Car reviews - Mitsubishi - Triton - GLS
Compliant ride, accurate steering, linear engine delivery, rear seat comfort
Room for improvement
Workmanlike cabin, some rear-end suspension choppiness
6 Jul 2015
By NEIL DOWLING
Price and equipment
VALUE for money and dual-cab utes are the oil and water of the Australian car market.
For the past two decades, four-wheel drive utilities have, from an engineering perspective, barely changed. Whether based on design, simplicity or durability reasons, today’s ute is structurally similar to one made in the mid-1990s.
So why do mid-spec 4WD dual-cab utes cost around $45,000 when they remain on a similar ladder-frame chassis, are powered – in the main – by a four-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine and have a wishbone front suspension with a live axle and leaf springs at the rear?That’s the same price as a high-end Mazda6 diesel wagon.
But it seems the market is prepared to pay the price and rivals tend to crowd around that mid-$40K figure, making choosing one a hard task.
But Mitsubishi has struck out. Its latest Triton is cheaper than before and sports a comparative wealth of features that make the rivals look positively low rent.
Yes, it’s still a ladder-frame, diesel-engined, leaf-sprung ute. But the cabin is more up-spec (though could go higher), the feature list is impressive, the safety kit is improved and the style and ride comfort is starting to bridge the gap between a worker and a family machine.
The Triton 4WD dual-cab range is priced from $36,990 plus on-road costs for the GLX, through to the top-shelf Exceed at $47,490.
The test vehicle is the mid-spec GLS at $40,990 plus on-road costs as a manual, adding $2500 for the automatic transmission.
It is Mitsubishi’s timely and effective attack on the dual-cab market as Toyota spools up to launch its all-new HiLux in October. The company appears to hope to pick up sales before the HiLux arrives, and has used the new Triton as an atonement for the things it couldn’t supply in the previous model.
For example, the now five-star body offers safety and complies with rigorous mine safety requirements. It has all the car-like electronic brake aids and ups the ante with seven airbags, trailer-sway mitigation and a reversing camera.
The cabin gets upmarket gloss black trim, dual-zone air-conditioning, a six-speaker audio with digital radio, a 6.1-inch touchscreen and cloth trim with carpets on the floor.
It is the only one of its type in its price bracket with alloy wheels and with a bodykit that includes sports bar, rear step, side steps and wheel arch flares.
In fact, it offers a lot more than its rivals. At least until many of them – Ranger, Mazda BT-50 and HiLux particularly – present their replacements later this year.
If you never expected a workhorse ute to be car-like on the inside, you’re about to have your mind changed. It’s now all about comfort and convenience features and the hose-out interiors of old are slowly fading as utes fit into the busy, dual-purpose roles of work and play.
The Triton goes half way. The latest model is a big step up from its predecessor but there is still the haunting overtones of a work vehicle, centering mainly around the hard plastics.
There is some relief in the gloss-black trim, particularly around the centre console and the monitor, to lift the visual appeal.
Large airvents dominate the dashboard. The central monitor is also big enough and clear enough to broadcast the reversing camera’s view behind the ute.
Though safety is its priority, the camera makes it a lot easier to park the 5.3m-long vehicle.
There’s great personal storage space thanks to an above-average size glovebox, large centre lidded box and cupholders and door-insert bottle holders.
More importantly, it’s roomy. The data shows it’s marginally up on the old model – which, for those nostalgic ute buyers is still being sold in parallel – with a 10mm increase in width and 20mm in the cabin length.
But you’d swear it was bigger than that. Part of the reason is the slightly bigger glasshouse and the more restrained swoop of the rear side windows.
The seats are more supportive and the driving position greatly enhanced by the debut of a telescopic adjustment to the tilt steering wheel. That is also helped by a faster steering rack that needs less turns lock-to-lock.
Front seat travel is increased by 14mm and though the Triton’s height is unchanged, there’s a token 8mm more headroom. The rear seat is more laid back and thanks to wider doors, is easier to access and more comfortable. There is some storage space behind the fold-down rear seat back, alongside the vehicle’s wheel brace and jack.
Mitsubishi includes iPod and USB jacks to go with the Bluetooth connectivity but if you want sat-nav you’ll have to pay $6500 more for the Exceed variant.
The vehicle length is up 15mm (to 5280mm) on the previous model but the rear tray is 25mm shorter at 1520mm. However, the bed height is up 15mm to 475mm.
Engine and transmission
Reflective of current downsizing trends, the Triton replaces its previous 2.5-litre turbo-diesel with a 2.4-litre unit. But they differ not only in capacity.
The new engine has an all-alloy block and head and uses a variable-geometry turbocharger. It has a durable – and practically maintenance free – timing chain instead of the more fragile belt pulley.
It delivers 133kW (up a mere 2kW on the old engine) at 3500rpm and has 430Nm of torque at 2500rpm. This is an 80Nm increase when the engine is bolted to the five-speed automatic, but only a 30Nm upgrade when specified with the new six-speed manual.
Mitsubishi says the discrepancy refers to the auto’s stronger torque requirements when running through the transmission. Oddly, the previous engine had 350Nm as an auto and 400Nm as a manual.
In comparison with most rivals, the Triton’s oomph is well up on the Nissan Navara and HiLux but down on the Ranger’s 147kW/470MNm output.
The unremarkable power increase appears exactly that – unremarkable – until the ute is taken to the streets.
This engine is better in every way – smoother at idle with barely any roughness and rattle, far more responsive to accelerator pedal pressure, quieter through the rev range and, ultimately, more fuel efficient.
Most of the quicker momentum is down to the torque increase and to the five-speed automatic that has been borrowed – with small control-module modifications – from the Pajero. Its SUV sibling also donated the Super Select II transfer case.
