I have always preferred driving and writing about the mid- to entry-grade models of many vehicles. While reviewing a top tier variant is always nice, the more affordable models are more important because, simply put, customers are getting the same vehicle without the extra (and often unnecessary) doodads.
That's the reason why I like this 2018 Mitsubishi Montero Sport GLS. Don't get me wrong: I love the features, the driving performance (both on and off-road), and the overall feel of the top-of-the-line GT version, but I have a strong affinity for bang for the buck versions like this GLS.
The Montero Sport is essentially the junior model of the larger Pajero, otherwise known as the Montero. Mitsubishi's naming system is quite interesting in itself. They like to append the word “Sport” to the smaller versions of their vehicles, and they have a lot of names for a particular depending on the market. The names Montero Sport, Pajero Sport, and Shogun Sport correspond as the smaller versions of the larger SUV, which can be known as Montero, Pajero, or Shogun depending on the country. In the Philippines, Mitsubishi decided to changed it up by marketing the Pajero while the smaller pick-up passenger vehicle (PPV) or SUV, was christened as Montero Sport.
There have been three generations of the Montero Sport so far. The first MS was built from 1996 to 2008; it was boxy, reminiscent of the second generation Pajero (AKA: Fieldmaster) and even had the same engines like the 4D56 (non common-rail), the 4M40 and 4M41. The second generation MS was what Mitsubishi sold from 2008 to early 2016. The popularity of that model which challenged the Fortuner is well known; there was one time that the second generation Montero Sport actually exceeded the Fortuner for sales in the Philippines. Needless to say, this this third generation model has a lot to live up to.
Three years after this generation went on sale, the look should be familiar to many of us. The stylish front end is what Mitsubishi refers to as the Dynamic Shield given the strong, protective impression it was intended to show. There's a fairly liberal use of polished chrome on the edges of the blacked out grille, finished off by rather sharp headlights. This look is actually quite neat, and is starting to really figure into other Mitsubishi SUV or crossover models after ex-Nissan Tsunehiro Kunimoto joined the ranks.
Being the second most affordable variant means that this MS has a few less exterior bits and pieces compared to the more expensive models, but not that we can obviously tell anyway. The major differences are really the slightly smaller wheels, and the lack of a rear spoiler. Apart from the badges, there could be more differences, but you'd have to look really closely.
What many among us do wish Mitsubishi did some more design work on was the rear, as that back is quite polarizing even among Montero Sport owners. The “crying” LED taillights were perhaps the most criticized components of the Montero Sport's design, as the aftermarket even designed a pair of covers that can be color matched to the body to alter the look.
The interior is virtually the same as the top spec variants we drove before with a nice, cozy spaces for the driver and front passenger that's been demarcated by the elevated center console. I do like the premium feel of the steering wheel, not to mention with magnesium paddles that have been a Mitsubishi signature since 2006 with the Outlander; the ones on the MS are more rounded though.
Being a GLS version means that you don't get features like the power sunroof, power adjustable front seats, or leather upholstery. Personally, I don't mind; they're all unnecessary anyway, and I quite prefer fabric over leather. Thankfully, Mitsubishi didn't remove things like the electronic parking brake, the 2-DIN multimedia unit, and the climate control system. They even kept cruise control. What I do miss are the safety features like side and curtain airbags, stability and traction control, among others, but it's understandable given the price point.
The middle row is likewise a nice place to be in, and there's an armrest that folds down at the expense of a passenger in the middle. The view from the middle row isn't bad either; the seating position is comfortable and affords a nice vantage point that should help those who easily get nauseous from long drives. Space in the middle is good; for my 5'6” height, there's about 5-6 inches of kneeroom to the front seats. The third row is, as expected, best left for smaller individuals as getting in and out can be tricky, despite the easy one touch fold and tumble for the second row of seats.
