The 2016 Mitsubishi Triton needed to be an improvement on the outgoing model - a willing but ageing workhorse that had been starting to show its advancing years more than ever in recent times. Rather than opt for a completely new design though, Mitsubishi has fettled the existing platform. It’s a platform that has proven its reliability and durability over nearly a decade of service. The question is whether the competition has moved too far ahead.
If the Volkswagen Amarok is the refinement benchmark and certainly the best 4WD dual cab on-road, the Ford Ranger is the closest competitor outright and perhaps the smarter buy if you plan on using your 4WD dual cab as a proper workhorse. That leaves the top-selling Toyota HiLux as the fan favourite regardless of whether it’s actually the best or not.
What that all means is that the Triton, both the outgoing model previously, and this new 2016 model, has always had some serious work ahead of it to close the gap and appeal to the broader workhorse audience. The good news is that Triton is better now than it’s ever been and Mitsubishi has invited us to Fraser Island to sample the newest offering.
You can read our 2016 Mitsubishi Triton pricing and specification breakdown here.
At launch we concentrated on two model grades specifically - the range topping Exceed double cab with automatic transmission (starting from $47,990) and the second-from-top GLS double cab with manual transmission (starting from $40,990). We also had a brief road drive in the base GLX double cab with manual transmission (starting from $36,990).
The five-speed automatic is all-new compared to the previous model, so there’s no longer a torque deficit if you opt for the automatic. The transmission has been beefed up to cope with that extra torque and for sharper shifts while also assisting with the improved fuel economy figure. The ADR claim for the top spec Exceed dual cab is 7.6L/100km.
While the styling might polarise, as it has for some time, the new Triton certainly isn’t the ugliest dual cab on the market. It retains some of the more visible style lines and swooping curves of its predecessor but isn’t as dramatic as the Mazda BT-50. Importantly, Triton looks tough enough to garner some street cred when you approach the work site. I’m not a fan of excessive chrome especially on a work vehicle and for that reason, I’m drawn to the simpler, lower specification models, but even some of them are garnished extensively with brightwork.
Mitsubishi tells us the styling isn’t just about simple visual design either. The swoopy lines help aerodynamic efficiency and the Triton is the most efficient dual cab 4WD (in terms of aero) on the market. The styling has also gifted the Triton a longer cabin, adding 20mm to the legroom measurement - all in the second row.
Behind the wheel, the first improvement that needed to be made (and has) is immediately evident. A major gripe with the previous Triton was the seating position - namely that it was awful. That’s been rectified with the 2016 model thanks to a revised seat mounting position and redesigned seats as well. Rather than feeling like you’re sitting on top of the Triton as you might have previously, you now feel like you’re sitting further down into the cabin. The steering wheel is adjustable for tilt and reach and the range topping Exceed gets paddles shifters.
Importantly, the distance between the seat base and the floor has been extended, so your legs aren’t stretched straight out in front of you. Mitsubishi claims it has listened to the thoughts of current Triton owners and worked on improvements accordingly. This is one of them. The new Triton is significantly more comfortable from behind the wheel. Visibility (fore and aft) remains a Triton strong point and our range topping model with standard reverse camera is easy to manoeuvre.
It’s also from behind the wheel that the 2016 Triton’s killer blow is landed. This new model is significantly quieter and more refined than the outgoing model. Even at idle, much of the diesel chatter is gone, and at speed there’s only the muted whistle of the turbo as it winds on and off boost and a very light engine noise as load is increased. The improvement from the outgoing model is impressive. Mitsubishi claims to have added extensive insulation for the cabin, but the engine itself is quieter, thanks to refined combustion noise and a revised common-rail fuel injection system.
A short test of the Bluetooth telephone system indicates this has been improved from the outgoing model as well. The system itself is now much more integrated into the dash, less of an afterthought and more premium in appearance. Call clarity was reliable and connecting my phone in the first place was easier than it used to be.
The interior still features some hard plastic surfaces, which can be annoying off-road especially when you’re being bashed around the cabin on bumpy tracks. Areas like the centre console armrest and door trims are the specific areas of elbow-beating I refer to here. Keep your arms tucked in close unless you enjoy the odd bruise.
The second row seating remains a comfortable place within the cabin and there’s room for taller adults too, without the backrest being too upright. Triton was a leader in this area from its most recent release and that remains the case. If you use the second row often, you’ll appreciate the Triton. Well your passengers will… Some fans who appreciated the electric window in the rear screen will lament the fact that it’s been deleted for the 2016 model year.
