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Used 4X4 of the week-NM/NP Pajero

Silver Pajero Mk3 NM/NP

The 2000-2006 Pajero is a mid-sized 5 door wagon best known for being driven by mums on the school and soccer runs. Whilst most have never seen a dirt road in their life, the NM and NP Pajero can make for a very good touring 4X4.

The direct competitors to the Pajero back in its heyday were the Land Rover’s Discovery, Toyota’s LandCruiser Prado and Holden’s Jackaroo. The Nissan Pathfinder, Jeep Cherokee and Toyota 4runner were also running around a similar part of the market.

Mitsubishi Pajero MK3
Mitsubishi Pajero MK3, a practical sized tourer

The 2000 model introduced a fairly revolutionary and well-engineered monocoque body with integrated ladder chassis, giving strength and stiffness to the design. The independent front suspension was carried over from previous years, maintaining a good ride on-road. Unfortunately, this means less capability off road than the solid front axle competitors, but for fire trails and mild 4WD tracks as many touring families would explore, it is a more than adequate system.

Mitusibishi Pajero handles well off the road
Mitusibishi Pajero handles well off the road

Mechanical
The engine of choice is the 3.2-litre turbo diesel in the NP (post 2002), giving good torque (373Nm@2000rpm) and power (121kW@3800rpm) figures without sucking too hard on the bottle. This engine uses a timing chain rather than a belt, which is great for longevity, but the tensioner does wear over time. Keep an ear out for the telltale rattle from a worn tensioner. The injector pump is the big issue on these as kilometres get high, so look for one that has had a reasonably recent replacement and you should be okay. Symptoms seem to come on fairly quickly, with rough idle or rough running.  The V6 petrol options are both quite thirsty but are well thought of and reliable. The 2.8-litre diesel has a habit of overheating and cracking heads, so steer clear of that one.

Mitsubishi’s clever Super Select 4WD system allows changing from 2WD to 4WD whilst in motion, with an adjustable split for front to rear torque transfer. The traction control comes from the era when turning it off is an advantage for situations such as sand driving, but it does make up for lifting wheels on rocks and ruts.

Mitsubishi Pajero Mk3 GLS model
Two colour body work was popular in the early 2000s

Interior
The 5-door wagon body has reasonable cargo space, certainly enough for a couple of swags and some cooking gear. A family may want a roof rack to carry a few bulky items when camping, but the load space is on par with the competition. The pov-pack GL had five seats while the GLX, GLS and top-spec Exceed are 7 seaters, with folding and removable rear seats. The Exceed offered leather, power adjustable seats and an upgraded sound system, with a CD stacker if you still party like its 1999.

Mitsubishi Pajero Mk3 interior RHD
Mitsubishi Pajero interior

External Accessory availability
Bullbars, roof racks, snorkels and underbody protection are available from ARB and other specialist accessory companies. This means the soccer-mum-mobile you picked up cheap can still be built up for arduous touring without trawling gumtree to find parts that haven’t been available new for years.

Winchbar-check. Roof rack-check. Snorkel-check. Pajero in the wild-perfect
Winchbar-check. Roof rack-check. Snorkel-check. Pajero in the wild-perfect

Expected Price
When new, the Pajero was anywhere between $48,000 and $71,000 plus on road costs. Twelve to eighteen years later expect to pay between $4,000 for a pov-pack early 2000s turbo diesel and $16,000 for an automatic turbo diesel Exceed. Of course, as with any guide, a vehicle’s individual condition will dictate final sale price!

The Good
Good comfort for dollars, especially with Exceed models
Off-road accessory availability

The Bad
Independent front suspension limits wheel travel
Diesel engines are noisy

The Ugly
Potentially expensive issues with diesel engines

What do you think? Do you have any experience with the NM or NP Pajero? Let us know in the comments below.

39 Comments

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  • Your comments about “potentially issues with the diesel engines” is very misguided. You should limit this comment to the early 2.8 lt.The 3,2 DiD are quite bulletproof as all Pajero owner will confirm. No major blowups here (see what the internet has to say about Nissan ZD30 or Prado’s D4D). It’s a real dishonour to the Mitsubishi. Only Non Pajero owners think they are no good. The rest of us are quietly extremely happy with a great all rounder. As for being ‘limited’ off road, My Pajero with Traction control, All terrain tyres and a 2″ lift kit often makes most others (with similar setup) look 2nd grade. Our 4 wheel drive group will vouch for that. Hope Mitsubishi and Nissan can continue providing a very capable extremely good value 4×4 after the current model is discontinued.

