication, though, the Shogun Sport shares the fundamentals of its construction with Mitsubishi’s Mitsubishi L200 pick-up. Not that such comparatively simple body-on-frame underpinnings are necessarily a bad thing, because it should at least bestow upon the vehicle a high degree of strength and durability.

Such hardy traits are very important to hardcore owners of Mitsubishi SUVs; the company estimates that, from the 18,500 examples of the previous Shogun Sport sold in the UK between 2000 and 2007, an impressive 12,000 are still in active service. 

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Understanding the Shogun Sport's most appealing aspect

Mitsubishi is confident that it can sell 3000-3500 Shogun Sports per year in the UK in what is a growing large SUV market. However, perhaps more so than some rivals’ models, Shogun Sport customers will be quite singular of purpose; it is estimated that about 90% of Shogun Sports will be specified with a tow bar. The car has a claimed braked trailer towing capacity of 3.1 tonnes, narrowly eclipsing the claimed hauling muscle of a key rival, the Toyota Land Cruiser.

Just two trim levels are being offered, both with the same technical package: a 2.4-litre turbodiesel four-cylinder that produces 179bhp and 317lb ft, mated to a new eight-speed automatic transmission. Don’t expect to find an electrified powertrain here any time soon; Mitsubishi chiefs are adamant that, for now, only diesel can offer the power and torque needed to tow, go off road and/or carry seven. 

The Shogun Sport 3 costs from £37,775 and comes with 18in alloy wheels, leather seats all round, LED lights, dual-zone climate control, a reversing camera, privacy glass, automatic lights and windscreen wipers and a touchscreen infotainment system with a DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. 

The top-spec 4, which starts at £39,775 and is expected to be chosen by three-quarters of Shogun Sport buyers, adds — among other items — heated front seats, an uprated audio system and adaptive cruise control.

Inside the Shogun Sport

It doesn’t take long to look beyond the bold exterior design, which is redolent of the most contemporary of smaller models in Mitsubishi’s SUV family such as the Eclipse Cross, to determine that underneath the Shogun Sport puts an emphasis firmly on good old-fashioned functionality. 

The generous clearance between the tyres and wheel arches emphasises as much, as do the pillar-mounted grab handles, which aren’t just for show; many occupants will find they actually require these to haul themselves up into the elevated cabin.

The middle and rear rows tumble forward and fold down via a yank of toggles and levers, but the various seat sections are quite cumbersome and bulky, and manipulating the seating arrangement isn’t a particularly intuitive process.

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When you do get everything folded down, there’s a 1488-litre load space, although in terms of usability the floor that’s formed by the folded seat backs isn’t completely flat. The rear wheel arches encroach into the available space on either side but nevertheless there’s a decent metre-wide space to play with.

In five-seat configuration, there’s a 502-litre boot, but with all seven seats upright there’s only a slim, upright 131-litre space for storage. Although the Shogun Sport isn’t alone in offering such a small space in this format, its boot space in five-seat layout is more than 100 litres down on a Kia Sorento’s and is even more stingy compared with a Ssangyong Rexton’s load capacity.

At least the rearmost pair of seats in the Shogun Sport should prove suitable for all but very large adults, unlike the chairs in some ‘5+2’ rivals. There is plenty of knee room back there, although the seats place their occupants in a slightly cramped sitting position, with knees drawn up and close to the body — this could prove uncomfortable during longer journeys.

In terms of the second and third rows of seats, there doesn’t seem to be as much adjustability on offer as in some rivals, although the second row does at least recline.

There are no such issues in the comfortable and electrically adjustable leather driver’s seat. The high driving position offers good forward visibility — although head room seems a little tight where the windscreen meets the roof — and, as much as the Shogun Sport is an imposing vehicle in terms of exterior dimensions, it feels pretty manoeuvrable. 

Although its extremities aren’t as squared off as the old Shogun Sport’s, it retains a shape that isn’t too challenging to thread down narrow country lanes even if, as you might expect, it won’t win any awards for agility on twisty roads. For good measure, though, reversing sensors, a 360deg camera and a blindspot warning system are all standard on the higher-specification model.

The interior is cleanly arranged if a little charmless, but doesn’t feel too dissimilar to those of many rivals, barring some cheap-feeling buttons, switches and plastic finishings. The infotainment system is a 7.0in touchscreen that’s basic in both graphics and operation, and hooks up to a smartphone via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, chiefly to enable use of navigation apps — necessary because there’s no integrated sat-nav on offer.