New Triton was the recipient of extensive local testing. That took place in South Australia back in 2014 during development of the new model. Specific areas were targeted for evaluation including engine response from low speeds, high speed stability, dirt road handling and stability, general ride and handling, 4WD performance and finally, general stability while towing a heavy weight. We expect the Triton to be competent then, given the level of testing it received in Australia.
Interestingly, before we’ve even seen a sealed road, Mitsubishi opts to send us straight out into Fraser Island’s often challenging sand tracks. The entire first day of testing is taken up by sand driving without a sealed road in sight. While the sand wasn’t at it’s most challenging thanks to the fine weather, it’s still a significantly difficult test for any 4WD machine, not matter how capable it might be. The new Triton eases its way through the tracks and along the beach without raising a sweat.
We negotiate the entirety of the sand driving in ‘High Range 4WD’ with the traction systems disabled. There’s no need to lock the centre diff or opt for low range, such is the reliability of the Triton’s grip and smooth torque delivery. There’s obviously a story to be told regarding ground clearance and wheel travel here, but the engine is perfectly suited to tougher work.
The 133kW peak power figure at 3500rpm is less important out on the island than the impressive 430Nm of torque on offer at 2500rpm. While the torque peaks at 2500rpm, you can feel it starting to wind up from the 1700rpm range, meaning the Triton can glide along that wave of torque effortlessly in the tough terrain.
The 2.4-litre MIVEC engine is ably matched by either the automatic or the manual. The automatic is the easier of the two obviously, doing the crucial work off-road for you, selecting ratios and shifting up or down through them smoothly. The manual means you need to be faster to react to changing terrain but low speed work is dispatched easily in first and second, with third and fourth coming into play on the open beach. There’s a real benefit in the Triton no longer penalising buyers who want an automatic transmission with a lower torque figure. As has been the case for some time, the automatic is the pick of the two transmissions for us.
The Triton’s revised suspension system, which was tested locally, irons out the deeper bumps with competence too, and we never found the Triton uncomfortable off-road. In fact, the suspension seems to cope with nastier terrain more efficiently than the outgoing model used to. As we head for the ferry and the sealed roads of the mainland, I’m impressed by the Triton’s ability off-road. Sand is hard work on any vehicle, and the Triton has dealt with it easily.
The suspension isn’t quite so impressive once we hit the sealed tarmac. Granted, we’re traversing corrugated country back roads, but the Triton seems skittish and can hop and bounce over smaller bumps and ruts. It’s not uncomfortable as such, but the repetitive nature of it can get tiring. Keep in mind, it’s unladen. I’d expect the Triton to be more at ease with some weight in the tray.
The engine remains impressive on-road, with the torque making easy work of roll on overtaking up to 110km/h and climbing up long hills is no match for the turbocharged diesel either. Again, the automatic is the pick of the two transmissions, but the manual is an easy gearbox to master on sealed roads and you’ll find it easy to drive the Triton smoothly even in stop/start traffic.
The Triton features the tightest turning circle in the dual cab ute class and as such, is quite easy to manoeuvre around town. The steering borders on the light side, but you’ll appreciate that compared to an overly heavy system especially at lower speeds.
GLS and Exceed models are fitted with Mitsubishi’s excellent Super Select II 4WD system, meaning owners can leave the Triton in 4WD at all times. Country buyers love that concept where they can effectively ‘set and forget’ the 4WD system and not risk running into town on sealed roads after forgetting to switch their ute back into 2WD. It’s a system that I tend to leave in 4WD at all times regardless of whether I’m heading off-road or not. I like the added security of full-time 4WD.
On the subject of safety, active stability and traction control is standard on every Triton model, and the Triton - across the range - is a five-star ANCAP vehicle. Trailer Stability Assist is standard on every model as are seven airbags. The towing capacity of 3100kg isn’t a match for Ranger, which sits at 3500kg, but 3100kg is more than most owners will ever need.
There’s no doubt that the 2016 Mitsubishi Triton is the best Triton you’ve ever been able to buy. It’s a significant step forward from the outgoing model especially in terms of refinement and interior ambience. Despite that, the new Triton isn’t the segment leader. For our money, the Ford Ranger is still the pick of the current high-spec dual cab brigade while the Volkswagen Amarok remains the refinement leader especially on road.
That said, if you’re a dyed in the wool Mitsubishi fan, there’s never been a better time to consider a dual cab 4WD.