New Mitsubishi Triton closes in on the top tier
FABULOUS FUEL ECONOMY A REAL SELLING POINT
Last year was yet another bumper year for ute sales in New Zealand, which even saw the mighty Toyota Hilux knocked off its 32-year-old perch at the top of the sales charts by the Ford Ranger.
In fact, Mitsubishi tells us that one in every five new vehicles sold last year was a ute.
Which is quite a few utes.
It must have been something of a disappointment for Mitsubishi, then, that this boom was happening at the end of their venerable Triton’s model cycle, leaving it looking rather elderly and uncompetitive against the segment big guns.
Under the bonnet is a 2.4-litre all-alloy direct-injection diesel 4-cylinder engine.
However, it did bring one upside for the company — what old model Tritons they did have in stock sold out rather quickly. And because Mitsubishi New Zealand managed to secure an earlier shipment of “new” Tritons out of Thailand, it has actually been on sale locally for a few weeks before the official launch.
Now, the sharp-eyed among you may well have noticed the quotation marks around the “new” in the previous sentence. That is because, like the equally “new” Nissan Navara due here shortly, the “newness” of the vehicles is largely limited to everything except the platform they are sitting on.
While Mitsubishi (and Nissan) may argue otherwise, what lurks beneath is largely a refreshed (albeit somewhat extensively refreshed) version of what came before.
Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, as sometimes “proven technology” is just that — something that works well enough to keep using it with confidence — as opposed to the more cynical view that they couldn’t be bothered/couldn’t afford to make something better.
But regardless of which stance you take on that, the on-road ride and handling and off-road ability were among the last Triton’s strong points, as opposed to its weak points of a cheap-looking interior, uncomfortable rear seats and having a face that only a mother could love.
And only then if she was extremely tolerant. Or blind.
So while the chassis stays remarkably similar, the body is all new, as is the suspension and the engine.
All models get Mitsubishi’s new 2.4-litre all-alloy direct-injection diesel 4-cylinder engine that puts out 135kW of power and 437Nm of torque. The new engine is hooked up to either a six-speed manual transmission or a five-speed automatic.
The new engine brings an up to 20 per cent improvement in fuel economy for the Triton (depending on the model) which handily propels it to the top of the class in terms of fuel economy with figures like 7.6L/100km (4WD GLS double cab auto) and 7.2L/100km (4WD GLS double cab manual) bettering others in the segment by handy margins.
While the Triton’s engine is slightly down on power and torque when compared to some of the others, the ute’s lighter weight (1940kg) puts it back at the top of the charts again, with the second best power-to-weight ratio in the segment (only bettered by the Mazda BT-50) and the best torque-to-weight ratio.
Along with the new engine and transmissions, the Triton gains a driver’s knee airbag, trailer stability assist, hill start assist, a 6-inch touchscreen on all double cab models (with a reversing camera in wellside models), while the top spec GLS models also get LED daytime running lights, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights, push-button start, paddle shifters and dual-stage air conditioning.
The Triton is available in New Zealand in 2WD and 4WD forms, and in single cab, club cab and double cab configurations, and is available in GLX, GLX-R (2WD double cab only) and GLS (4WD double cab only) spec levels.
Impressively enough, the Triton’s prices remain the same as the last model, with the 2WD GLX single cab chassis manual kicking off the range at $34,790 and the 4WD GLS double cab auto topping it off at $59,490.
The new Triton’s interior is a far, far better place than the old model, with a modern design and a robust feel to it.
There are still some hard plastics present, but they are very hard to get away from in the ute segment and seem no worse than any other manufacturer’s efforts.
The exterior does the odd and seemingly impossible job of not only retaining a strong visual link to the old model, but also looking good.
While it is still endowed with a remarkable amount of chrome, the new Triton is actually a handsome beast with a sharper design than before.
The new diesel engine is strong and remarkably torquey, effortlessly propelling the Triton along both on and off the road. While the five-speed auto is a tad lacking in ratios compared to the opposition, while also not being as smooth or modern, the six-speed manual is a very decent shifter indeed.
The ride is vastly improved, while handling is also impressive, with that usual “for a ute” caveat. They’re still not cars ...
Still, for a ute, the Triton is a solid competitor in a vastly competitive segment.
It remains as strong, infused and capable off-road as it always has been, while improving its on-road dynamics.
It may not be as large or as relentlessly impressive as the Amarok, Ranger or BT-50, but it is not far off. It is also cheaper and costs less to run than them as well. So there’s that.