What's hot: Well-priced, quiet on-road, strong refined new engine, better cabin ergonomics.
What's not: Is the blingy front a bit naff? Not as smooth as some on-road.
X-FACTOR: A price advantage not to be sneezed at, plus family-friendly dimensions and on-road feel.
Vehicle style: LCV 4WD twin-cab and space cab ute
Price range: $24,490 to $47,490
Engine/trans: 133kW/430Nm 2.4 litre turbo-diesel | 6-spd manual, 5-spd auto
Fuel consumption claimed: 7.6 l/100km combined | tested: 10.4 l/100km combined (14.3 l/100km off-road, 8.1 l/100km on-road)
If you want to put the capabilities of a 4x4 light commercial to the test, you can do worse than point it at a sand dune. That will find it out (and the driver).
So, Mitsubishi's choice of Fraser Island, the world's largest sand island, as the venue for the launch of the new Triton, seemed “a little brave”.
Because sand, sometimes so unpredictable and deceptively hard to 'read', can bog any vehicle - no matter how capable.
And the tally for two days driving? Number of vehicles bogged: zero.
Not bad, and not a testament to the skills shown at the wheel. But at least one indicator of the capabilities of the new Triton.
This is a vastly improved car. Except for the ponderous chrome grille (which I find gauche), it looks loosely similar to the outgoing model.
The reality is that is different nearly everywhere that matters.
New engine, new suspension, new steering, new auto transmission, new styling and new cabin proportions... also quieter, quicker and safer.
It is also pretty well-priced. Sure, no runaway bargain, but quite a bit less than the incoming Navara and segment defining Ranger. Priced from $24,490 to $47,490, it sits about 'right' mid-segment.
So it's the best-ever Triton - after driving the GLS, GLX and Exceed (manual and auto, on-road and off it) we can confirm that much. But is it as improved as it needed to be, and will it - can it - challenge the Ranger and HiLux?
- Tilt and telescopic Steering Column
- Cruise control
- Hands-free Bluetooth with voice command and steering wheel controls
- Audio system with AM/FM radio/CD player, USB port
- Twin LCD trip meter and multi information monitor
- Rear view camera
- Chrome automatic electric folding door mirrors with side-turn lamp
- Three-spoke leather steering wheel , leather-trimmed shift knob
- Piano black and silver trim panel highlights
- Combination meter with white illumination
- Sports trim interior fabric and fabric door insert panel
- Needle punch carpet with heel pad
- Outside temperature indicator
- Dual zone auto climate control air-conditioning
- Display audio with 6.1" colour touch screen, AM/FM radio/CD player
- 6-speaker audio and DAB (digital audio broadcast) radio
- Paddle shifters at the wheel
- Leather seats, leather-look door-trim panel
- Smart key and 'one-touch' start
- Dusk sensing headlamps and rain-sensing auto intermittent wipers
- Powered driver's seat
- 7-inch touch screen with digital radio, 3D navigation mapping and SD Card input
The interior is clean, conservatively styled and well laid-out.
Good, but we don't need to go running for superlatives.
It too is considerably improved over the interior it replaces. Details like the door trims now look more 'car-like' (and less like they were borrowed from a truck), and the centre-stack is better integrated into the dash.
The dials, capped under a sporty hooded binnacle, are smart and easily read, and there are metal garnishes and soft-feel surfaces across all models.
The seats too are well-shaped; they are not the last word in generous padding (and still a tad short in the squab), but easily adjusted and we found no issues with comfort nor the way they held in the rougher sections.
Thanks to Mitsubishi's 'J-line' cab, there is good room in the back seats, and shoulder room is also good. The cabin has also been 'squared-up' at the shoulders, the tops of the b-pillars moved outward.
The result, though it looks the smaller rig, is that the Triton offers just 10mm less shoulder-room than the Ranger (the width of your finger), and just 20mm in cabin 'length'.
The two fabric trim materials in the lower-spec GLX and GLS models look durable and pleasant-enough to the touch, the Exceed comes with leather trim (and looks smart).