  • Love my Pajero. Its far more capable than the Toyota/Nissan fanboys will acknowledge. Yes its not as good in the hardcore stuff but thats not what the typical Pajero owner wants to do. As a touring rig they are brilliant and outstanding value for the money.

  • Great review , but I have also noticed a resurge for the Mitsi Challengers lately, maybe a review on these would be interesting.

  • Please do more of these. I’m looking at a 2nd hand 4×4 at the moment and could use the guidance!

  • Hi Mark,
    The comment on the diesels being potentially problematic does apply to the 3.2 as well as the earlier 2.8. The 3.2 can suffer from an expensive injector pump problem as detailed in the mechanical section of the article, and timing chain tensioner wear issues-which is more of a service item from what owners have told me anyway-but something to keep in mind when buying.
    No denying, they are a great tourer, and owners are justifiably happy with their choice. They are very much underrated amongst all the Nissan/Toyota noise out there.

  • Driving a 2015 manuf GLS Pajero since new and I have found it the most economical 4×4 for the last 19 years of 4×4 ownership.
    Sydney / Brisbane, Sydney/ Jindabyne/ Melbourne and in mud, sand and snow now convinced me I’ll keep this one.
    Genuine 7.9 to 8.3 lt/ 100k and pulling trailers and small caravans makes me a happy pensioner.
    Comfort and fun for us. Love the electronics and perfect for us. Been in the sh…. once and Morsi parts not a problem.

  • The early autos had problems with the planetary gear shafts breaking support roll pins and falling into the gears. Dead gear box. Normally after 200000 km. Some have had them welded into place.

  • We love our 2003 Exceed. Never used in extreme conditions but it’s been across the Pentecost and into Israelite Bay so quietly capable. Comfy for long distance travel (2 up or 4 up, camper trailer or tent) and easy to drive around town. Lots of town use (car park burnishes prove that). Agree engine is noisy, but so are the BF Goodrich tyres we have used since new. 175,000 k and no breakdowns or costly repairs so a very economical ride. This is our third Pajero and we wouldn’t drive anything else. Taken them everywhere including the Simpson Desert so entirely confident in their capability.

  • Agree with Mark completely. My folks are on their third Pajero all of them diesel and none of them had anything remotely major go wrong with them over the years, including the 1996 NJ 2.8. The biggest thing was a starter motor on the 2002 NM 3.2 after 250,000+ km. They’re now touring around in their 2013 NW 3.2 and continue to be very happy Pajero owners. If properly maintained you can expect worry-free touring from a Pajero.

  • You have commented about the ifs but aren’t these also rear independent? Loss of the live rear axle going from Gen2 to Gen3 was a downgrade for off-road ability.

  • Disappointing to see a good 4WD magazine let itself fall into the old stereotypes on Pajero’s. This article is like ready a re-hash of why someone bought a Toyota.

    As your own magazine has argued on many occasions, an independent front suspension with traction control will out drive a solid axle with open diffs. So unless you are driving a locked solid axle from the same era, the ‘limited’ nature of the IFS is going to be untrue. There is a good reason why almost all major manufacturers have gone down the IFS route – if you have a decent T/C system you will get all the places a solid axle car will but have a much more pleasant drive on the way there. Unless you are genuinely rock crawling through boulders (which 99% of us won’t do, if we’re honest) the Pajero will get you everywhere you need to go. Better off investing in a good 4WD training course to know how to drive it right.

    As for saying the engine is in the ‘ugly’ basket, please tell me one engine of the same era that was more reliable? Head over to the pajero forum and you won’t find too many complaining about the 3.2’s reliability.

    Again, sad to see this magazine letting itself fall into the boring old stereotype.

