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Mitsubishi Triton challenges utility perceptions

Cab 'n curves: Mitsubishi has endeavoured to broaden the Triton's design appeal.

It may be a workhorse but Mitsubishi hopes the Triton will redefine its segment

18 Oct 2005

IF LOOKS count for anything in the rough-and-tumble commercial-vehicle world, Mitsubishi’s new Triton will be a hit when it arrives here next year. And that’s even before you turn the key and experience the joys of the new 3.2-litre turbo-diesel.

In a move that represents some of the sweeping changes running through the corridors of Mitsubishi Motors Corporation, the company has taken the initiative that just because the Triton is a work ute, it does not have to look like one.

Previewed during this year’s Paris to Dakar rally as "Truck Evolution", the new Triton, or L200 as it is known in some markets, owes much of its design inspiration to the 2002 Pajero Evo 2+2 concept and the Pajero Evolution racer, with its almost identical sharp lines, evocative Mitsubishi "Mount Fuji" grille and purposeful on-road stance.

In profile, the integration of the cab with the utility tray area – always a difficult styling exercise because of the vertical cut-off necessitated by the rear window – has been done with flare and imagination.

The rear passenger compartment curves into the tray area like a jigsaw piece while the rear doors kick upwards at their rear trailing edges to add some style in an area that could have otherwise have been dull. The overall look is fresh and appropriate to the "sports" utility sector.

Inside, Mitsubishi claims best-in-class cabin room both front and rear. The four-door turbo-diesel variant GoAuto drove in Japan last month also had wide opening doors allowing easy access to the rear seat which, unlike Holden’s Crewman, has plenty of headroom and offers passenger car-like comfort levels.

The sports theme also carries over into the interior with the dashboard execution, three-spoke steering wheel and brushed aluminium finishes on the mid-range diesel.

The Thai-built vehicle also had good quality materials and a reasonably up-market cabin ambience.

In Thailand, the Triton is available as a single cab, club cab and four-door double cab and all three are expected to be available here, along with an entry cab-chassis version.

21 center imageFour-wheel drive Tritons with Mitsubishi’s proven Super Select four-wheel drive system are due in Australia around April-May, however 4x2 buyers will have to wait until early 2007.

For Mitsubishi Australia, 2006 will be a busy 4x4 year with the Triton joined by the new Pajero in September, offering long-wheelbase as well as the possible return of the short-wheelbase version at a sub-$40,000 price-point.

The Triton boasts a tough hydro-formed fully boxed frame chassis which is 25 per cent stronger than the current car and new independent front suspension and rear live suspension axle set-up.

Some upper-end variants are also likely to offer active stability and traction control and the Pajero’s Super-Select 4WD system, as well as 17-inch wheels.

In Thailand, it is sold with a range of 2.5-litre and 3.2-litre turbo-diesel engines. Australia is likely to get the muscular high-end diesel as well as a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine with prices from $26,000 to around $32,000.

The five-speed 3.2-litre Di-D common rail turbo GoAuto drove developed 124kW at 4000rpm and 351Nm at 2000rpm – which was something of a sporting revelation for what is essentially a workhorse.

Although restricted to Mitsubishi’s high-speed test track near Nagoya, it proved capable of keeping up with other passenger cars on the circuit with a car-like component of mid-range power. Power delivery is low in the rev-range, offering a linear surge right up to an indicated 160km/h.

The ride and handling characteristics were benign and despite the car’s high ride height, the Triton remained sure-footed and quiet. The five-speed manual proved exact and the clutch evenly weighted.

Only the steering felt a tad vague, but no more so than other utility vehicles we have driven.

In Thailand, the Triton has had a good start since it went on sale in August. Mitsubishi set a monthly sales target of 3500 but received 12,000 orders in the first 15 days. This is hardly surprising because the Triton is the sort of utility that marries practicality with purposeful style.

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