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Off-road Test: Mitsubishi Triton

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Unbeknownst to most, the Mitsubishi Triton can trace its roots as far back as 1978 when the brand’s first pick-up, the ‘Forte’, was launched in Japan. South Africa got the second-gen Colt, also known as the L200, from the mid-eighties, and then there was the Rodeo… Now in its fifth generation, the Mitsubishi one-tonner remains a fringe product in SA’s bakkie segment, but majors on a great reputation for reliability, good value and a unique 4×4 system to entice customers. The Triton is available in four double-cab flavours including manual and auto options, with two- or four-wheel drive.

Interior

All new bakkies are moving upmarket at a steady rate, with all sorts of luxury bells and whistles as standard. The Triton has most of these, but without too much shouting – it achieves an appropriate compromise between workhorse and luxury frills. A fine leather wrapped steering wheel and some of the most effective air-con this side of an arctic gale is certainly refreshing, and general occupant-comfort is high. Rear legroom has been improved by almost 20mm from the previous generation double cab and the seats are superbly comfortable – at least on par with the rivals.

On a weekend of 4x4ing and Cederberg exploration, there was never a single squeak or rattle, and the dash remained planted over corrugations. Unfortunately, it’s not all rosy, as the infotainment system is extremely frustrating to use, not to mention completely illegible in direct sunlight, which makes the reversing camera near useless when it’s sunny.

Likes

Powerful engine for this price bracket
Refined at speed
Best 4WD system in the bakkie segment
Excellent handling on fast gravel
Comfortable seats
Rubber-lined load bay
Standard tonneau cover

Dislikes

The Triton uses highway-terrain tyres – most rivals have all-terrain tyres as standard.
One of the worst infotainment systems on the market with a low resolution screen that’s difficult to use.
The tailgate does not lock
The engine, though powerful, does suffer from turbo lag

Exterior

Whether you loved it or loathed it, the previous-gen Triton polarised opinion with its curved ‘J-line’ between cab and load bay. The new ‘MQ’ model keeps the original aesthetic, but tones it down a bit and adds a splattering of chrome to the nose. Speaking of which… the front end, just like the rear end, looks near-as-dammit identical to that of the Fiat Fullback with which the Triton shares its base… though you’ll identify the Mitsubishi thanks to the prominent propeller standing proud on its nose.

Fitted as standard, the securable tonneau cover provides added security to the load bay. It won’t stop dust ingress, and the tail gate doesn’t lock, but it’s both practical and visually appealing − especially when paired with the chrome ‘sports bar’.


Triton Images


On Road

After climbing out of the Hilux 2.4 and into this, the first thing you’ll notice is a huge step up in power. While the peak output isn’t quite on par with the Ford Ranger 3.2, or even the 132kW biturbo Amarok, the engine spins freely, offering impressive thrust right up to the redline.

It is fast off the line, but to get the engine on boil, it needs to be revved hard and offers poor torque at low revs, taking a bit of skill to get the clutch-control right without stalling. Master that, and the Triton is an accomplished tourer with impressive refinement, compliant suspension and, of course, the viscous 4WD system that can be used on slippery mountain passes for extra safety.

The Triton has also received an impressive four-star safety rating from Euro NCAP, partly thanks to a sophisticated stability control system.

Off Road

OFF-ROAD DNA

Approach angle 28°
Departure angle 22°
Ramp angle 25°
Ground clearance 205mm
Wading depth 500mm
Ramp Travel Index (RTI) 376

Comparing bakkies in their off-road ability is often near-futile, thanks to the obvious similarities all new 4×4 pick-ups share. The Mitsubishi, however, offers a unique 4×4 system that is more than just a gimmick, but a true safety enhancement on all roads with poor grip. The system uses a viscous centre differential to distribute power, so preventing transmission wind-up while maintaining drive to all four wheels.

This is an absolute boon on slippery roads, and can be used on any surface, including Tarmac, at any time you want to improve stability. On tight gravel passes, the lack of transmission windup also improves manoeuvrability without sacrificing traction.

In more technical terrain, the centre difflock can be engaged in high range, as can the low-range, from a centrally mounted rotary dial which is fast-acting. One issue noted was that the hill-hold-assist function, which holds the vehicle in place during hill starts, would often resist disengaging the brakes soon enough off-road, which resulted in stalling and lurching.

Another drawback is the long overhanging rear bumper, resulting in the poor 22 degree departure angle. The tyres are also poor, being extremely road-biased options, whereas the likes of Ford and Isuzu are fitted with all-terrain rubber. Easily changed.

Conclusion

The Triton is most certainly an impressive package as far as an overland rig goes, thanks to a large load capacity, proven reliability and possibly the best gravel-road stability of any bakkie. A few small niggles taint what is overall an excellent product with a far more sophisticated drivetrain than before.

Test Data

R539 900
Odometer 6750km

Engine

Cylinders/Capacity: I4/2422cc

Valves: 16

Bore and stroke: 86 x 105.1mm

Compression ratio: 15.5:1

Fuel supplyCommon-rail

FuelDiesel

Max power131kW @ 3500rpm

Max torque430Nm @ 2500rpm

Transmission

Shift type: Automatic

First gear: 4.280:1

Second gear: 2.298:1

Third gear: 1.437:1

Fourth gear: 1:1

Fifth gear: 0.776:1

Sixth gear 0.651:1

Reverse 3.959:1

Final drive: 3.692

Low range 2.566:1

Controls

4WD selection type: Electronic rotary dial

Steering type: Hydraulic assist rack and pinion

Wheels: 17inch Alloy

Tyres 245/65 R17 Yokohama Geolandar SUV

4WD type Viscous 4WD system with locking centre differential and rear diff-lock

Chasis/Suspension

Chassis type: Ladder frame

Suspension (front): Independent, coil

Suspension (rear): Live axle, leaf spring

Turning circle: 11.8m

Measurements (mm)

Length: 5285

Width: 1815

Height: 1780

Wheelbase: 3000

Front/rear track: 1520/1515

Fuel index (litres/100km)

Fuel capacity: 75l

Urban: 12l/100km

Highway: 9/100km

Average: 9.5l/100km

Calculated range @ average: 789km

Performance (tested)

0-100km/h: 9.9secs

100-120km/h: 3.7secs

Maximum speed: N/a

Rpm @ 120km/h: 2000

Recovery points

Front: Two steel eyes

Rear: None

Underbody protection

Front diff: Steel plate

Centre diff/transfer case: Small steel plate

Fuel tank: None

Rear diff: None

Load and towing capabilities (kg)

Kerb weight: 1855

GVM: 2880

CVM: 4380

Load capacity: 1025

Towing capacity (unbraked): 750

Towing capacity (braked): 1500

Brakes

Front: Vented disk

Rear: Drum

ABS: Standard

Traction control: Yes

Warranties, maintenance and service

Warranty:3 years/100 000km

Service plan: 5 years/90 000km

Service intervals: 10 000km

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