What stands out?

On-road handling and stability are strong points for the Mitsubishi Pajero compared with other dual-range 4WD wagons, and yet it still offers serious off-road ability. All models seat seven, and have 7.0-inch touchscreens that can mirror your phone.

What might bug me?

Noise, from both the engine and the road. And the ride feels harsh sometimes.

Having to plug in your phone to get satellite navigation – but if you have a recent Apple or Android phone, the maps will display on your touchscreen.

That passengers riding in the Pajero’s third-row seats are not protected from side crashes by airbags. The Pajero’s side-curtain airbags extend past the first two seat-rows only.

What body styles are there?

Five-door, seven-seat 4WD wagon is the only body style.

All models have dual-range (high and low speed) four-wheel drive, and the Pajero is classed as a large SUV, lower priced.

What features do all Pajeros have?

Cruise control, Bluetooth phone connectivity with voice control, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen.

Smartphone Link Display Audio, which puts your phone on the touchscreen via a USB cable and Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. Compatible smartphone apps – including mapping – display on the car’s screen and can be controlled from the screen or by voice.

Leather trim on the steering wheel, and buttons for operating the cruise control, audio system and your phone.

A reversing camera. Daytime running lights illuminated by very long-lived LEDs.

Climate control air-conditioning (which maintains a set temperature), with separate rear controls.

Daytime running lights (which make the car more visible), foglights, and self-levelling HID headlamps, which are more effective than conventional halogen headlamps.

Sidesteps, which help you get in and out of the vehicle, and sporty-looking 18-inch wheels made from aluminium alloy.

Six airbags: two located in front of the driver and front passenger; two outside the driver and front passenger to protect their upper bodies; and two side-curtain airbags protecting heads in the first and second seat rows.

Electronic Stability Control, which helps prevent the car from skidding out of control. This is mandatory on all passenger cars.

Electronic Traction Control, which helps the car maintain drive on slippery surfaces. It is especially helpful in difficult conditions off road.

A driver-switched rear-differential lock, which adds even more off-road ability.

All Pajeros come with a five-year, 100,000km warranty.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

Only one engine is available in the Pajero, a 3.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel. This engine appeared in 2002, so it is an old design, updated in 2006 and again in 2008. It offers good performance but it is not as quiet or as smooth as most diesels developed more recently.

In the official combined-cycle fuel-economy test it uses 9.0 litres/100km. In the real world, the consumption is about 12 litres/100km, although fuel use will vary with your driving style and conditions.

All Pajeros come with a five-speed automatic gearbox.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

Step past the least costly Pajero, the GLX, and spend more for a Pajero GLS and you get heated and power-adjustable front seats, and extremely bright, HID, headlights that switch on automatically when it gets dark. Windscreen wipers operate automatically when it rains, and rear parking sensors augment the reversing camera. A cargo blind hides whatever you have stored behind the rear seats.

The most expensive Pajero, the Exceed, builds on the GLS equipment with a power operated sunroof, and part-leather trim for the seats. There is a premium Rockford Fosgate audio system with 12 speakers (other Pajeros have six). Headlamps dip automatically for oncoming traffic.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

The Exceed is a little heavier than the other models due to its extra equipment. The sunroof places more weight higher in the car, and reduces head room marginally.

White is the only standard colour. The others are pearl or metallic, and are extra-cost options.

How comfortable is the Mitsubishi Pajero?

The Pajero offers a spacious, comfortable and high-riding cabin that has good vision for the driver and passengers. The front seats are particularly comfortable, but the steering wheel adjusts only for tilt and not for reach.

The Exceed model, with its leather seats and sunroof, brings a touch of luxury, whereas the other models, especially the GLX, have more of a utilitarian feel.

The Pajero’s engine is noisy compared with the more modern diesels powering some similar vehicles. Likewise, the five-speed automatic gearbox doesn’t shift as smoothly as more recently developed automatics.