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How does the Shogun Sport perform on the road?

The Shogun Sport defaults to rear-wheel drive to save fuel, and is something of a mixed bag on the road. Even under modest acceleration, the 2.4-litre turbo diesel has a tendency to sound and feel like it is working hard to haul the Shogun Sport up to cruising speed.

When left in automatic mode, the eight-speed gearbox sometimes seems overeager to shuffle through the lower cogs as quickly as it can, perhaps in the interests of improving fuel economy, and doesn’t feel particularly smooth. Conversely, the column-mounted paddles behind the steering wheel engage the gears quickly and positively, so at least it is possible to override the sometimes hyperactive 'box and do it yourself.

On light throttle loads at steady speeds, the Shogun Sport barrels along quite keenly, albeit with noticeable wind noise at motorway pace. Mitsubishi says some of the Shogun Sport’s development budget was spent on bespoke body mounts, dampers tuned for comfort and additional cabin insulation to improve refinement compared with the L200 pick-up, as well as a revised rear suspension set-up to enhance ride and handling.  

The primary ride seems fairly pliant, with roll and float being more effectively contained than you might expect in a vehicle with a relatively high centre of gravity, and it remains well controlled through corners. But imperfect road surfaces highlight the pretty poor secondary ride. The problem, of course, is that British roads are littered with bumps and scars, particularly A and B-roads in the countryside, where Mitsubishi expects the Shogun Sport’s customers to live.

Both variants of the Shogun Sport come with the necessary technology with which to fulfil Mitsubishi’s mission to offer an authentic off-roader. There’s a new Terrain Control System that offers four off-road driving modes: gravel, mud/snow, sand and rock. The settings modify the traction control, throttle response and gearshift points to make the most of the available grip on different terrains.

There’s also the Super Select II four-wheel drive system seen on other Mitsubishi models. It can be manually switched via a rotary controller near the gearlever to either send all of the power to the rear wheels only or to engage full-time four-wheel drive — a process that can be executed on the move at speeds of up to 62mph.

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There are two additional off-road settings that lock the Shogun Sport’s centre differential and apportion power equally to the wheels. One of those settings also engages a low-range gear set. There’s also the further possibility of locking the rear differential via the push of a button.

In a fairly benign off-road course in a disused quarry, we tried a Shogun Sport shod with suitable BF Goodrich All-Terrain rubber (in place of than our road-going test car’s 18in Bridgestone Dueler covers) and couldn’t find evidence to dispute Mitsubishi’s claims of capability in the wilds. The hill descent control system works well to maintain a steady speed on steep gradients, the vehicle can ford deep ponds and the locking diffs work well to negotiate grip-limited situations.   

There’s 218mm of ground clearance, fairly decent axle articulation, approach and departure angles of 30deg and 24.2deg respectively and a water wading depth of 700mm, all of which combine to make a significant plus point over some of the Shogun Sport’s more road-biased rivals in extreme conditions.

How does the Shogun Sport compare to its rivals?

Even for potential Shogun Sport customers who don’t have a penchant for off-roading, it is easy to imagine this 4x4 being one of those vehicles that remains unfazed by the blizzards that seem to paralyse most of the UK’s road network each winter.

Mitsubishi has a small and clearly defined market in mind for the Shogun Sport in the UK and there’s no doubt that the new 4x4 has a fitness for purpose that could appeal to those who tow, haul big loads, need to regularly carry up to six passengers or simply desire a granite-hewn vehicle that is rugged enough to survive World War III.

It could very well carve a respectable niche as a workhorse, but the Shogun Sport feels off the class-leading pace in many other areas, not least the engine’s CO2 emissions of 227g/km, which is fairly calamitous when measured against, for example, a top-spec Sorento 2.2 that produces 170g/km or a similarly powered Land Rover Discovery Sport TD4 that emits 177g/km. That, and the correspondingly less-than-competitive fuel consumption, will likely lead to higher running costs.

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With that in mind, plus the fact that other seven-seaters trump it in terms of spaciousness, cutting-edge technology and on-road driving manners, it’s harder to make a case for the Shogun Sport if you do the majority of your driving on the public road. 

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