Unsung Hero

Words by Grant Spolander Words by Grant Spolander Pictures by Grant Spolander and Jess Fogarty

Most South Africans love their sport, and I’m sure many of us can quote career statistics of our favourite rugby, cricket or soccer players.

But how many of us have heard of Mike Bernardo? Born in ’69 in Cape Town, Mike Bernardo was one of the world’s greatest kick boxers: he fought in several international tournaments and beat dozens of fierce competitors – the best the world had to offer.

Globally, Mike had a reputation as a heavy-hitting fighter who frequently knocked his opponents out. In Japan, he was adored as a fighting legend, and appeared in Japanese commercials and video games. Sadly, Mike Bernardo passed away in early ’12. He was one of SA’s greatest athletes. We often compare 4x4s to well-known sportsmen. For example, who can deny that the Suzuki Jimny is the Patrick Lambie of the 4x4 world – small, capable and surprisingly tough? Or say that the Discovery 4 HSE isn’t a lot like Jacques Kallis – the ultimate all-rounder?

In the Triton’s case, this bakkie reminds me a lot of Mike Bernardo. It, too, boasts numerous accolades and classleading strengths, but, for some reason, it’s an unsung hero in SA’s double-cab market.

First launched in ’08, the Triton replaced an old South African favourite and a 4x4 popular with the off-road community: the Mitsubishi Colt. Unfortunately, many buyers failed to look past the Triton’s radical styling and never gave this bakkie a chance to prove itself. Its curvaceous cabin was particularly criticised. But what many people don’t know about this curvy quarter is that it’s one of the Triton’s greatest safety features.

You see, the rounded-rearcabin design is styled in such a way that it deflects, and rises away from, a rearward impact. In fact, the acronym for this design is RISE: Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution.

Despite strong criticism of the Triton’s design, it has remained unchanged for nearly six years. It was only recently, in September last year, that the Triton received a minor facelift and a feature upgrade.

It’s easy not to see past the Triton’s inconsequential exterior – and interior changes – like the mildly updated grille, and the fitment of a revised steering wheel with satellite controls. But the major change to the Triton range has taken place under the hood, with the introduction of a newly updated 2.5-litre engine, and the discontinuation of the eminent 3.2 DID.

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