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While it’s utes like the Ranger Wildtrak and HiLux SR5 dragging in the lion’s share of sales and attention, there is a big group of more pragmatic ute buyers out there. These guys don’t necessarily need the flash tech and chrome bits, and are happy to save a few dollars in the process.
Amongst this group, there is one very strong choice of 4x4 ute: the Mitsubishi Triton. It’s hard to go past from a value point of view, starting at a fairly measly $22,490 for a manual petrol single-cab chassis, all the way up to $51,990 for the loaded GLS Premium dual-cab.
I’d argue the sweet spot is somewhere a little lower down the range for the Triton. Dual-cabs are where the vast majority of volume comes from these days, and most folks like them diesel powered. Likewise, it's Ns, Ps and Ds, over the 1s, 2s and 3s.
With that in mind, your cheapest run into a diesel, automatic 4x4 dual-cab ute at the moment is this: the 2019 Mitsubishi Triton GLX, with a list price of $39,990.
You can buy a diesel, automatic 4x4 LDV T60 Pro for $32,621, Ssangyong Musso for $32,490, or Great Wall Steed manual – no auto available – for $25,990 (drive-away). We’d argue those choices aren’t necessarily mainstream or established, and the Triton’s main competition comes from other manufacturers.
What are your other options for a cheap diesel auto? Nissan’s Navara RX (with a 120kW single-turbo diesel) has a $43,450 price tag. If you want 140kW and two turbos, you’ll need an SL spec for $47,100.
Toyota’s bare-bones 2.4-litre HiLux Workmate is next lobbing in a $45,990. If 2.8 litres is more your style, look for an SR at $48,640. Next up is Isuzu’s D-Max SX going for $46,700. Holden’s Colorado LS follows closely going for $47,190.
A 2.2-litre diesel Ford Ranger comes next at $47,540, going up to $50,340 if you want the extra one litre and one cylinder. Volkswagen’s Amarok TDI420 is a $47,590 affair, while a V6 under the bonnet takes that price up to $52,590. And finally, the Mazda BT-50 XT has a list price of $49,840.
Mitsubishi often runs sharp drive-away pricing on its range, which does render list prices a bit redundant. At the time of writing, for example, the Triton GLX is on offer for $39,490, and when you consider there is still a seven-year, 150,000km warranty offer available on the Triton (until the end of August), the numbers are pretty compelling.
Aside from the petrol engine in the single-cab chassis, there’s only one other engine choice across the board for a Triton. It’s a 2.4-litre aluminium diesel engine, which replaced the long-serving 2.5-litre ‘4D56’ in 2015.
Now, 133kW at 3500rpm and 430Nm at 2500rpm are the figures on offer for the Mitsubishi powerplant – numbers that trend towards the lower end of the spectrum. In the real world, it feels punchy and better than what the figures suggest. Along with being an aluminium diesel engine, one thing this engine has (which others don’t have) is MIVEC. That’s Mitsubishi speak for variable valve timing and lift, which operates on the intake side for this engine. It leaves the engine feeling responsive through the rev range, without any obvious surge of boost.
The new six-speed gearbox is a vast improvement over the old five-speed unit. It makes the right decisions kicking around town or kicking down on the highway, and gets the best out of the engine.
It's an efficient engine, as well. Listed combined fuel economy is 8.6 litres per 100km. That's slightly worse than the pre-facelift Triton, but is still a good number. And in our testing, we got pretty close to that: 9.5L/100km.
You don’t get the luxury of Super Select in this lower specification. Instead, you’ll have to make do with a typical part-time 4x4 system. That means it's only rear-wheel drive on the blacktop, and turn the dial across to 4x4 when you’re on unsealed or low-traction surfaces. Push down and twist again, and you’ll access low-range. The 2.566:1 reduction ratio isn’t exactly stratospheric, but it’s good enough for your average 4WD tracks (especially with an auto).
The wheel and tyre combination doesn’t set one’s heart on fire, either. Steel wheels with a 245/70R16 highway-terrain tyre looks and feels pretty pedestrian, and doesn’t offer much grip off-road. They tend to bag out in the sidewalls quickly when loaded, as well. That’s not the end of the world, but could prove annoying if you’re forced to constantly adjust pressures according to how much weight you’re carrying.
For my mind, the wheels and tyres on the Triton are good enough to roll you off the showroom floor, and drive you around for a little while until you sort out some replacements that will better suit your needs. A nice all-terrain tyre with light-truck construction would likely fit the bill for most people’s needs.
