Mitsubishi is a brand with a long, proud off-roading tradition. Most notably, and best publicised, Mitsubishi won a record 12 Dakar rallies, seven consecutively.
Words by Stephen Smith
This technology filtered, as it does, through to their consumer vehicles, their headlining act, the Pajero, profiting most of all. But that technology also trickles down into their bakkies, which is just one reason why you really should take a closer look at the new Triton.
The original Triton was launched about ten years ago, so it’s about time that the Mitsubishi dealerships were given a more modern weapon in the battle to (try to) steal sales from the big boys – Ford and Toyota, and to a lesser degree Isuzu, Nissan and Mazda.
Not all Tritons are 4×4 – there are two 4×2 models and two 4×4 models in the range – but those that are have been fitted with the Mitsubishi Super-Select II four-wheel-drive system. You might assume that long name is for marketing, and that a Mitsubishi 4×4 is the same as a 4×4 Ford, Toyota or anything else, but there is one subtle difference. Super-Select II has four drive modes, giving the driver more control in challenging weather conditions or on difficult surfaces.
There’s standard rear-wheel drive (2H). Then there’s 4H, which is selectable at speeds up to 100km/h and distributes torque in a 40:60 ratio between front and rear axles via a central differential (CD) – the latter permits safer on-road driving in slippery conditions without affecting cornering or manoeuvrability. The third mode is 4HLc (4WD High range with CD locked), which improves traction on sand, dirt and snow by distributing torque equally between the front and rear. Finally, there is 4LLc (4WD Low range with CD locked), which provides greater torque for extreme off-road conditions.
Most bakkies don’t have an equivalent of 4H that can be effectively and safely used on tar roads in slippery conditions without damaging the vehicle’s drivetrain, and that in itself is a notable selling feature for the Triton.
You’ll no doubt have noticed that the Triton is only available with a 2.4-litre turbodiesel engine. Before you let out an exasperated sigh at the small engine capacity, look a little further at the engine’s power and torque outputs. With 133kW of power and 430Nm of torque, not only is the Triton more powerful than the Ford Ranger 2.2 (118kW/385Nm) and the Toyota Hilux 2.4 (110kW and 400Nm), it’s actually more powerful than the Hilux 2.8 (130kW and 420Nm). Power is delivered smoothly and sweetly – it really is a lovely engine, and is available with either a five-speed automatic gearbox or a six-speed manual.
There’s also little to fault inside the Triton, which is a spacious and pleasant environment in which to find yourself. Spec wise, it’s adequately equipped to match or better its rivals, with features such as a Bluetooth-enabled sound system, steering-wheel controls, air con, leather upholstery, electric windows, 17-inch alloy wheels and ISO-FIX anchors for the baby seat. It also has two front airbags, ABS braking, electronic brakeforce distribution, brake assist, stability and traction control and hill start assist (to avoid those blushes at steep pulloffs). It even has keyless entry, and keyless start on 4×4 models.
And if you’d like a few vital statistics, the ground clearance is 205mm, the turning radius is an excellent 5,9 metres and unbraked towing capacity is 750kg.
Personally, I feel that the greatest weakness is the Triton’s appearance, which tends to be more divisive than is constructive. Just take a look at the difference in sales between Ford Ranger and Mazda BT-50 to see what weight we place on appearance when all else is equal.
I liked the Triton more than I was expecting to, and can’t stress how impressive the engine is. Obviously it won’t suit everyone, especially those who tow heavy loads regularly, but for me it felt spot on. Likewise, the 4×4 system is something to admire, and to factor into your buying decision, as is the reduced likelihood of a hijacker taking an active interest in your vehicle.
While the Triton is only available in double-cab form at the moment, the range will be expanded to include other body variations.
Pricing for the Mitsubishi Triton ranges from R479 900 to R559 900 and all models are offered with a 5-year/90 000km service plan and 3-year/100 000km warranty.