Road test: Mitsubishi Triton VRX takes on the ute giants
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The Mitsubishi Triton is tearing up the sales charts in the hottest segment of the New Zealand marketplace.
Already this year the Triton has pushed into third place in the sales charts, muscling the Holden Colorado into fourth position.
To be fair to Holden, the Triton has done this with a combination of special run-out deals on the previous model, and the first shipment of the new model.
The new Triton model is squarer and comes with some of the latest driver assist and safety technology available, including an automatic braking system.As is the Mitsubishi way, it is good value — we were among the first to test drive the top-of-the-range Triton VRX twin-cab 4WD model, currently selling for a special price of $49,990.
Equipped with a system that easily switches from 2WD to 4WD at the turn of a button while the vehicle is moving, the VRX also has leather seats, lane keep assist and Apple Car Play and Android Auto connectivity. It also features a new deselectable off-road mode with gravel, mud/snow, sand and rock settings.
Among the safety and driver assist features is a forward collision mitigation system, lane departure warning, automatic high beam function, blind spot warning with lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert, and a multi around view monitor.
There is even a hill descent control function.
All up, it is an impressive package for $10,000 to $15,000 less than the bigger but similarly specced Ranger, Hilux or Colorado utes.
The new Triton discards the polarising swoops and angles of the previous model that have proven popular with fleet buyers but lacked the “big truck” appearance lifestylers and individual ute buyers clearly find appealing in competitor models.
Along with the more contemporary appearance, the Triton now features a new six-speed automatic gearbox (replacing the old five-speed gearbox) and upgraded driver assist and safety equipment.
While the new design looks bigger and wider, the vehicle is the same width as the previous model.
This is in spite of it featuring more prominently flared wheel arches.
The tray size is also unchanged from the previous model, but there are now 18-inch alloy wheels and taller 265/60 R18 tyres on the GLX-R and VRX models.
These provide a 15mm increase in ground clearance.
While the overall effect is of a much larger ute than its predecessor, the ladder-frame chassis, cabin structure and overall dimensions are the same as the run-out model.
The 2.4-litre MIVEC diesel engine is also carried over from the run-out Triton.The engine produces 135kW at 3500rpm, with 437Nm of torque at 2500rpm.
The forward collision mitigration system with pedestrian detection determines the distance and relative speed to the vehicle or pedestrian in front of the Triton by using sensors in the windscreen.
When the system detects a possible collision it sounds an alarm to the driver, and then applies the brakes to avoid or reduce the impact of a collision.
Pre-set distances are set by a button on the right of the steering wheel.
Behind the wheel the Triton feels well-grounded, even without the weight of a load on the tray. The steering is relatively light with good feel, something not all utes provide.
There are electric-adjustable front seats in the VRX, so setting up a comfortable driving position is quick and easy.
Although the Triton is not as long as some of its competitors, it is still a large vehicle, but parking it in confined spaces is a breeze because of the multi around view monitor, which provides a bird’s eye view of the vehicle.
There are five display combinations that are selected through a button on the steering wheel. Parking the Triton in a tight spot is also helped with audible alarms, and there are directional lines that help guide drivers into tight parking spaces.
It is here the Triton’s relatively tight turning circle comes into play — it has been a traditional strength of the Triton compared with other utes.
Rear passengers in this twin-cab ute are receiving attention too — the seats are no longer set at a 45 degree angle, and a rear air circulator is fitted to the ceiling of the VXR models, which circulates cool fresh air from the front of the cabin to the rear from the dual zone climate control system. It was welcome during our week with the Triton, which was one of the hottest of the summer.
The test vehicle was graphite grey, one of three new Triton colours. The other new colours are sunflare orange and inferno red, and the Triton looks good in each of them.
We didn’t have to test the Triton off-road, because its qualities were revealed at the international launch in Bangkok in September, when two-time Dakar Rally winner Hiroshi Masuoka took us for some very fast laps on a makeshift off-road course.
The rally ace managed to “jump” the standard Triton and land it without the ute bottoming out, while also flicking it around rough corners without any hint of losing control.
The old Triton has earned a reputation as being tough and reliable, and many of the fundamentals have carried over into the new models. There are 14 models in the new Triton range.
Mitsubishi Triton VRX double-cab auto
Price: $62,990 (currently $49,990 special price)
Pros: Well-equipped and good value ute
Cons: Diesel engine could be punchier