An omission, we feel, is the missing reversing camera on the lower-specced GLX. It's available as an option (around ~$700), but, really, given that these vehicles are rapidly becoming family cars, it should be standard on any high-backed vehicle.
It's a simple addition that can save toddlers' lives.
That debit aside, as the feature lists show, there is a lot loaded into the new Triton. While the bigger wheels and leather of the Exceed is appealing, we find the well-equipped GLS the most compelling buy, feature by feature.
ANCAP: The new Triton comes with a 5-Star ANCAP safety rating, with a full suite of dynamic and passive safety features.
- Adjustable speed limiter
- Seven airbags (driver & passenger, side and curtain, driver knee)
- ABS/EBD/ASC/brake over-ride system
- Electronic Brake Assist and Emergency Stop Signal system
- Hill Start Assist
- Trailer Stability Assist
ON THE ROAD
Engine/trans: 2.4 litre MIVEC turbo-diesel | 6-spd manual, 5-spd auto
Power/torque: 133kW @ 3500rpm / 430Nm @ 2500rpm (manual and auto)
4WD system: Dual range 'Easy Select' 4WD (GLX models); 'Super Select' with locking centre diff (GLS, Exceed)
Suspension: Double wishbone front, leaf spring rear
Ok then, how well does the new Triton drive? Very well, it has to be said.
The old one wasn't bad, for some years early in the model's history it was among the better performers. But that was until Ranger, Amarok and BT-50 came along. And before D-Max and Colorado developed more-genteel on-road manners.
Then it got swamped by a tide of newer cars, and has looked a little quaintly old-school since.
The new Triton, with new suspension geometry front and rear, though still double wishbone and leaf, feels quite different.
For a start, there is less tail-end jiggle over small-amplitude bumps and corrugations on the highway, and, off-road, a more compliant longer-travel feel over deeper bumps, wheelruts and sudden hollows.
It still feels like a ute, and is bettered by the Ranger and Amarok, but is perfectly acceptable for long stints at the wheel on the highway.
The steering too is considerably improved. The rack is faster, now 3.8 turns lock-to-lock (rather than 4.2), and the assistance is better with a more connected consistent feel.
The small leather-bound multi-function wheel (with audio, phone and cruise functions) is well-shaped and both reach and rake adjustable - score one over Ranger and HiLux.
But the most noticeable difference on road - aside from the new engine and transmission - is the new-found levels of refinement.
This new Triton is very quiet on-road.
At 100km/h, such is the damping of tyre-roar and 'drumming' from the tray, that only the wind flutter around the wing mirrors is at all noticeable.
Our calibrated dB meter was consistently reading 67-69dB at 100km/h on the run back to Gympie; this is unusually good for a commercial 4WD ute, and puts the Triton at the head of the sector for the serenity of the cabin.
But the big-ticket items behind the changed feel to the Triton's performance is the all-new MIVEC 2.4 litre diesel engine - putting out 133kW and 430Nm - and new transmissions.
The new diesel, with a lower 15.5:1 compression ratio and a 'freer' feel underfoot, makes the old 2.5 litre unit seem absolutely prehistoric.
It is much quieter, much stronger where it matters, and better-balanced and calibrated to the drivetrain.
The result is that this is no hoary 'semi-truck'. Even when cold, where the previous model was coarse and gravelly, the new model goes about things with a rounded hum.
Outside, the 'marble-in-a-tin' rattle is still apparent, but, close the doors, and only when working hard does it intrude.
And this engine is rarely working hard. With 430Nm available from 2500rpm, and 25 percent more torque than the old engine at 1500rpm, we found the low-end bias immensely useful off-road.
And will be immensely useful when towing.
The engine is redlined at 4000rpm, low by modern diesel standards, but all of its best work is at the other end of the dial.
At 100km/h on the highway, the auto is ticking over at barely 2000rpm. At that speed, if you need to overtake, you don't need a long run-up to think about getting out and around.
We buried the GLX manual in soft sand, then wound it out, inch-by-inch, at around 1250rpm. When finally stopped, the chassis ploughing sand, we reversed over our tracks until we found a harder surface, then easily pushed our way through.
