The Mitsubishi Pajero Sport is our Top Lifestyle SUV of 2016. (www.stuff.co.nz)
The so-called "soft-roader" genre still dominates the SUV market. By which we mean vehicles that look and feel like off-roaders, but are built on passenger-car platforms.
However, seriously rugged SUVs that can go lots of places, carry lots of people and tow lots of stuff are making a comeback in New Zealand.
It's happening courtesy of the ever-more-refined world of utes, which are providing the underpinnings for this new breed of super-tough family wagons.
Pajero Sport is based on Triton ute chassis: it's an authentic off-road and tow wagon.
That's we've chosen to call these vehicles 'lifestyle' SUVs. Because they can help you to actually have one.
Okay, it looks a little weird. But that's better than looking a little boring.
And the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport is the standout model for us this year.
Sure, it looks weird. But we quite like that. Besides, elegant styling isn't exactly a hallmark of this segment.
The Pajero Sport is no relation to the larger (and ancient) Pajero. It's based on the underpinnings of the Triton ute and can wade through 700mm of water or tow 3.1 tonnes. Maybe at the same time, who knows?
It's tough, but there's no roughing it inside. Pajero Sport is comprehensively equipped.
Also courtesy of the top-line Triton comes Mitsubishi's excellent Super Select 4WD system - except that in the Sport, it drives through an slick eight-speed automatic transmission.
But that was rectified late this year, with the option of a third row for the big Mitsi. Job done.For the SUV-lifestyler, all that was really missing was an extra row of seats, because the Pajero Sport was launched in five-chair configuration and seven seats are really the done thing among the competition.
AT A GLANCE
Price range: $58,990 (XLS 5-seat) to $61,990 (VRX 7-seat).
Powertrain: 2.4-litre turbo-diesel four with 135kW/437Nm, 8-speed automatic, all-wheel drive.
Fuel economy: 8.0 l/100km.