  • Hi Jim,
    As someone who has never purchased a Toyota and doesn’t ever plan on it, I doubt I could write a blog about why I bought a Toyota under the guise of a Pajero overview. Comfortable tourer is the stereotype I have tried to paint the Pajero’s picture as, is this wrong? Tell me more.
    I do however come from a ‘rock crawling over boulders’ background hence my pointing out IFS (and IRS on this wagon) as being a limit for off-road use. As the article is intended to have a touring bias, it may be unfair; the Pajero makes an exemplary touring 4X4, and as long as owners are forearmed against potential, albeit rare according to comments here, mechanical issues the Paj could be one of the best value and reliable second hand tourers around.

  • I have a 2002 NM commonwealth games edition 3.5 petrol. Bought it for 4k in 2017 with new Bridgestone Dualers on the car. Changed the suspension to Ridepro with a 2″ lift, added a snorkel and dual batteries. Did the timing belt/water pump service and drove it from Adelaide to up the Stuart highway to Kakadu, Darwin, the Gibb Road through to Broome with plenty of off road tracks in-between. The loaded up car was certainly thirsty and we went through about 4 litres of oil but we were travelling in October and given the distance we covered we were impressed that we had no issues other than fuel and temp gauges playing up. With proper maintenance and set up the car will get you anywhere for half the cost of others.

  • I’ve just replaced my 2005 Exceed with a 2018 GLS.
    My exceed had 280,000 kms on the clock and never missed a beat……used it to tow our (heavy) Kimberley Kamper camper trailer across Oz and back and also up to Mt Augustus in WA, Loved the comfort and towing ability.
    My current Pajero is my 4th, having started with a 1986 petrol, then a 2000 manual diesel which covered 240,000 kms.

  • Hi. I have a 2002 NM Pajero Exceed 3.2 Turbo Dirsel auto that currently has 436,000 km’s on the clock. I have done a lot of towing with this vehicle around Australia towing car trailers and a Jayco Outback Swan camper van ( 1350 kg’s. ) I have replaced the cam chain tensioner and top guide. Original transmission, driveline and engine. Never a hitch with this vehicle. The Exceed comes with front diff lock as standard and LSD rear. Very capable off road. I don’t think there is another. Vehicle in this class on the market that goes even close. Still going strong.

  • I’ve had my ‘05 NP Platinum edition, 3.8 Petrol for just over a year now and have done plenty of touring and off roading around the Coorong and towed my 22 foot Caravan to Innes National Park without any issues (except fuel economy when towing the van, he he). I’ve added upgrades including snorkel, dual batteries, 2” suspension lift, 2 awnings and a whole host of other DIY goodies like in dash 7” android with HEMA Explorer, LED bars, HID spotties, folding table inside the barn door, gas bbq, fridge, overhead console with reverse camera and tv screen, etc, etc.
    I reckon it’s a ripper touring 4×4 and much more comfy and practical than my previous 2013 Diesel Triton.

  • I have a 2003, 3.2 NP with 365000 on the clock and it’s still going strong! Pajeros are a great vehicle.

  • I have to agree the Paj has been formidable off-road, with a 2” lift and a very comfortable on road tourer, all was going well until we got to 215,000kms when while towing a camper trailer the injector pump let go which led to a cracked piston and catastrophic engine failure. This was a tough call, to rebuild or not? In the end, the vehicle was worth very little to part out and the money I’d spent already on turning it into a great tourer, (red arc aux battery and trailer brakes, Engel power outlet in the back, 2” lift kit, side steps, draws and cargo barrier, ARB deluxe safari bar, spots, roof bars, CB radio, etc etc) would all have been wasted, so we rebuilt it. With a much bigger capacity inter cooler (made in SA, not China), a Safari snorkel and an EGT gauge added to the new injector pump, new injectors and complete engine rebuild I will now drive this until I hand my licence in! I’ve simply got too much money in it. For those wondering this is a 3.2 litre NM from 2002. So not sure where that leaves all of you who have commented above, all I know is if I had my time again, I’d likely not bother paying extra for a diesel, bank the money and use it to pay for fuel.