Fuel economy is better by 20 per cent. The Triton GLS auto is claimed to get 7.6 litres per 100 kilometres – quite a stunning figure for what is ostensibly a workhorse – but our on and off-road test we couldn’t replicate that, coming in at a 9.2L/100km average. That’s on par with the Ford Ranger’s claimed average.
The track is wider and the ute feels more planted than its predecessor, especially when the road adds a few curves. Aside from the engine, it is the improvement in the steering that makes the Triton almost a pleasure to drive.
The steering rack has been tightened so there’s less turns needed to punt the ute around a corner or when parking. The movement feels less cumbersome and has lost that confidence-sapping vagueness of old.
And on top of all that, the ride is more supple on smooth and coarse-bitumen roads while the seats are more supportive. The new telescopic steering wheel adjustment is also a boon. At the end of a day-long country drive, there were no body aches.
We also spent a day in the dirt, mainly beach work in soft, dry sand. Let the tyres down to 18psi and the Triton is practically unstoppable. The torque boost meant the ratios changed up quickly, suiting the sand work that requires minimal wheelspin.
The tighter steering was also a bonus, requiring less work by the driver to stay in wheel ruts and with reduced effort when negotiating obstacles.
The transfer case is an electrically-actuated system now common in nearly all dual-cab 4WDs, the HiLux being the current exception. It is a part-time system, offering rear drive, 4WD High, 4WD High with centre diff lock, and 4WD Low with the centre diff lock.
It is possible to drive on bitumen in 4WD High as the centre differential will prevent any “winding up” of the drivetrain.
Ground clearance is 200mm, down from 205mm previously, while the longer nose has trimmed the once class-leading approach angle down to a still-effective 30-degrees.
Ride and handling
Rear leaf springs are hardly invitations for sporty driving or for a more connected journey across rough roads. But their ability to absorb high payloads remains second to none.
The Triton GLS has a payload of 950kg, beating only the HiLux (840kg) in a segment that is expected to have at least the capability to haul one tonne.
It also has a 3100kg tow rating, down on the increasingly-common 3500kg benchmark set by Ranger, Navara, Isuzu D-Max and Holden's Colorado. At least, that’s the way it seems.
If you’re buying a dual-cab 4WD to haul stuff, ensure you do the sums correctly. Payload obviously suffers according to how much is towed.
So the Isuzu, for example, can tow 3500kg but if it does, payload – that’s all the stuff you’re carrying including yourself and your mates – drops to about 500kg. The Navara, towing 3500kg, has a maximum payload of 587kg.
Despite the 400kg deficiency in the tow rating, the Triton comes out pretty well. It can have a payload of 835kg when towing its 3100kg maximum – a figure that may be more suitable when filling the cab with people and luggage.
Back on the road the Triton is a comfortable ride. It prefers a bit of weight in the tray to keep it from trembling over small undulations but it must be repeated that this is much better than the outgoing Triton.
It is far more accurate to steer through corners and has a smaller turning circle to suit congested traffic and parking situations.
Safety and servicing
The Triton finally gets a five-star ANCP crash safety rating, putting it within reach of corporates – particularly mining companies – who demand this as a minimum requirement.
It also has seven airbags, electronic stability and traction control, trailer-sway mitigation, LED daytime running lights and a reversing camera.
The headlights are high-intensity discharge (HID) units – though unknown if they use Xenon or another medium – and the nose of the vehicle is 65mm longer (to an 860mm overhang) as a means of increasing pedestrian safety.
Mitsubishi was one of the first manufacturers to launch a five-year warranty.
That remains but the distance threshold has dropped to 100,000km from the previous 130,000km. It has a one-year roadside assistance program.
The Triton needs annual servicing and Mitsubishi’s capped-price service program costs $1510 for three years. Glass’s Guide estimates the Triton’s resale value after three years will be a commendable 52 per cent of the purchase price.
It’s a better ute than before and in most ways, better than the majority of its rivals. It picks up points for the engine smoothness and refinement, better response and improved fuel economy.
Load carrying ability and tow ratings are also improved. Changes are evolutionary which typifies the dual-cab 4WD ute market.
Rivals updating within the next four months include HiLux and Ranger, two of the most popular utes and which will make buyer selection difficult.
However, the Triton has a good name for durability and that’s reflected in its strong resale value. The GLS is the best pick of the three variants, though sat-nav may be on some prospective buyers’ wish list.
Nissan Navara RX from $42,490 plus on-road costs
The cheapest Navara dual-cab 4WD is $1000 less than the mid-range Triton. The newest entrant in the segment has a 120kW/403Nm 2.3-litre turbo-diesel mated to a seven-speed automatic then through a dual-range transfer case to all wheels. It claims 7.1L/100km. Its tow rating is 3500kg and has a 1028kg payload. The Navara is alone by having a coil-sprung rear end giving it a much smother ride on the road. Features are thin but include the basics, though the carpeted cabin (aside from Triton, the only one here) is welcome.
Ford Ranger XL from $48,390 plus on-road costs
Ford’s currently readying the Ranger for an update. The existing dual-cab has a 147kW/470Nm 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel (shared with the Mazda BT-50) mated to a six-speed automatic and a dual-range transfer case. The fuel average is claimed at 9.2L/100km. It has a 3500kg tow rating and a payload of 1114kg.
Toyota HiLux from SR $45,240 plus on-road costs
Like the Ranger, the Hilux is ready for replacement in October. The current model has a 126kW/360Nm 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine coupled with a five-speed automatic and then to a two-speed transfer case. It has an 8.7L/100km fuel average. The payload is 840kg and the tow rating is 2500kg (both to be upgraded with the new model).
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