There's plenty of space for cargo or equipment if you require the space of a pick-up truck. There's 131 liters with the third row seats up, 503 liters with them folded down, and 1488 liters with the second row folded as well. It's big, but could be bigger given the class.
What Mitsubishi should have changed from the second to the third generation Montero Sport is the mechanism for folding the third row of seats. It's easy to fold it down by pulling some straps, but folding them back up requires you to have to go around to the middle row to do so. A one-touch or one-pull fold flat mechanism would have been better. It's something that can be cumbersome if you found yourselves with some extra passengers after, say, a family gathering.
Don't worry if you have to shuttle around a maximum of 7 people, as the Montero Sport has 181 horsepower and, more importantly, 430 Newton-meters of torque. That's quite a bit actually, and it's surprising that the power and torque comes from a relatively small 2.4-liter turbodiesel. The trick? It's got common-rail direct injection, a variable turbo that adjusts accordingly, and a valve timing system called MIVEC which enhances performance and efficiency. And, despite the more affordable status of this GLS, it still gets the 8-speed automatic gearbox from Aisin.
One thing that I have absolutely no qualms about is the way the Montero Sport, even in this lower GLS trim, drives. Point to point acceleration, the kind you'd experience in city traffic, is superb. The torque comes in early, so you don't really have to prod the throttle too hard to get going at all. The 8-speed is a smooth operator too; the shifts are good, and there's none of that gear hunting that happens with many other gearboxes. Fuel economy for a vehicle of this size is also a highlight: even with city traffic being what it was during the Christmas rush, the Montero Sport GLS yielded 8.9 km/l (20 km/h average). On the expressway, that went up to 14.2 km/l (90 km/h average).
What I really enjoyed with the Montero Sport GLS was the way it rides. Since the second gen mode, we've known the Montero to have a suspension system that works well on our far less than favorable roads; surprising for a PPV especially since, at the time, the first generation Fortuner was proving to be a rather rough rider in town. The current Montero Sport builds on that, providing a ride that is frankly comparable to more expensive SUVs like the Pajero.
There are no issues on rough concrete like you would on other PPVs, nor are there problems with noise of the tires intruding too much into the cabin at speed. Ground clearance is also good, easily dealing with the highest speed bumps in town and the most oddly conceived parking ramps you can find. Mitsubishi says the MS can wade through 700mm of water, and that's fine; I couldn't exactly test that given the weather, but I'll take their word for it.
If the Montero Sport GLS was impressive in town, where it really shines is if you drive it fast. Typically a PPV like the MS will have middling handling, especially when cornering. PPVs (and larger SUVs, for that matter) are tall, and while the elevation may be a blessing if you're negotiating urban floods and speed bumps, the high center of gravity means the vehicle will most likely be leaning all over the place at higher speeds and on sharper curves. The Montero seems to buck that trend.
Toss the Montero Sport around on a winding road and you'll be surprised at how good it performs. The suspension, the same one that works well in the city for comfort, works very well to give a positive, controlled feeling to the driver as he turns. Yes, there's still body roll, but it's nowhere near enough to make a driver nervous (unless you went in too fast) about tipping over. The brakes work very hard to scrub speed and do it very well, and the acceleration from the 2.4-liter MIVEC turbodiesel and the 8-speed auto is a perfect match for the MS. Heck, you'll enjoy yourself even more if you start pulling the paddles and selecting the gear yourself.
Apart from the extra convenience features, the major difference is really the absence of the 4WD system. Truth be told, unless you have to traverse a trail of some sort, it's just an extra expense on the pocket and a massive penalty in terms of vehicle weight. At PhP 1,719,000, the Montero Sport GLS may seem a little high, but mind you, that's the SRP. Mitsubishi's dealers are known for being quite accommodating to customers and having very aggressive promotions if you're interested. All you have to do is ask for a good deal.
Truth be told, this GLS is probably my favorite variant of the MS. I like how they did away with the unnecessary bits and still came up with an exceptional vehicle that is great for practical everyday motoring.