Splendid in isolation
IF I hadn’t driven the latest Ford Ranger or Toyota HiLux, I’d probably think the new Mitsubishi Triton was pretty hot. But I have. And it’s not.
The new Triton is pleasant enough but it’s not nearly good enough in the hotly contested field that exists today.
That means it is likely — again — to become a car that sells best once it’s had a red pencil put through the showroom sticker.
I struggle to get enthusiastic about the Triton, even though there is lots of good news in the detail, from the 2.4-litre turbo diesel engine to more legroom for the driver and more knee space for rear passengers.
My test ute is a fully loaded Exceed, which means a bottom line of $47,490. That’s a hefty haul for a pick-up, even a dual cab with 4WD on the fly and leather trim in the cabin.
The styling is more like a facelift than a total overhaul despite changes to more than 80 per cent of the panels and parts. The extra strengthening under the skin helps it to a fivestar ANCAP safety rating and the smoother front end assists the impressive claimed economy of 7.6L/100km.
The cabin is a big improvement but the opening window through to the tray in the previous Triton is gone, sacrificed for extra legroom.
My mate Shane, who drives a superseded dual-cab Triton, finds a lot to like in the new model. He’s impressed by the overall quietness, the extra support in the front seats and lighter steering with a tighter turning circle. This ute feels — to him — like a big step up.
There are aspects to enjoy, among them the quietness and the smooth five-speed auto, which comes as a bonus after battling the heavy five-speed manual in the HiLux.
The turbo diesel (133 kW/ 430Nm) is not a fireball but works well enough with people in the cabin and nothing to tow. On that front, Mitsubishi rates the Triton at “only” 3100kg, which is still up by 100kg from the previous model and — despite a 3500kg rating for the HiLux — it’s only 100kg behind the equivalent Toyota auto.
Looking in the back, I’m reminded, just as in the Ranger and HiLux, that double-cab utes are really not that good if you want to carry something like a motorcycle in the tray. Even mountain bikes have to sit diagonally and the bar fitted to make it look like a “tuff truck” limits the ability to load gear.
Inside, there are cushy new seats and the driving position feels less cramped. It easily carries five adults.
I like the audio and reversing camera but that’s a benefit only in the two top models of the Pajero and so the company deserves a kick for leaving it out of the base car. You can buy a dealer-fitted camera for $750.
To drive, the Triton is below the best in the class. It is less connected to the road, more prone to jiggling over bumps and wobbling under brakes.
Cornering is no fun. It also pitches more than its rivals, as the suspension lacks the wheel control of the opposition that allows them to roll through undulations instead of bouncing about.
That’s pretty much the story. The Triton feels cheaper, less solid, than the class leaders, even VW’s Amarok.
It’s not that it’s bad, just that others are better. And, considering the previous generation of the Triton ran for a decade in showrooms, that’s bad news for Mitsubishi.
For me, the outgoing Triton was always the ute that was battling the Nissan Navara for a “best-of-the-rest” ranking behind the HiLux.
Discounted prices helped and it was easy to recommend the Mitsubishi because it was close to the Toyota but a fair way below on pricing.
But the fully loaded Triton Exceed is not cheap and the Ranger and HiLux are mightily impressive, which means the new Mitsubishi still trails — probably even further behind — in the class.