  • Hi, I had owned a 2002 Petrol 3.2 litre Pajero NM Exceed for nearly 10 years, towing a caravan for the last 3 years before we sold it. We had it serviced as close to the recommended scheduled services as possible and it never missed a beat. We updated to a 2013 NW Pajero Exceed a few years ago because we enjoyed driving our NM series so much. With the Diesel engine in our NW we certainly noticed the difference in fuel consumption and so far we have done many trips around parts of Australia and again it never missed a beat.
    We have been so happy with our Pajero/s and no matter where you go in your travels you come across other happy Pajero owners who always have high praise about their Pajero..Just like me!

  • Hi.
    I currently have an ex police 2006 Pajero 3.2l diesel which I bought at auction in 2008 with 80.000km on the clock. I have driven it all around Australia towing my caravan (32.000km) without a single problem other than replacing a starter motor at around 250,000 km. Apart from towing the caravan I have gone to Mitchell Falls, Kalumburu Honeymoon Bay, Walsh Point, across the Tanami, Palm Valley, down the Strezlecki track Birdsville track,and Oodnadatta track, climbed Big Red on numerous occasions and stood and watched so called big four-wheel-drive’s struggle to get there. I wonder how many Toyotas and Nissans could boast about going where this car has gone without having had any problems at all. Not many I think. The Pajero has served us well and been a great car and I would buy another one in a heartbeat if I needed to.

  • Mark
    Your article rings true to me. I am the second owner of a 2003, NP 3.2 Turbo Diesel exceed and has 300,000 km. I have reconditioned the gear box at 230,000 km (and $6,000) thinking that would be it for another 10 years. But as I tow a 17 ft Sterling Outback caravan and the previous owner towed a large van as well, at 250,000 km the injector pump would not ideal. So another $8,000 later for pump installation, reconditioned injectors and reconditioned hydraulic steering pump and a lot of grieve from Mitsubishi in Brisbane, I am now happy with the Pajero. Good for another 250,000 km (I hope). Spending another $50,000 plus trade for a new Pajero that does exactly the same just did not add up.

  • I owned a 2005 NP Pajero DiD Platinum edition and the car was faultless in every way for the 180,00 km that I travelled. The engine might be a bit noisy but that didn’t bother me and the whole driveline proved to be bulletproof. Remove the third row seats and you have quite a bit more storage space. Suspension upgrade is required for towing but that’s no different to many other vehicles and the upgrade will give you some handy improvement in ground clearance.

  • I have a 2005 np platinum turbo diesel with lpg.Got the car about 6 months ago at the right price because it had a hole in one piston.Faulty injector the machine shop said caused the problem.Rebored/rebuilt the engine and could not be happier.The torque is perfect for towing my camper trailer.Has 2 inch lift with lovell springs and bilstein shocks.Very comfortable and comes into its own once you get out of town.Just love driving it.Previously had a nh which I was happy with also but it just didnt cut it when it came to towing.Love pajeros their cheap to buy second hand compared to toyotas and nissans but I reckon they dont have any more problems than everything else thats out there.

  • Being a Pajero owner of the NT 2009 vintage I have constantly noticed the number of 2000 to 2006 NPs still on the road and in good condition. We Pajero owners tend to look after our vehicles with lots of TLC because they don’t let us down. I have 210,000 on the odometer and still going strong. Yes it’s noisy and yes it sounds like a truck but its a reliable truck that has taken us all over the country and tackled some harsh tracks and survived quiet well. I love that truck- – – – of mine.

  • 250,000 k,s on a 2010. Suspension upgraded h/duty with air bags and a slight lift.
    Well balanced for towing, usually around average 10k per annum with the odd 20k trip.
    One sensor in g/box replaced and all the rest standard maint.. oil changes every 10k given tow duties. (2.5t) van. Yea, a bit under powered up hills compared to some Utes of today etc. but it continues to b a great car

  • Another happy camper here. Took on many a tough track in the Eastern half of the country in our diesel NM. A 2inch Lovells lift and Bushskinz bash plates and they are very capable. And above the pack when it comes to power, economy, comfort, sand driving and overall value for money. Have upgraded to an NW now.

