This improved fourth generation Mitsubishi Shogun offers loads of space, decent value for money and an unstoppable feel. Though it can’t match the road-going prowess and interior class of German large SUV rivals, it’s more practical than any of them. Authentic, capable and very tough, it’ll probably out-last you.
Mitsubishi likes to see its Shogun as the ‘original’ large 4x4, an SUV tough enough to venture where others feared to tread, yet offering the interior luxury of a high-end saloon.
This was something different, a really ‘authentic’ large SUV designed for people who actually wanted to fully exercise its rugged virtues. People living in remote areas. People who wanted to tow. People who wanted more than just a lifestyle statement. These folk knew what they were getting with a Shogun, but there weren’t enough of them. Hence Mitsubishi’s continual attempts to do what it can to broaden this model’s appeal, most notably with a far-reaching package of improvements in 2012 which have given the car a sharper look inside and out and, most importantly, a more efficient Euro V-compliant engine.
Though the front end of this model has gained a minor spruce-up in recent times with a smarter grille and colour-keyed front bumper, the shape remains instantly familiar, the short overhangs, the upright windscreen, the strong high flanks, the flared wheelarches and the rear-mounted spare wheel all combining to remind buyers that this is no bling smoothie, instead wearing its credentials on its sleeve.
Mitsubishi remains one of the few brands to still offer a three-door short wheelbase bodystyle in this market sector, but this remains a minority choice, most Shogun customers preferring the five-door long wheelbase shape. It’s a properly big machine, nearly 5m long and nearly 2m in both width and height, so you’ll need a hefty garage with a fair amount of headroom, especially if you fit a roof box for ski trips.
The benefit of those huge dimensions is realised when you want to fill the car up with people. Unlike the way many large luxury 4x4s squeeze in a third seating row, this one accommodates it with ease, using an innovative ‘Hide&Seat’ system that folds the rearmost bench out of the floor. It’s a pity though that you don’t get two separate chairs so that when you’re six-up, you can keep one folded and still have a modicom of boot space. As it is, there is of course very little with all the seats in use. Fold the third row though and a long wheelbase Shogun affords you 1790-litres of fresh air – and even more of course should you be able to flatten the middle bench as well. Short wheelbase Shogun customers get a 1120-litre boot.
Getting to the rearmost seats will be a fairly straightforward process for all but the elderly. And once there, you’ve enough space and floorplan height to ensure that you don’t need to sit with knees up around your ears. The middle seat is comfortable for a couple of fully-sized adults – but much less so for three.
Which leaves the driving position, where the design has changed little since we first saw this generation Shogun back in 2007. So don’t expect much in terms of soft-touch plastics and luxury-car-like erognomics. Mitsubishi has done its best in recent times to smarten things up with better quality upholstery, nicer instrument illumination and a brushed silver finish around the power window switches on the doors.
The Mitsubishi Shogun occupies a small but important niche in an ever-evolving 4x4 market. As sales of the more ostentatious cars wane in favour of more environmentally responsible transport, there will remain a core requirement for an all-weather, all-terrain vehicle that can tow, fulfil the family responsibilities and not be too precious about things in the process. The Shogun discharges these duties with a minimum of drama.
This improved fourth generation car brooks no great surprises but in many ways familiarity has bred respect for Mitsubishi’s low-key approach. Solid engineering, a thoughtful compromise between off-road durability and on-road refinement and value pricing all combine to make sure that what some people may consider a throwback is, in fact, a vehicle of keen relevance. Ultimately, perhaps this statistic is the most telling one. Seven in every ten customers for this car go on and buy another one. It’s easy to see why.