It’s a bit of a shame Mitsubishi doesn’t offer a locking rear differential as an option across the range for the Triton, which would be a great box to tick for those looking to head off-road. Currently, it’s only available on the range-topping GLS Premium. That means you’re left with off-road traction control, which does exhibit a fair bit of wheelspin before kicking in. It works, but it’s far from the best in class.
Ground clearance is a little skinny compared to other utes, and that silly vibration dampener does a spectacular job of mimicking a plough when off-roading. Other than that, the Triton is decent off-road. Think of it as more of a work in progress than a completed product.
While the look of the Triton got changed quite dramatically, the interior has stayed mostly the same. It’s not a bad set-up, either. This basic GLX specification doesn’t get any Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, just a fairly rudimentary 6.1-inch display with Bluetooth and four speakers.
The interior is your usual array of hard plastic typical of low-rent utes, but at this pricepoint and purpose, I prefer to see them as pragmatic and hard wearing instead of cheap and nasty. The interior does feel solid and well put together – just the ticket when it's likely not going to be pampered and caressed. Basic air-conditioning controls are all mechanical and feel a little bit retro, but that’s the flavour of this ute. I’m glad the vents blow cold air on demand, and am happy to forgive the lack of a ‘premium feel’.
More importantly, the seats are decent and you can dial yourself in pretty well. The adjustment range is big, and having tilt and rake adjustment on the steering wheel is a great help for long-drive comfort.
The second row is decent in terms of comfort and space, and made more practical by curtain airbags and ISOFIX points. There are no air vents or USB points, however, from a convenience point of view. We shoved three adult men in the back of the Triton, and found it to be a little lacking in terms of shoulder space and width. It’s fine for two, but having three in the back for anything more than a short run could prove tiresome.
While it’s a similar overall length to other 4x4 utes, the Triton does do it with a slightly shorter wheelbase. What Mitsubishi calls a ‘J-pillar’ lets the wheels sit closer to the cab, right at the front of the tub. The good news of this is a relatively tight turning circle (11.8m), but it means the ride can feel compromised, especially for those sitting in the back.
The tray measures in at 1,520mm long, 1470mm wide (1080mm at the arches) and 470mm high; fairly typical numbers for a dual cab ute,
The wheelbase can be bad news for when you’re loading the tray of the Triton up with heavy stuff. The placement of the rear axle in relation to the tub means most of that weight sits behind the axle, and has a negative overall effect on how the ute handles big weights. You’ll notice it mostly on bumps and rough surfaces, where suspension does start to struggle controlling the cycling. The steering did start to feel a little light at times as well, with slightly over 500kg of lawn fertiliser bags in the tray.
The suspension performs reasonably well otherwise, giving a typically firm and jiggly ride that most other 4x4 utes have. If you’re looking for the last word in ute refinement and smoothness, the Triton probably isn’t the right answer. But in saying that, it’s still pretty good.
The Triton's towing capacity of 3100kg is bested by others in the segment, but don't think that numbers on a piece of paper tell the full story. Along with the stout 945kg payload, the 5,885kg Gross Combination Mass (GCM) means you can use most of your payload at full towing (830kg) and the majority of your towing capacity (2985kg) at full payload. Our tester didn't have a towbar
In terms of safety, Mitsubishi is still trading off a five-star ANCAP score that came about in April 2015. There has been a facelift since then, but not any major mechanical changes. The Triton GLX does not come with more advanced safety features like forward-collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, but you can option them with what’s called ‘ADAS’, which also includes electro-chromatic rear-view mirror, dusk-sensing headlights and rain-sensing wipers for a very reasonable $800.
Servicing is another strong point for the Triton, at least for the first 45,000 kilometres. Service intervals are every 15,000 kilometres or three years, and have a price of $299 per service for your first three visits. Beyond that, Mitsubishi doesn't quote prices. But you can assume they will get a little more expensive.
At this end of the ute spectrum, the Triton is very hard to look past. When you look at the simple equation of value for money, the numbers speak for themselves. When you add in a good basic interior, nice driveline and reasonable suspension set-up, you can see why the Triton is such a popular choice amongst the private ute market.
Go one level up, the GLX+ isn’t a massive jump in price ($2500) and nets you climate control, 7.0-inch infotainment with smartphone mirroring, alloy wheels and a few other nice bits. So, depending on the end buyer, that might be a better proposition. Regardless, you’d be foolish to not have a closer look at the Triton.