Not a tremor of complaint from the diesel up front, and, despite the drag at the wheels, not a falter in the revs.
For most of the Fraser Island drive, we were in 4H in the down-spec model, choosing 4Hc in the Exceed and GLS, with the centre-diff locked in.
The GLX comes with Mitsubishi's 'Easy-Select' 4WD system, the up-spec models with the 'Super Select II' system get an extra diff amidships (lockable).
Each system is now accessed via a rotary controller in the centre console, replacing the low-range lever selector.
The Super Select system, originating with the Pajero, gives the Triton superb off-road grip when climbing or descending in very heavy off-road conditions.
We've put it to the test numerous times since it first appeared in the Triton range - was it 2009? - and have never once found it wanting.
You would hardly describe Fraser Island as challenging, but for the Triton it was barely more than a “day in the park” outing.
The five-speed auto originates from the Pajero, the six-speed manual is a new unit.
Each work as you would expect - the auto changes up and kicks down decisively, the manual has a nice solid feel to the stick - and each match the low-down characteristics of the diesel.
And lastly, “what can it tow?”, you ask, this figure now the measure of manliness in the LCV sector.
The Triton, manual and auto comes with a tow rating of 3.1 tonnes (braked). This is less than the quoted claims of the Ranger (3.5 tonnes) and Colorado (also 3.5 tonnes).
But oils ain't oils when it comes to tow ratings, gross combination mass (GCM) and payload calculations.
Hitch those 3.1 tonnes to the towball, and the Triton can carry more in the tub than its closest competitors, because it holds a payload advantage (640kg) once you run the numbers on the kerb weight (1950kg), allowable braked towing capacity (3100kg), and the GCM of 5885kg.
This can be important if you're carrying Gino, Knackers and 'Wally the Walrus' between jobs - each not ballet dancers - plus a cement mixer in the tub, and a backhoe riding on the towball.
'Trailer Stability Assist' is standard across all models.
Fuel consumption? We averaged 10.4 l/100km combined, for both off-road and on-road sections.
Separated, the average off-road, with quite a bit of heavy sand driving was 14.3 l/100km, and the on-road section, 8.1 l/100km. This is pretty damn good.
So, yes, at the wheel, whether on-road or of it, the new Triton is an easy drive and a very competent and complete package.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
This four star verdict comes with a caveat. On a 'best and fairest' MVP ranking, we would put the new Triton behind the Ranger/BT-50 and VW Amarok, but ahead of the HiLux and Colorado, and, for its extra refinement, also ahead of the stalwart D-Max.
But, especially for mid-spec twin-cab models, the Triton holds a significant price advantage over the Ranger, and will hold an equally significant price advantage over the upcoming Navara. “Quality, and capability, for less…” that bumps it up half-a-star.
Mitsubishi builds a good, strong, reliable workhorse. This one comes with greatly improved on-road performance and the off-road capabilities of the best in the sector.
If you can buy those qualities at a saving of at least $6000 (the GLS, for instance) over the equivalent Ranger and the soon-to-be-released Navara, then there is a very good case here for the Triton.
As we explore more of its capabilities, I think this car will grow on us more. I also think it is one that will appeal to family buyers; it doesn't feel as formidable at the wheel as the bulkier Ranger and Navara.
And its 11.8 metre best-in-class tight turning circle makes it a bit more carpark-friendly, adding to its 'family transport' appeal.
Mitsubishi's new Triton is well worth a look. (And, as that beam of light from the heavens on the beach at Fraser Island shows, someone upstairs approves.)
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- GLX Single Cab Chassis - manual diesel - $24,490
- GLX Single Cab Chassis - auto diesel - $26,990
- GLX Double Cab Chassis - auto diesel - $35,990
- GLX Single Cab Chassis - manual diesel - $32,490
- GLX Club Cab Chassis - manual diesel - $35,290
- GLX Double Cab pickup - manual diesel - $36,990
- GLX Double Cab pickup - auto diesel - $39,490
- GLS Double Cab pickup - manual diesel - $40,990
- GLS Double Cab pickup - auto diesel - $43,490
- Exceed Double Cab pickup - auto diesel - $47,490