Would we buy one? The final verdict on our long-term Mitsubishi Triton
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Her eyes darted from mine, down to the rear tyres, then back to mine. With a smirk came the inevitable question.
“Are you sure it can do this? Do you have a rope? Just in case you need it ... ”
The setting was one of the more gnarly, more testing off-road trails to Muriwai. The surface was hot sand, dry as a bone by virtue of New Zealand’s summer season. The vehicle was Driven’s trusty Mitsubishi Triton long-term tester. And no, we didn’t have a rope.
Apparently it’s common courtesy to make sure all vehicles are spotless, factory-fresh pictures of cleanliness when it comes to the photography behind these road tests. But, something about presenting the humble Triton in an outfit of mud and dirt makes much more sense.
It hadn’t seen much wheel-spinning off-road action in its time with us, given it instead took up a “ute of the ’burbs” role for most of the two months. But it seemed only right to spend the last of its almost 5000km in our hands by taking for a little burn through the bush.
Although, the curious dog-walking lady had a point.
The Triton looks well-rounded enough on paper when it comes to off-road debauchery, with segment-standard Bridgestone Dueller 265/60 rubber and respectable approach, break-over, and departure angles of 31, 25 and 23 degrees. On dishevelled lands like these, the lack of a locking rear differential is easily noticed — particularly on see-saw sections where some wheels go skyward while others spin haplessly.
Interestingly, the Triton GLX-R is one of the few 4x4 models in the range that skips diff lock, with most other models pairing their Easy Select or Super Select system with the useful get out of trouble feature as standard.
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This time was a lucky, rare “no rope, no worries” kind of tale. The Triton’s system, underdone compared to some rivals, still performed well enough to navigate a few formidable grades. And one look at the state of the sand had us instantly hunting for reverse and the quickest route home in a rare exhibit of responsible thinking.
Discovering that it wasn’t necessarily an off-roading natural did little to sway what was a thoroughly enjoyable 60-day loan with the plucky pick-up.
As we’ve mentioned in parts one and two of this test, the Triton surprised us with its towing capability, fuel economy and comfort on long drives — all things that we’d have been doubtful of on day one.
So, would we buy it?
The automatic GLX-R’s $41,990 sticker price slots it in towards the bottom end of the segment, despite it being positioned as the number two in Mitsubishi’s ute line-up (behind the VRX). The equivalent Ford Ranger XLT, Toyota Hilux SR, Nissan Navara ST and Holden Colorado LT are priced at $64,990, $48,990, $57,990 and $59,990.
And, if you’re wanting something a little left of centre, there’s also the weird but rather good $42,538 SsangYong Rhino Sport.
The Hilux is an undoubtedly superior workhorse and tow vehicle compared to the Triton, but is hobbled by its rigid ride quality and the SR’s “apprentice pack” appearance. The Navara ticks a lot of those daily usage comfort boxes and its twin-turbo 2.3 is a peach, but it’s also a bit noisy and even with recent revisions its coil-sprung rear end is still known to sag under load.
The Colorado and Rhino are an interesting pair. The former has greatly improved over its last generation and packs that critical 500Nm of torque, but now hangs under the shadow of its dying marque. The Rhino, meanwhile, packs as much value as the Triton with a few more tech toys thrown in, but lacks that heritage and reputation.
That just leaves the segment king; Ford’s best-selling Ranger. The XLT is a volume seller for the blue oval, and remains one of the best to drive in class. Handling is a significant strength, with Australian tuning helping it feel particularly at home on our roads. That 3.2-litre five-cylinder is a popular and strong performer, whether it’s in regards to refinement or to towing. But it’s hard to ignore the gaping $23,000 gulf in price between it and our little Triton.
Some vehicles can make a lot of sense in isolation only to quickly become obsolete against a backdrop of their competition. However in the case of the Mitsubishi, the factoring of its opposition is what ultimately builds its case.
Against this group, its interior (while comfortable) is among the weakest. And it’s hurting for the lack of autonomous emergency braking as others standardise it across their range. But, the fact that the Triton occupies the top half for on-road comfort and towing, while leading them all by a mile on price simply underlines what we’ve been saying all along.
It’s been subject to one of the best mid-life refreshes in class, its value is unquestionable, and at numerous turns the Mitsubishi Triton was able to stand up and deliver on a scale we did not expect.