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In some ways the Mitsubishi Triton is an instrumental part of the ute brigade.
It is one of the least refined of the modern, established group of purpose-designed utes – as opposed to utes based off passenger car platforms – yet it is also one of the cheapest, so this Mitsubishi will most pertinently force the pricing hand of Chinese manufacturers wanting to sell their very ‘green’ utes locally.
Although the Mitsubishi Triton range extends from $20,990 for the 4x2 cab chassis manual to $48,240 for the GLX-R 4x4 double cab automatic tested here, it doesn’t even take hardcore bartering on the dealer forecourt to reveal sharper deals than that; they’re simply advertised cheaper in the classifieds.
Even the before-bargaining RRP of the Triton GLX-R 4x4 double cab is lower than that of top-spec rivals, all of which, with the exception of the $47,700 Isuzu D-Max auto, retail at beyond $50K. The Mitsubishi is more highly specified than the D-Max, though, adding climate control, privacy glass, Bluetooth audio streaming nudge bar and a sports rear bar over it (and others in the class).
Also standard are 16-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, side steps, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift lever, cruise control, and, crucially for strictly OH&S-compliant worksites, stability control and side/curtain airbags. (Incidentally, on the Triton range only the GL misses stability control, but only this GLX-R gets side/curtain protection).
The Triton GLX-R can also be had with a five-speed manual for $45,740, instead of the five-speed auto tested here. Either manual or auto can be further specced with a ($3550) Luxury Pack with leather seat trim, electric-adjust driver’s seat, body-coloured side mouldings and a diff lock, or just the latter for a stand-alone $750; in the ute class only the Volkswagen Amarok, Mazda BT-50, Ford Ranger and Holden Colorado can be optioned with the off-road-enhancing lockable diff.
Going back the other way, if you can sacrifice some tradie-cred and get past the HR department, the $40,990 manual/$42,990 auto Triton GLX 4x4 dual cab makes do with 16-inch steelies, while missing the above acoutrements, but it is perhaps more in tune with the Triton’s unpretentious personality.
There are plenty of other options, like forgoing off-road ability but retaining five-seat practicality in the Triton GLX 4x2 double cab for $31,990 manual/$33,990 auto; or go two or three seats at the front only, and replace body tray with just the chassis, for less than $30K, the GL 4x2 priced at $20,990 manual-only, and the GLX 4x2 $25,490 manual/$27,490 auto.
While only the base GL cab chassis gets a 2.4-litre petrol four-cylinder engine, all the other 4x2 grades make do with a 2.5-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder. Except only the 4x4 versions gets the ‘Hi Power’ version that raises outputs to 131kW of power at 4000rpm and 350Nm at 1800rpm (or 400Nm at 2000rpm on the manual transmission), up 31kW/36Nm (or 86Nm for the manual).
In terms of power, the Triton is bang-on average for the class, adding a kilowatt to the D-Max diesel and giving away a kilowatt to the Amarok 2.0-litre and Colorado engine. It also comprehensively beats the HiLux’s 120kW, while also affording an extra gear inside the automatic transmission.
Turn the table to torque, and the Triton 4x4 manual beats all except the five-cylinder diesel BT-50 and Ranger and the V6-engined Navara’s benchmark 550Nm. The auto we’re driving, however, loses 30Nm to the D-Max, 70Nm to the Amarok and 170Nm to the Colorado (which, by contrast, gets less torque as a manual).
Regardless of its outputs, the Triton diesel is among the noisiest and slowest diesel engines in the class. Plenty of vibration streams through the steering wheel and pedals, accompanied by a nasally induction noise when pressed.
Do press it, and a timed 13.4-second 0-100km/h leaves the Triton grasping the wooden spoon for class performance. Compared with the other diesel utes we’ve timed it is only within three-tenths of the HiLux auto, but about a second or more adrift of everything else.
While the BT-50 shares the Triton’s time, the Mazda has a manual transmission; the Ranger that shares the same engine but had a six-speed auto (also available on the BT-50) clocked 12.6 seconds to the same increment.
The closely priced D-Max recorded a surprising 11.5 seconds, meanwhile, so if straight line speed for bugger-all cash is the priority, the Isuzu beats the Mitsubishi. Unfortunately the Triton is also thirsty, exceeding its 9.6L/100km combined consumption claim – also the highest in class – by a fair margin, recording 13.4L/100km on test.
The Triton is a mid-fielder for servicing costs, however, asking $1950 over four years. The only utes cheaper are the HiLux ($1020), Colorado ($1180), Ranger ($1560), and, contrary to the Volkswagen servicing-cost horror stories, the Amarok, though it beats the Mitsubishi by a scant $17. Not coincidentally all of the above have fixed-price servicing programs.
It’s a middle-order finish for towing, too, with a 3000kg maximum haulage matched by Amarok, Navara and D-Max. It beats HiLux by 500kg, and loses to the Ranger, Colorado and BT-50 by the same figure.
You might not guess that the Triton is the longest of the utes (at 5389mm) and has the narrowest tray (1470mm), but you could take a stab at the Mitsu being a mid-fielder for all other dimensions.
Certainly nobody would pick the Triton as having the tightest turning circle in the class - at 11.8 metres – after experienced what is by far the worst steering in the class.
Many ute buyers may not prioritise steering feel – if you did, you’d only buy the direct, consistent Ranger and BT-50 – but everyone will be affected by a slow rack ratio that requires huge amounts of arm twirling to negotiate 90-degree street turns and parking manouevres. In addition to being slow to turn, the steering is also vague.
On rough roads, the suspension feels rudimentary, bouncing occupants over undulations and descending into harshness over successive scars in the road. Yet body control is lacking and handling is of the old-school variety – in that, there is none to speak of.
The single upside is that the Triton is relatively settled on smooth surfaces, and is less receptive to small imperfections on the road. The cabin is also well made, even though the plastics are cheap and the green dot-matrix display will have those born in the 1980s tearing-up with Windows DOS nostalgia.
The seats are comfortable, and the rear decently roomy – again, average for the class.
While the on-paper specifications reveal the Mitsubishi Triton as a mid-fielder, and the price and equipment list propels it well ahead, on the road is where the GLX-R 4x4 double cab automatic really falls behind. Still, it is comfortably ahead of the current crop of Chinese utes, so keep those new manufacturers honest by bargaining hard and picking up an old-school ute cheap…