At low speeds on rough roads, the Pajero’s ride is also on the harsh side. On broken bitumen and on gravel roads the car is quite noisy.

What about safety in a Pajero?

All Pajeros have six cabin airbags, a reversing camera, electronic stability control, and bright LED daytime running lights.

The Pajero’s side-curtain airbags, which protect at head level from side-crashes, extend past the front and middle seat-rows only, however. Third-row passengers aren’t covered.

GLS and Exceed Pajeros add auto-on headlights (which make it more likely you will be seen in poor light), auto wipers (which reduce fatigue in wet weather), and rear parking sensors (which augment the reversing camera, and might draw your attention to a person in a vulnerable place behind the car).

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the Pajero five stars for safety, its maximum safety score, most recently in February 2013.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

The Pajero may be an older design but it still handles very well by 4WD standards. Part of its secret is its fully independent suspension, a better arrangement for handling and stability than the solid rear axle fitted to alternatives such as the Toyota Prado and Ford Everest. The more expensive Land Rover Discovery also has fully independent suspension.

The Pajero has a unique 4WD system that allows you to use 4WD on all surfaces, including dry bitumen roads, but also lets you select rear-wheel drive only. In effect it combines elements of traditional part-time 4WD systems and more modern full-time 4WD systems, and gives the driver more choices than either.

The Pajero is competent and capable off-road but it’s not as comfortable on rocky and rough trails as the Prado and Everest. For off-road performance it about matches its younger sibling the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport.

How is life in the rear seats?

The Pajero has a big and comfortable rear seat that’s sufficiently wide for three average-size adults, but a little tight for three large adults. There are airconditioning vents for rear passengers, who have their own ventilation controls.

The third-row seat is suitable only for children, although adults could squeeze in for short distances.

How is it for carrying stuff?

The Pajero has a generous cargo area. The third-row bench-style seat folds flat into the floor, and so does not impinge on luggage space when it’s stowed away. With the seat upright, luggage space is very limited.

The second-row seat has a 60/40-split fold.

The luggage space is accessed via a single side-hinged rear door that carries the spare wheel. It is heavy to open on a slope, although it does have a lockable stay to prevent it from closing accidentally.

The Pajero is rated to tow 3000kg, which is 500kg more than the current Prado and on a par with most other competitors.

Where does Mitsubishi make the Pajero?

All Pajeros are made in Japan.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

If you have driven one, perhaps the softer ride and quieter cabin of the Toyota Prado. More expensive Prado models also have more luxury and safety equipment than the top-spec Pajero, although at a much higher price.

Active cruise control – which can match your speed to that of a car ahead on the highway. The Ford Everest offers this, for example, as does the most expensive Prado, the Kakadu.

Autonomous emergency braking (which can brake the car automatically if you are in danger of crashing into a vehicle in front). This too is available on the Prado Kakadu, but you can also get it on a Mitsubishi Pajero Sport – which is smaller inside than the Pajero, but still offers seven seats.

Perhaps a forward collision warning, which will alert you to an obstacle in front – even if you have to apply the brakes yourself. The Everest and Holden Trailblazer offer this, for example.

Possibly side-curtain airbag coverage for passengers in the third row of seats. The Pajero Sport offers this, for example, as do the Prado, Everest, Trailblazer, and the Toyota Fortuner.

The Pajero Sport, Everest, Trailblazer and Fortuner are all ute-based 4WD wagons, whereas the Pajero feels more like a passenger car to drive.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

The base-spec GLX is the pick. More costly models offer more luxury but no more performance and only marginally more safety.

Are there plans to update the Pajero soon?

The Pajero is well overdue for a generational change. Whether and when that will happen is anyone’s guess. It received styling tweaks, extra sound insulation and some fresh equipment for the 2015 model year. In September 2015, the 7.0-inch touchscreen was extended to the least costly model, and connectivity was upgraded with Smartphone Link Display Audio – which enables Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.