ON BUD­GET, ON TIME

With on­go­ing fac­tory dis­count­ing, the Tri­ton is the cheap­est of the main­stream 4x4 dual cabs avail­able in Aus­tralia

Australian Transport News - - UTE MEGATEST -

Mit­subishi’s fifth-gen­er­a­tion (MQ) Tri­ton ar­rived in Aus­tralia in mid-2015, re­plac­ing the MN that first went on sale in 2009. In de­sign­ing and build­ing the MQ, Mit­subishi didn’t at­tempt to match the notably big­ger size of the new­gen­er­a­tion utes led by the Ford Ranger and VW Amarok, but in­stead re­worked what it al­ready had in the MN, which means a smaller ute. The main changes from the MQ cen­tred around an all-new Euro 5- com­pli­ant 2.4-litre four- cylin­der diesel, a new six-speed man­ual gear­box, a re­vised five-speed au­to­matic (avail­able on all mod­els and not just the Ex­ceed), var­i­ous chas­sis changes and a re-styled body. Thanks to very sharp pric­ing and on­go­ing fac­tory dis­count­ing, the Tri­ton is only out­sold by the Hilux and Ranger. And, if you want a less- ex­pen­sive ute than the Tri­ton, you’ll have to look at ei­ther a Chi­nese or a In­dian of­fer­ing.

POW­ER­TRAIN AND PER­FOR­MANCE

Aside from the Navara and X-Class’s shared 2.3-litre diesel, which em­ploys a so­phis­ti­cated bi-turbo ar­range­ment, the Tri­ton’s en­gine is the small­est ca­pac­ity here and is down to­wards the bot­tom of the list when it comes to on-pa­per power and torque out­puts. Coun­ter­ing this, the Tri­ton doesn’t weigh as much and isn’t as tall-geared as most utes here, so re­mains com­pet­i­tive in terms of its pedal-to-the- metal per­for­mance. The Tri­ton’s ‘lit­tle’ diesel also revs much harder than most to do the same job, as ev­i­denced by the fact that it doesn’t make its max­i­mum torque un­til 2,500rpm, an un­usu­ally high en­gine speed for a diesel and 1,000rpm above where some of the big­ger diesels achieve their max­i­mum torque.

De­spite the fact that the Tri­ton’s en­gine likes to rev, it’s still rea­son­ably quiet, re­fined, smooth and eco­nom­i­cal, so this is more a char­ac­ter­is­tic of the en­gine rather than a crit­i­cism.

The Tri­ton is unique here in hav­ing a five-speed au­to­matic (all the rest have six or more speeds) and the gear­box is also an old de­sign, even if it’s been up­dated for this gen­er­a­tion Tri­ton. It still of­fers

agree­able enough shifts but cer­tainly isn’t as slick or smart as the best gear­boxes here.

ON-ROAD RIDE AND HAN­DLING

The Tri­ton con­tin­ues to stand out in this com­pany in terms of its on-road dy­nam­ics thanks to the fact that it’s smaller and lighter than most of the utes here. It cer­tainly feels more ag­ile and nippy, es­pe­cially com­pared to the big­ger utes, namely the Ranger and BT-50.

More sig­nif­i­cantly, the Tri­ton of­fers full-time 4x4 via its unique Su­per Se­lect sys­tem that also al­lows the driver to se­lect rear-wheel drive.

The only other ute here with full-time 4x4 is the Amarok. Full-time 4x4 of­fers sig­nif­i­cant safety and drive­abil­ity ben­e­fits, par­tic­u­larly on wet bi­tu­men and where the road con­di­tions are al­ter­nat­ing from sealed to gravel and from wet to dry.

The Tri­ton’s sus­pen­sion is also gen­er­ally well re­solved, even if the ride qual­ity could be bet­ter when un­laden. Per­haps the rel­a­tively short wheel­base and the fact that the rear axle is right un­der the rear of the cab is part of the is­sue here?

LOAD CAR­RY­ING

The Tri­ton has rel­a­tively low pay­load rat­ings and the low­est tow rat­ing of all the utes here, a re­flec­tion of its small phys­i­cal size, rel­a­tive light

weight and low GVM and GCM. The fact that its short wheel­base means all of the tray over­hangs the rear axle doesn’t help ei­ther when heav­ily loaded. In this com­pany, the tray is slightly smaller than most – both in over­all di­men­sions and the width be­tween the wheel arches.

With our 900kg pay­load on board, the Tri­ton still coped okay chas­sis-wise but felt the weight more than most and de­manded a steady-as-she­goes ap­proach be­hind the wheel.

The en­gine, how­ever, fared bet­ter, even if it works harder than most to carry what is ef­fec­tively its max­i­mum pay­load.

OFF ROAD

While Su­per Se­lect’s main ben­e­fit comes on road, it also of­fers some con­ve­nience off road, given its full-time set­ting al­lows you to go from on-road to easy off-road with­out touch­ing any­thing. If con­di­tions get a bit more dif­fi­cult, you can read­ily lock the cen­tre diff in an ac­tion, which is gen­er­ally more seam­less than en­gag­ing 4x4 with any of the part-time utes, all of which can be a bit fid­dly and slow to en­gage on time given they all rely on elec­tro-me­chan­i­cal switch­ing rather than an ‘old-fash­ioned’ lever.

Un­for­tu­nately, that’s where the good news, for what it’s worth, ends for the Tri­ton in terms of off-road abil­ity. The main is­sue is that the Tri­ton isn’t blessed with lots of wheel travel, nor is the trac­tion con­trol all that ef­fec­tive. And while it has a rear diff lock (at this spec level), en­gag­ing the rear locker can­cels the trac­tion con­trol com­pletely, so it’s not al­ways of ben­e­fit. Like the D-Max, the Tri­ton couldn’t make it up our set-piece hill, although it did go fur­ther with the diff lock than with­out it.

A rel­a­tively low wad­ing depth doesn’t help ei­ther. With a bit of work (snorkel and af­ter-mar­ket locker) it could be much im­proved off road but out of the box it’s down the back of the pack.

CABIN AND SAFETY

The Tri­ton’s cabin is ar­guably the small­est here, which makes its pres­ence most felt if you wish to seat three adults across the back seat. Even

“THE TRI­TON IS THE LEAST EX­PEN­SIVE OF THE UTES HERE.”

up front, the driver and pas­sen­ger don’t get the space of the oth­ers, some­thing that tall peo­ple will no­tice but is not an is­sue for most.

More pos­i­tively, the Tri­ton of­fers both tilt-and-reach steer­ing wheel ad­just­ment and one of the bet­ter-fin­ished cab­ins here.

Smart-key en­try and start at this spec level (and rel­a­tively low price) is also a bonus, while no less than seven airbags help con­trib­ute to a five-star ANCAP rat­ing.

PRAC­TI­CAL­I­TIES

Per­haps the most prac­ti­cal thing about the Tri­ton is that it’s the least ex­pen­sive ute here, so you can buy one, add a truck­load of ac­ces­sories, and still come away bet­ter off than any of the other utes. The Tri­ton’s small phys­i­cal size and tight turn­ing cir­cle also makes it handy any­where where space is at a pre­mium. The wheel and tyre spec (245/65R17s) is a lit­tle smaller than the pop­u­lar 265/65R17 size on most utes here but this doesn’t limit re­place­ment op­tions.

Top of the con­sole are the me­dia touch­screen and dual-zone air-con

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