Mitsubishi Triton: A rose by any other name…
When is a bakkie not a bakkie? When it’s Sports Utility Truck (SUT), of course! At least, that’s what Mitsubishi wants us to believe, for this is the name tag they conjured up for their all-new Triton double-cab pickup. It’s really quite understandable, because the word “bakkie” automatically means either “Hilux” or “Ranger” in the minds of most South Africans. Gaining traction in that specific marketplace is quite a challenge, as the uphill battle faced by equally worthy competitors such as the Volkswagen Amarok, Isuzu KB and Nissan Navara amply demonstrates.
But in the end, fancy-sounding new name and all, the Triton is still a high-end double cab bakkie. There’s a ladder frame chassis underneath, with a live rear axle suspended by leaf springs, a capacious load bay, and four doors for the cabin. But as far as bakkies go, it’s a very good one indeed, and it certainly stands out among its peers.
Where the others all boast chiselled, blocky styling, the Triton has a much sleeker profile, with a pointed nose, wrap-around light clusters, and smooth surface detailing. The “J-line” introduced by the previous generation Triton (that strange curve between the passenger compartment and load bin) makes another appearance, but this time it’s squared off a tad, making it less aesthetically challenging than before. Meanwhile, subtle creases down its flanks frame the wheel arches nicely. These car-like styling cues sets the Triton apart in its class, and should draw in many buyers for whom the butch, blunt appearances prevalent in this market segment has become too overbearing.
The passenger-car influence extends into the cabin as well, but not in the ways you might think. Design-wise, the dashboard is pretty much standard-issue Modern Japanese Bakkie, with an emphasis on horisontal lines and a high-mounted touch screen multimedia system. Material quality is likewise par for the course, and it’s all very solidly screwed together, but there’s nothing special about the layout or plastic trimmings at all. The unusual bit comes when you look at the rear seating area, where the bench seat appears a whole lot more inviting than you’d find in the Triton’s competitors. There’s a two-fold reason for this: the cabin is the longest (front-to-rear) in this class, and the rear seat squab was lengthened and tilted to go with a far more natural-feeling backrest angle. This results in easily the most comfortable rear perch in its class.
Comfort receives a further boost with newly optimised suspension calibration. It is indeed quite diffucult to understand how such conventional underpinnings could result in such an absorbent ride quality, yet without compromising on its load capability. The typical double-cab tremors over broken surfaces and corrugations are just about banished, yet the Triton remains just as well planted when the road turns twisty. This might just be the smoothest-riding bakkie out there, and will likely remain so until the new Nissan Navara arrives with its high-tech independent rear suspension.
This refined behaviour extends to cabin noise levels as well, where freeway cruising generates at worst a slight whisper from the large side mirrors – all other noise intrusions are very effectively contained. There’s no road noise worth mentioning, even with those fat Yokohama Geolandar all-terrain tyres pounding the tarmac into submission, and the engine’s sounds are just as nicely muted. Its overall refinement simply leapfrogs past the Triton’s mainstream opposition and at least matches Volkswagen’s Amarok in this regard.
Such impressive comfort and refinement would all come undone if the engine was a lumbering beast, so it’s fortunate that the Triton’s new engine lives up to the standard set by its chassis and cabin. Displacing only 2.4 litres, the all-new powerplant is quite an impressive piece of kit, with many detail enhancements to set it apart from the herd. The cylinder block is now cast in aluminium, the cylinder head features variable camshaft timing and common rail direct diesel injection, and the (intercooled) turbo setup utilises a variable geometry turbine. Along with the new engine’s low compression ratio, all these enhancements result in an superbly quiet and smooth-running engine.
Power outputs are not to be sneezed at either, with the 133 kW and 430 Nm on offer being on par with (or superior to) many of the larger engines on offer from the competition. The way in which it delivers that power is equally impressive: there’s a little bit of turbo lag just off idle speed, but once the rev counter needle passes the 1300 r/min mark, torque delivery is instantaneous and doesn’t run out of breath at higher engine speeds. This new engine marks a significant leap ahead of the 2.5 turbo diesel in the old Triton (which still does duty in the current-model Pajero Sport and Fiat Fullback).
Two gearbox options are available: a brand-new 6-speed manual transmission, and a re-worked 5-speed autobox as used in the Pajero. Sure, the automatic gearbox needs an extra ratio to achieve parity with the Ranger and Hilux, let alone the Amarok’s 8-speed unit, but the new engine’s wide power band easily negates the relative shortage of gear ratios. It’s all very smooth and civilised, and I really didn’t miss the sixth gear, whether driving on the freeway or on an off-road trail.
Yes, the new Triton is immensely capable off the tarmac as well. Four wheel drive derivatives receive Mitsubishi’s renowned Super Select II 4WD system, which offers a choice of four driving modes: 2H (RWD only), 4H (AWD with a viscous centre differential), 4H-Lc (4WD with the centre diff locked for a 50/50 torque distribution) and 4L-Lc (low range 4WD with a locked centre differential). Really severe off-roading is further simplified through the addition of a rear axle differential lock, while class-leading approach-, departure-, and break-over angles ensure that very few trails will overcome the Triton’s abilities. This unique 4WD system really puts the new Triton at the head of its segment in rough terrain.
Equipment levels are quite comprehensive as well, with a keyless entry system (on 4×4 variants), dual-zone automatic air conditioning, a rear-view camera, leather upholstery (with electric adjustment for the driver’s seat), two airbags, and dynamic stability control all offered as standard. The specification sheet isn’t as comprehensive as a high-level Ranger’s, but the price tag does reflect this. The range opens with a 4×2 manual double cab Triton at R479 900, and reaches R559 900 in 4×4 auto format – in all cases presenting an attractively-priced alternative to the usual contenders, while offering significantly better refinement and comfort than most of them.
Included in that pricetag is a warranty for 3 years or 100 000 km, along with a service plan for 5 years or 90 000 km. Leisure buyers (and serious off-roaders) would be well advised to take a very good look at this new Triton. It’s a little different from the norm: while being just as capable as the rest, it really takes the class into new territory with its combination of space and comfort, and at a relative bargain price. Maybe there is merit in that “Sport Utility Truck” moniker, after all…
Mitsubishi Triton Range:
Mitsubishi Triton 2.4 Di-D 4×2 (man) – R479 900
Mitsubishi Triton 2.4 Di-D 4×2 (auto) – R499 900
Mitsubishi Triton 2.4 Di-D 4×4 (man) – R539 900
Mitsubishi Triton 2.4 Di-D 4×4 (auto) – R559 900