The most underrated ute in NZ? Mitsubishi Triton joins our long-term fleet
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2020 Mitsubishi Triton GLX-R 4WD
• Surprising comfort
• Oddly handsome
• Excellent value
• Thin on safety tech
• Tight dimensions
There's a reasonably strong case behind claiming that the Mitsubishi Triton is the most underrated new vehicle on the market. It's not to say this one ute is particularly remarkable ... rather, it seems to exist in a curious vacuum.
The Triton has always sold strongly based on pillars of value and ability and it sports a lengthy four-decade history on our shores. But despite having clear feathers in its cap, the Triton is still seen by many as an 'almost' ute — the double cab for those that can't afford a Toyota Hilux, Ford Ranger, or Holden Colorado. A bit-part player with all the hallmarks of a compelling protagonist.
And, having taken delivery of one as Driven's latest long-term tester, I'm inclined to say that this phenomena a bit of a shame.
Over a two-month period, we'll be wracking up road trips, towing missions, gravel adventures, and — yes — faintly apocalyptic golden Australian bush fire light photo-shoots in this mid-spec Mitsubishi Triton GLX-R 4WD long-termer. It's the brand's volume-selling mid-spec variant, sporting the appearance of a flagship VRX but at a significantly cheaper price.
The tri-diamond ute got a comprehensive refresh last year — a face-lift vast enough to fool some punters into thinking it was an all-new model. The inclusion of 6-speed transmission options, more generous ride-height, and much improved looks helped the Triton cement itself as New Zealand's fifth most popular selling vehicle behind the Toyota RAV4, Corolla, Hilux, and Ford Ranger.
Almost a full year on from its rebirth, the Triton VRX 4WD's 'special introductory price' of $49,990 still stands, meaning it's most likely here to stay. At the other end of the scale is the 2WD GLX at $31,990. And somewhere roughly in the middle is our automatic $41,990 GLX-R — sporting features like rain-sensing wipers, running boards, and of course four-wheel drive.
That four-wheel drive system is perhaps the greatest mechanical difference between this and the Triton flagship. While the VRX's model-specific Super Select II system is AWD, all other all-paw variants get standard part-time 4WD.
Otherwise, there's not a lot to separate the GLX-R from its more expensive stablemate.
Among other similarities, both sport the same familiar 2.4-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder making 135kW at 3500rpm and 437Nm at 2500rpm. Braked towing capacity equals many of the Triton's peers at 3500kg braked, with a supporting 935kg tray payload.
That engine is the undoubted elephant in the room. It sits in an awkward no-man's land; smaller than most of the segment favourites (Ford's 3.2 and the 2.8s of Toyota and Holden, for example) and less sophisticated than others (namely Nissan and Ford's small capacity twin-turbo units).
How well it (and its supporting 'Sport' suspension set-up) goes towing a decent load is something we'll endeavour to test down the line. For now, early unladen impressions are surprisingly positive. The 2.4 pulls with adequate tyre-chirping gusto off the line, and the 6-speed auto is a pleasantly predictable sidekick; reacting quickly to sudden requests for power.
Apart from that engine, the other lingering question one continues to ask of the Triton is where Mitsubishi has saved its money. This is a bargain-priced ute after all, so corners must have been cut. Right?
Well, no. Not entirely. Barring a spartan panel of unmarked buttons in the dashboard and a swathe of typical-of-the-segment plastics throughout, the Triton makes an oddly plush first impression. This is namely because of how well it rides bumps and how roomy it feels. The seats feel better sculpted than those in a Hilux, and the steering wheel (an Outlander hand-me-down) looks decidedly premium.
The closest thing to 'cost cutting' is the Mitsubishi's comparably diminutive dimensions. Compared to a Ranger the Triton's overall and wheelbase length is 84mm and 220mm shorter, respectively, while width is 35mm narrower and its bed is 29mm shorter.
Reduced rear legroom, a tiny fifth seat, and the less practical bed are the biggies. It's worth mentioning too that it misses out on a lot safety tech, like autonomous emergency braking and radar cruise control, across the range.
Nevertheless, the gulf in price between the Triton and its key rivals is vast enough to account for these elements. It's made a grand first impression. Now, let's see over the next few months if it can keep that up.