Triton on the up
Mitsubishi’s improved, fifth-generation Triton bakkie
Following hard in the wheel tracks of the newly launched Eclipse Cross SUV, Mitsubishi Motors South Africa has unveiled locally its new Triton bakkie, the vehicle making its debut here less than six months after its international reveal.
The fifth-generation model – which celebrates 40 years of Mitsubishi bakkie production – is regarded as one of the most strategically important in the brand’s line-up and the latest version features a host of styling, technology and engineering upgrades.
“The new, tough-looking Triton is significantly more competitive than its predecessor,” says Nic Campbell, General Manager of Mitsubishi Motors South Africa. “Its enhancements and refinements have been aimed at making it even more comfortable, durable and reliable than before.”
Though many of the changes are under the skin, the remade model features a new-look face that incorporates the latest iteration of Mitsubishi’s Dynamic Shield design concept.
A high bonnet – underscored by imposing, swept back headlight clusters, large fog light housings and a broad radiator grille – help to add visual width to the front end, aided by extended wheel arch flares along the flanks, correspondingly styled crease lines on the doors and expansive running boards.
Similarly, the rear end has been styled to look broader than it is, with lighting clusters lapping the outside extremities of the bodywork and the beefy outline of the three-section bumper serving to emphasise width.
The visual tricks help to disguise the fact that the Triton is narrower than the majority of its competitors – it has a shorter wheelbase, too – but it’s my guess that you’d be hard-pressed to notice that fact unless the vehicle was parked alongside its rivals.
Incidentally, there are advantages to the model’s dimensions – its turning circle is around 11,5 metres, making it almost car-like to manoeuvre in parking lots, a trait not usually associated with bakkies. Also, its less extensive dimensions help it to cope well in off-road situations when negotiating tight tracks.
To add appeal to the range, three new colours have been introduced – Sunflare Orange, Diamond White Metallic and Graphite Grey Metallic. Further, twin dampers have been added to the tailgate’s hinging mechanism to automatically control its rate of descent on opening – an innovative, handy feature that takes the strain out of having to manhandle a weighty slab of metal.
The enhanced Super Select II four-wheel-drive system – tested during the launch on a track that included deep axle twisters, steep inclines and descents, mud, rock and gravel – delivers good off-road performance, while a new, six-speed automatic gearbox impresses for its well-spaced cogs and smooth gear changes.
Though the vehicle’s engine remains unchanged – the tried and tested four-cylinder, turbocharged, intercooled, 2,4-litre MIVEC unit, which delivers 133kW and 430Nm, having been carried over – it offers peppy performance and respectable fuel economy: 11,5 litres per 100km, according to the trip computer, on a route that included plenty of all-wheel-drive low-range activity, as well stints of two-wheel-drive highway driving, with four-wheel-drive high range selected for gravel sections.
On the subject of economy, Mitsubishi’s spokesmen claim a combined cycle figure of 7,6 litres per 100km for the auto transmission version, and 7,5 litres per 100km for the six-speed manual-shift equivalent – good enough to give each of the models a range of around 1 000km on the open road thanks to a fuel tank that holds 75 litres.
Cruising in the Triton is a pleasant experience. There’s little engine or wind noise and the well-appointed cabin feels comfortable and airy. Leather covered seats are supportive and well bolstered, while the driving position offers a commanding view.
Finishes are of premium quality – apart from leather there’s plenty of tasteful metal trim that is complemented by soft-touch plastics in high traffic areas, with a centrally placed, seven-inch infotainment screen easily accessible by both driver and front passenger.
The air-conditioning system offers dual-zone controls; the steering column is adjustable for rake and reach; the steering wheel includes switchgear for the audio system and cruise control; there’s Bluetooth with hands-free voice control, along with a radio, CD and MP3 player, USB ports and accessory points and, optionally, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto platforms.
Ahead of the gear lever are controls for the 4WD system, which include settings for 2H and 4H, plus 4HLc (4WD high range with the central diff locked) and 4LLc (4WD low range with the central diff locked). Also selectable are electronic modes for gravel, mud/snow, sand or rock – each designed to deliver optimum traction and handling characteristics for the particular surface – and there’s a button to lock the rear diff, a useful feature when extreme off-road conditions are encountered.
Another useful tool is a hill descent control button which, in the off-road situation, is used to automatically limit the vehicle’s speed down steep inclines. It works effectively and reassuringly, judging by its performance on a selection of severe, slippery slopes tackled on the launch route.
Safety and convenience features include Mitsubishi’s reinforced body construction, dubbed RISE; seven airbags; side impact protection bars; a collapsible steering column; Isofix child seat anchors; active stability and traction control; anti-lock brakes; hill start assist; daytime running lights; speed-sensing auto door locks; a rear view camera and a keyless operating system.
Incidentally, braking performance and feel have been improved through the use of larger front discs and calipers, while the ride has been refined by incorporating larger dampers at the rear. Steering is light but accurate.
In all, on the road the refreshed Triton feels nearly as refined as a comfortable SUV and, for a bakkie, it is easy to manoeuvre whether in town or when driving off-road. Its diesel engine is capable and easy on fuel, and the model is strong on safety. Additionally, it is well priced, Mitsubishi’s spokesmen claiming that the top of the range model is R25 000 cheaper than its nearest rival.
“The new Triton is engineered to be tough and looks the part,” says Campbell. “We are confident that the upgraded version will build on the popularity of the original Triton and the 40 years of development of this iconic pick-up.”
2,4L DI-DC Manual 4x2 R509 995
2,4L DI-DC Auto 4x2 R529 995
2,4L DI-DC Manual 4x4 R569 995
2,4L DI-DC Auto 4x4 R589 995
All models are covered by Mitsubishi’s three-year / 100 000km warranty, a five-year / 90 000km service plan and five-year / unlimited mileage Roadside Assistance. Service intervals are every 10 000 km.