A short-wheelbase SUV has some benefits, but it also has some shortcomings – no pun intended. So what is it like, living with the SWB Pajero?
Let me preface this driving impression by admitting that I have a certain fondness for the current generation Pajero. I have driven it through Botswana to Namibia, and travelled to Mozambique in it. I’ve also spent about a year living with it on a day-to-day basis.
And overall, I’ve found it quite a pleasant experience. Yes, it looks dated compared to some if its competitors, and it is in rather desperate need of a proper replacement, but still, it’s a solid SUV, especially if you’re interested in overlanding. The 3,2-litre Di-DC engine is tough and reliable, and it’s got all the crucial features and equipment.
Previously, I had not spent much time with the SWB version. And, to be honest, it’s a vehicle that has never really made sense to me. Why would one want a short-wheelbase version at that price? It did not seem a practical proposition.
As I drove the “shorty”, though, it started making sense almost immediately. Sitting under the bonnet is the same 3,2-litre oilburner that powers the LWB model. It offers 140 kW of power and 441 Nm of torque. I thought I knew what to expect from the engine, but in the SWB version it provided an altogether different driving experience. The decrease in overall weight definitely had a significant effect on the engine’s performance. It immediately felt more sprightly and potent in the SWB.
Where the weight of the LWB model was very noticeable as the vehicle gained speed, the SWB felt light and agile as it gained momentum. In fact, I quickly grew to appreciate the vehicle’s general agility and manoeuvrability. If you are used to a large SUV, the SWB Pajero is so easy to manage. Tight parking bays and congested streets suddenly aren’t as problematic.
On the downside, the SWB didn’t have quite the smooth and comfortable ride of the LWB model, which wasn’t too surprising. With its shorter wheelbase, it can’t have the stability of the long-wheelbase Pajero. Its ride is choppier and it isn’t as surefooted.
But I could handle the ride quality. What had me worried was the lack of space. There is no denying that a short-wheelbase SUV is less practical than a LWB one. If you plan on overlanding with kids, it is basically impossible to make use of a SWB vehicle. With the rear seats up, the “luggage area” in the Pajero is reduced to an almost useless little place that can hardly accommodate a single suitcase.
Don’t, however, write off the SWB Pajero too soon. To find out if the vehicle could cope with an average camping trip, we took some of our gear and tried to squeeze it into the Pajero. Amazingly, not a lot of squeezing was needed. The Mitsubishi swallowed everything we had with room to spare. We thought we might have to use the roof rack fitted to our test vehicle, but it wasn’t necessary. We put some of the stuff on the roof anyway, just to make things airier inside the cabin, but it wasn’t crucial.
We were also impressed by the spaciousness of the second row of seating. Since the Pajero had only two doors, getting in and out was tricky, but once inside, an adult could sit in the back quite comfortably.
At R549 900, though, the SWB Pajero remains a bit expensive. Yes, it has some definite advantages in terms of performance, agility and manoeuvrability. And the 2014 version sports useful new additions such as a rear diff lock, rear-view camera, privacy glass, colour-coded door handles, exterior rear view mirrors and a USB port. But it’s pretty easy to see that there are better deals out there.
You need not even leave the Mitsubishi dealership to find them. Unless you are absolutely smitten with the funky SWB Pajero’s looks, or you simply find the idea of piloting a larger SUV through traffic too exhausting, you’d be better off opting for a Pajero Sport, Triton double cab, or even the entry-level GLX LWB Pajero, which goes or the same price as the SWB model. And if you want a smaller, more city-oriented SUV, well, then you can look at the Outlander or ASX.
With so many capable, well-equipped and competitively priced Mitsubishis to choose from, the Pajero “shorty” just doesn’t have a lot going for it.