Mitsubishi Triton Launched

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Having always been a strong contender in the light commercial sector in years gone by, the Mitsubishi Triton, despite its well-deserved reputation for virtually unbreakable ruggedness, fell out of favour some years ago, all because of some really quirky styling.

Gone was the angular look demanded by predominantly farmer-buyers. In its stead, Mitsubishi offered a rear end cabin with a distinctive J configuration which looked awkward, to say the least. To make matters worse, even the load bay had a slope to it.

Adding to the woes was a rather basic 2.5-litre turbodiesel which got the job done, but which was rough and very agricultural when compared to its rivals.

Enter the 2017 version

Available in double cab configuration only, the latest versions are available as either 4x2 or 4x4 models aimed squarely at the leisure market which includes affluent professionals who require a special kind of vehicle for weekend getaways.

The Engine

Having also driven the Fiat Fullback, which is basically an old-style Triton right down to the Mitsubishi ASX steering wheel, and which is fitted with the old 2.5-litre diesel, it soon becomes apparent that, at last, Mitsubishi has managed to get it spot on.

Making an impressive 131 kW from 3,500 r/min, the state-of-the-art 2.4 turbodiesel (yes, it's smaller in capacity and weighs 30 kgs less) this engine also develops 430 Nm of torque at a low 2,500 r/min - making it a virtually perfect vehicle for towing. Linked to a high output all-aluminium engine, buyers may choose between a smooth-shifting five-speed automatic or an equally light six-speed manual unit which should do great things for fuel consumption. Engine vibration has been brought under control by several new mounting points on the chassis, and fuel consumption is a claimed 7.6 litres/100 km.

Luxury

The fact that the new Triton is anything but the farm manager's workhorse soon becomes evident when appreciating the long list of safety and luxury features. There are specifications which would not be out of place in considerably more expensive luxury cars.

For starters, rear passengers will enjoy and appreciate a backrest which does away with the uncomfortable upright position found in rival vehicles. In fact, the ride is so good that it rivals some SUVs and it's no coincidence that the interior reminds strongly of the iconic Pajero.

Getting in and out is a pleasure, despite the 210 mm ground clearance, and then there's cruise control, an intuitive touchscreen infotainment screen with Bluetooth connectivity and USB audio input. The stop-start function is keyless, and the steering wheel is fully adjustable (rake and reach). Seats are leather-covered, should you have to be reminded that this is no longer a run-of-the-mill bakkie. Even the driver's seat is electrically adjustable, and the reverse camera will prevent those embarrassing dings and dents.

The utility side of things

Despite its smaller dimensions, the load bay is a deepened and reinforced rugged double skinned hi-tensile steel offering, fully capable of transporting at least 600 kg without any effort, while the curved tailgate can be operated with one hand. Mitsubishi engineers have also cleverly placed the integrated brake light on the tailgate, rather than on the cab itself where the fitment of a canopy would have obscured this essential safety feature.

The looks

Having learned the lesson that "Ugly doesn't Sell", Mitsubishi designers went to considerable lengths to ensure that they got it right this time. The sculpted bonnet, bold grille and wraparound headlights pay tribute to the central design theme of athleticism, while discreet chrome accents around the front driving lamps, grille and flush mounted door handles add a modern touch. Newly designed side steps and the striking 17" alloy wheels complete the updates.

Final Impression

With the launch of the latest generation, Triton with its superb new engine and its reputation for mechanical reliability one would expect from a manufacturer which has won the vehicle-breaking Dakar a record 12 times, the sluggish sales figures (only 64 in January) will soon be a thing of the past. With prices starting at R479,900 for the manual shift 4x2, and moving up to R559,900 for the 4x4 auto, the Triton has what it takes to sell at least 400-500 units per month.

The 3-year/100,000 km warranty and the 5-year/90,000 km service plan should sway many potential buyers with, I believe, Nissan and Isuzu and, to a lesser extent Ford, yielding to Mitsubishi's onslaught.

An excellent and reliable vehicle, fully deserving of support.