  • I’m onto my second Pajero DID now because they are such a great 4×4 and much under-rated and decried by others in their Nissans, Toyotas etc. My 1st was an 2002 NP and had done near on 400K when I sold it. Two reasons for the up-grade to a 2013 NW was: 1 How long do these things last and 2, the clear coat started to show signs of deterioration. The chap who bought it took it off around Australia somewhere. So much for engine issues. As for sand off road capabilities my “stock standard” NW goes most places the others go. For those who know Callcut Hill Yeagarup WA know it is one of the best challenges for any 4×4. I’ve taken the Pajero to the top and watch a number of the other 4x4s (no names mentioned to protect the innocent and risk offending anyone) struggle to make the grade. But if fairness, this could be attributed to tyre pressure and /or inexperience. Rock hoping not recommended without a lift and then only limited.

  • About 5 years ago I picked up an 05 NP Platinum at the auctions that had been drowned, submerged with waterline marks up to the roof on the inside. After drying it out and completely flushing all the fluids (engine was full of water), replacing a few of the electrics, she has been running like a dream ever since, unbelievable!

  • Have had our NM 3.2 Diesel GLS manual since new; it’s now done 390,000! Still going strong. Only issues were the timing chain “tensioner”. Replace it every 100K and you’ll be sweet ($25 part). Haven’t had any issues off-road with the independent front suspension, especially since I raised it 3inches. Very under-rated vehicle. Oh and the EGR valve is in a bad position; regularly clean your manifold inlet butterfly for build-up or put in a catch can! It will block up the inlet! Other than those small issues, it is a great vehicle! Shame they don’t make them in manuals anymore otherwise I would buy another one new!

  • Mark you start the whole article off with the ‘soft’ bias – ‘best known for being driven by mums on the school and soccer runs’ and then follow on with ‘Unfortunately, this means less capability off road than the solid front axle competitors, but for fire trails and mild 4WD tracks.’

    Sorry but you are saying the Pajero can only handle fire trails and ‘mild’ (e.g. green square) 4WD tracks. There is a huge difference between ‘fire trails’ (which you can take most soft roaders down) and crawling over boulders. Yet you positioned the Pajero’s capability and imagine squarely to the ‘soft’ left.

    Please tell me a black diamond track an open-diffed solid axle car will out-drive a Pajero of this vintage on?

    I have seen countless times when an older, lifted, solid truck has simply spun its tyre while an IFS vehicle with T/C has simply walked up, slowly and carefully.

    The whole ‘solid v IFS’ debate is so tiring. Get a Pajero with 2″ lift, and some decent tyres and it will go anywhere the readers of your magazine will take it. If you want to go and compete in Tough Truck competitions, I agree, the Pajero is not the car for you. But I bet almost none of your readers are looking for this.

    There is a HUGE difference between a ‘fire trail and mild 4WD track’ and tough truck competitions and it becomes so tiring and boring. I hope to see you pointing out how almost all 4WD’s can’t compete in these without extreme modifications, and for you to also say when its time to review, that the Prado can only do ‘fire trails and mild 4WD tracks’.

  • Jim Frost, I am pleased to see your passion for the usually underrated Paj. I’m saddened that you are tired of the debate yet keep pushing your end of the stick. A lifted, MT shod IFS car will handle ‘interesting’ tracks with confidence. Agreed. It also helps that Pajeros aren’t often bought by under-researched fools with more right foot than sense, unlike some stereotypical owners of older solid axle cars that sit there, pedal to the metal spinning much bigger than stock tyres…

  • A 2010 and 2017 Pajero is sitting in the carport at home in the Kimberley; one is mine the second my partners. No problems. The Kimberley is tough and so are the Pajero’s. Very capable car and great tourers as well.

  • My ’07 Diesel Pajero had major DPF failures twice on big trips – the second time at Poeppel Corner. I limped it all the way to Port Augusta for a 10 minute burn via the special Misti tool. Twice was once too many. An otherwise OK car, but this completely ended the journey for me. Never again.

    Back in Toyotas and haven’t had a hitch since. Sorry Pajero lovers 🙁

  • Have had a 2002NM 3.2 auto since new. Done 265,000 Klms with a lot of heavy towing. Twice across the Simpson and many other extreme tracks. A 2 inch ARB lift kit, front ARB locker and standard Mitsubishi rear LSD. My two touring mates with 100 series Cruiser and 3.0 4cyl Patrol have never been able to go anywhere that I can’t. Would have to be the best car I’ve ever owned.

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