First Drive: 2017 Mitsubishi Triton

First Drive: 2017 Mitsubishi Triton

Ten years — that is how long the previous Mitsubishi Triton has been on the South African market and, since then, its rivals have brought forward their latest renditions to the segment.

Toyota’s Hilux, which continues to lead this market, was introduced in the first quarter of 2016, while the Ford Ranger received some updates shortly thereafter. Recently, the Isuzu KB received a midlife update, while the Fiat Fullback, which shares a platform with the new Triton, entered the fray in 2016.

The segment is not complete either, with Nissan set to bring its delayed Navara to the market in 2018. It will be the most eagerly anticipated as it is the vehicle on which the Fullback and Triton are based. The Navara is also the base model for the Mercedes X-Class, which is also expected in SA in 2018.

Mitsubishi Triton

So it has been a rather busy time for the respective manufacturers, but Mitsubishi was being left on the sidelines as it waited for the return of its prodigal son. Having sampled the model recently at its launch in Gauteng, I am happy to report that the wait was not in vain.

According to Pedro Pereira of Mitsubishi Motors SA the volatile performance of the rand at the end of 2015 due to the shuffling of the finance minister position meant the vehicle could not be brought into the market at the time, as it would have been priced right out of the market.

Another chief reason for the delay hinged on the fact that the local outfit wanted to bring in the model fitted with the new 2.4-litre turbodiesel, which replaces the old 2.5-litre turbodiesel, essentially a carryover engine from the previous model. The new engine pushes out a credible 133kW and 430Nm, which outmuscles not only the Hilux’s 2.4 turbodiesel at 110kW and 400Nm, but also the 2.8l turbodiesel at 130kW and 420Nm.

Mitsubishi Triton

Let us look at the cosmetic changes on the new model, with the company claiming 185 improvements. The grille now features a six-slot chrome finish, while LED daytime running lights give it a more upmarket look. The side profile is similar to the outgoing model, which is characterised by the J-line, essentially the line that separates the cab and load bin. The cab’s curvature is said to increase rear occupants’ legroom and dispenses with the upright rear seats typical of double-cab bakkies.

As the company decided to introduce only the double cab models first that are geared for the leisure market, the cabin of the 4×4 derivatives we drove at the launch have fairly good build quality and plastics, while the leather seats (with the driver’s being electrically operated) are reasonably comfortable for long spells on the road.

The only fly in the ointment in the cabin is the infotainment system, which is not only too small, but is dated compared to, say, the systems in the Ranger and Hilux. However, I have it on good account from a company spokesperson that a more comprehensive and updated system is on the cards in due course.

Mitsubishi Triton

On road, I found the vehicle rode admirably, thanks to the independent double-wishbone front suspension with coil springs that offers a subtle ride quality. The rear sits on leaf springs, but never exhibited any of the bounciness that afflicts some competitors.

Back to that engine, one of the smoothest in the business particularly when allied to the five-speed automatic transmission, which offers added convenience for daily commutes and should be ideal for towing.

The model has a towing capacity of 1,500kg (braked) and 750kg unbraked, which is more than decent for this model’s engine capacity.

The 205mm ride height, 28° approach angle, 25° breakover and 22° departure angles were put to the test at the Heidelberg 4×4 facility, east of Johannesburg. The Super Select II four-wheel drive system is a cinch to use and allows you toggle on the fly between two- and four-wheel drive high modes.

Mitsubishi Triton

With low range and the rear differential lock selected, the Triton managed to claw its way up and down gradients with relative ease, while maximum torque, which comes in at a relatively high 2500rpm, made light work of the day’s 4×4 obstacles.

Priced from R479 900 for the 4×2 six-speed manual double cab to R559 900 for the 4×4 five-speed automatic, it does manage to undercut some of its main rivals on price, but then it does forego many of those standard convenience items.

The company will at a later stage introduce single and extra-cab variants to the range, but from our first impression of the Triton, it seems the wait for the product was well worth it as it offers one of the most refined engines and possibly the best ride quality in this segment. – Lerato Matebese