Mitsubishi’s new Triton: the workhorse that behaves like a sports utility vehicle

I spent some time with Mitsubishi’s new Triton 2.4 Di-DC MIVEC Double Cab automatic and I predict it’s going to give the Ford Ranger and probably Toyota’s much-vaunted Hilux some stiff competition in this segment of the market.

Brian Joss – Not to forget Mazda’s new BT 50 which will be reviewed soon, or Nissan’s Navara. I was at the launch of the original Navara quite a few years ago which as I recall was in the then Eastern Transvaal.

The fifth generation Triton, which used to be known as the Colt, is mostly all new except for the ladder frame chassis which has been carried over into the latest model.

The new Mitsubishi Triton: it will give other brands a run for their money in this competitive sector of the market. Picture: Quickpic

It has proven to be a favourite in Australia, Brazil, Europe and the Middle East, and although it is a workhorse it feels much more like a Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) and could do duty as a go anywhere lifestyle vehicle.

Load up a few surfboards or a couple of mountain bikes, and you’re good to go.  Some imaginative owners have even dubbed it a SUT – a sports utility truck.

Mitsubishi said their engineers have improved 185 key areas which include deepening and reinforcing the loading bay; revising the shape of the bonnet and refining the driving position. Now there is more space, especially for passengers at the rear of the double cab models.

It’s also really big. If you’re driving a small car, and through the rear view mirror, see this giant bearing down on you, you’ll move out of the way, fast.

A few Ford Ranger and Toyota Hilux drivers challenged me at the red lights, revving their engines, hooting occasionally and giving me the thumbs up. But I ignored them, as I didn’t want to risk a speeding ticket. 

Design-wise it is an athletic looking “bakkie” which attracted a fair bit of attention. Quite different to the old Colt. It has a sculpted bonnet, bold grille and wrap-around headlights and a tailgate that you can operate with one hand. Unlike the Nissan NP 200 Ice (tested) which had a really heavy tailgate and you needed a plate of Jungle Oats in the morning to give you the vooma to open and close it.

Other design elements include chrome accents around the front driving lights; flush-mounted grille; door handles and new side steps and 17″ alloy wheels.  

Access is much easier. And the driver has an excellent view of the road.

There is also a new dashboard with easy-to-clean surfaces, although they have more of a  plastic feel than a premium one. Depending on the model, features include a touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth connectivity and USB audio input as well as the keyless push-button stop/start system. The test vehicle also had a reverse camera and unlike the Pajero (tested) does not have an automatic electronic brake. Leather upholstery is standard across the range.

It’s easy to find a suitable driving position. You can move the driver’s seat electrically and the telescopic steering wheel can be adjusted for tilt. The seats have been redesigned, they have additional bolstering and higher density foam to make long-distance driving more comfortable.  

The Triton is powered by a new aluminium block four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine. “The engine offers the ideal combination of a fast spooling turbocharger with an unconventionally low compression ratio of 15.5:1 which aids responsive torque delivery at low engine speeds,” Mitsubishi said.

It delivers 133 kW at 3 500 rpm with torque of 430 Nm at 2 500 rpm. Fuel consumption is rated at 7.6 litres per 100 km in a combined cycle, according to Mitsubishi. However, I recorded figures of 9litres/100km which included all sorts of driving conditions: short jaunts to the mall; longer trips to Gordon’s Bay and Stellenbosch. Traffic on the freeway was often gridlocked where the construction work never seems to end. But the Triton fitted with a five-speed automatic transmission took everything in its stride. It was smooth sailing over potholed roads and corrugations and on the highways.

Hills were no obstacle and the Triton held its own on some of the more twisty trails. Surprisingly, parking was fairly easy because of its small turning circle and the hydraulic power steering system.

The turbo-diesel delivers power to the rear (2H), or all wheels (4H if 4×4) through the five-speed automatic transmission, or the six-speed manual box.

The Super-Select II four-wheel drive system which featured in the latest Pajero (tested) is available in the Triton and the system offers the driver the choice of four distinct driving modes from a console-mounted selector.

The ride quality of the Triton is excellent: on tar, gravel or highway driving. The steering is light and although I haven’t driven the six-speed manual transmission I have a feeling the five-speed auto version is the better option as you don’t have to constantly change gears. And, yes, it does indeed handle like an SUV, and is just as comfortable. You can easily steer the Triton with one finger on the wheel if you want to be a show-off.

It will cruise along quite happily at the legal limit and there’s more than enough torque to overtake with ease and in safety.

Although comparisons are said to be odious if I had to choose between the Ranger 2.2 auto (tested), I would choose the Triton as its 2.4 litre engine is more powerful than the Ford Ranger’s and it is significantly cheaper.

And here’s a thought to leave you with. The Colt double-cab was the bakkie of choice for many people.

A friend had one in early 2000 and she used it to transport her pedigreed Pyrenean Mountain Dogs to various competitions and to the beaches for a run.

Then in 2007 it was replaced with the Triton, when the  Ford Ranger was still a twinkle in the engineers’ eyes. The Triton then wasn’t the most attractive bakkie around. It was ugly, in my opinion. So buyers eschewed it, even though beneath the bonnet the Triton was better in many respects than some of the other brands. It’s ride quality was good and it was as comfortable as today’s Triton.

The Triton carries a price tag of *R559 900. All models – there are four derivatives – and all have  a 5-year/90 000km service plan and 3-year/100 000km manufacturer’s warranty.

*Check with your dealer.

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