The latest Triton arrived at the office recently as the first genuinely new Mitsubishi product that we have tested in years. Finally, there is a replacement for the original Triton which first appeared locally in 2007.
Baptism of fire
So, ten years down the line and we have the all-new Triton in South Africa where the bakkie landscape has changed dramatically. Consumers now demand that their bakkies are not only utilitarian, but also provide a degree of comfort and modern automotive features. We have seen products like the Toyota Hilux, Ford Ranger, Isuzu KB, Volkswagen Amarok and Mazda BT-50 offer a new driving experience to customers, one that makes a bakkie something that is usable on a daily basis.
Now for the most part, the three big local market players; Ford, Toyota and Isuzu shift the majority of their respective models in single cab guise as business owners demand a robust and basic tool with which they can conduct their relevant business activities.
However, we have seen some sly tactics by the likes of Volkswagen and more recently Mitsubishi and Mazda. These three brands have all but abandoned the extra and single cab segments, opting to concentrate on the more lifestyle-based double cab sector instead.
I remember chatting to our senior journalist, Justin Jacobs, after the Triton launch, and his sentiments were that a new bar in bakkie ride quality had been established. So when a 2.4 DI-D 4x4 manual double cab arrived for testing, I grabbed the keys and immediately went for a drive.
I was suitably impressed from the get-go by not only the ride quality, but the general driving impression. The interior is a massive step-up from the previous model in terms of quality and design. I get to drive an older generation Triton on an almost weekly basis, and from a refinement perspective, engine sound intrusion and comfort levels are in a different league.
The interior is a far better place to be, with the odd plastic surface visible as expected from a bakkie. The way that Mitsubishi has mixed the grey plastics with the black though, makes for a more upmarket-looking interior. The infotainment screen will be familiar to those who have driven any recent Mitsubishi product; the rather dated touchscreen system does duty in the ASX, Pajero and the soon-to-be-replaced Pajero Sport. The system may be old but it gets the job done, with Bluetooth and USB functionality controllable from the multi-function steering wheel.
The new 2.4-litre turbodiesel motor is also a great mill. With 133kW/430Nm, it sits in-between key rivals in terms of output yet is a far smaller, aside from the two-litre unit in the Amarok of course.
My initial impression was that the motor may be too small, however I soon realised that there was sufficient pulling power with the added benefit of respectable fuel returns. The claimed fuel consumption figure for the 4x4 manual was 7.3 litres/100km and despite the fact that I achieved a figure of 8.4 litres/100km during my 680-odd km stint behind the wheel, I was still impressed.
The numbers game
Things get tricky for the new Mitsubishi though when we compare it to its key rivals. The segment leading Hilux and Ranger can both tow 3 500kg which is some 400kg more than that Triton can manage.
When the going gets tough however, the Triton has the Super Select II four-wheel drive system which makes use of a small toggle switch on the centre console, allowing the driver to shift from two, to four and four-wheel drive low modes on-the-fly. The system is comparable to key rivals and makes the Triton a competitive product.
The one thing I wasn’t expecting was for the Triton to be cheaper than its rivals, with a slightly lower sticker price than the Hilux and Ranger. The 4x4 manual retails for R539 900, undercutting the Ranger 3.2 TDCi XLT 4x4 double cab by some R34 000 and the Hilux 2.8 GD-6 Raider 4x4 double cab by R14 700.
After a week with the new Triton, I can say with confidence that this is certainly my left-field choice within the bakkie segment. The beauty of purchasing a double cab bakkie from one of the established players is that all of the products are really very accomplished, and the Triton certainly holds its own amongst the giants.