Refined Mitsubishi Triton ute surprises

Hey, good-lookin': Ground-up redesign has put the Triton into the box-seat as far as styling's concerned.
Dave Moore/Fairfax NZ

Hey, good-lookin': Ground-up redesign has put the Triton into the box-seat as far as styling's concerned.

Those unfamiliar with Wellington and its hinterland might shake their heads at the idea of a working ute launch in the nation's capital.

However, within 35 km of the CBD there are beaches, paddocks, gravel roads and ribbons of evilly cambered tarmacadam to be sampled, as well as grassy hill farms and some of the worst examples of the road builders' art you've ever seen. Perfect.

We're having a fine time driving Mitsubishi's new Triton ute, which is unmistakeably a Triton, with its tapered load deck and silhouette. For all that visual familiarity, it's new from the ground up, and just to illustrate that point, Mitsubishi says you couldn't drop the new body over the old chassis, or vice versa, despite the identical wheelbase and track measurements.

Bigger in the back: The subtle reshape has paid dividends in terms of rear cabin space and comfort.
Dave Moore/Fairfax NZ

Bigger in the back: The subtle reshape has paid dividends in terms of rear cabin space and comfort.

The shape and style of Triton is more visually pleasing than before, with a chromed smile of a grille to replace the previous rather gormless grin, with shapely halogen lamps at each end of it (plus LED running lights in the GLS double cab) and a black accessory light panel in the chin.

The clamshell closure line of the bonnet cleverly continues through the body's crease lines which link the top of the headlights with the same point on the rear clusters by coursing through the front and rear quarter panels and the doors. To our eyes, this makes the new Triton the best looking and most cohesive yet and much more masculine than the softly-contoured immediate predecessor.

One of the design elements that offended most with the "old" Triton was the curvy rear door closure line which has now been eliminated by way of a straighter shape at the trailing edge and matching sharper window angles, and this appears to have liberated more interior space, because the rear cabin seems much more capacious than we remember.

Single Cab Chassis: It's expected to be as strong a performer as the wellside in the background.
Dave Moore/Fairfax NZ

Single Cab Chassis: It's expected to be as strong a performer as the wellside in the background.

Up front it's better, too, with comfort improved by the use of bolstered, shaped and dished front seats that would go down well in a large sedan, with a large number of adjustments helped by the reach and tilt adjustable steering wheel, and plenty of side support, which is so valuable in arduous hard going off road.

Redesigned door and dash furniture appears to use hard plastic where it's needed for reducing wear and tear, with softer texures elsewhere, along with metallised finishes to show some contrast with the several shades of grey that otherwise dominate.

The main heating and ventilation controls are familiar and the sound system appears easy to work through. Connectivity can be voice activated and worked through steering wheel controls, with a power connector and a USB port well-placed on the dash end of the centre console. A good, deep stowage box is at the other end of the console, while the ute's front doors also have useful stowage capacity.

Cabin improvements: As well as using car-like architecture, Mitsubishi's reshaped seating means the Triton offers good ...
Dave Moore/Fairfax NZ

Cabin improvements: As well as using car-like architecture, Mitsubishi's reshaped seating means the Triton offers good support and comfort as well.

Mitsubishi says that the additional interior space we noticed has been achieved across all the three available body styles - single cab, double cab and club cab body, and adds that the strategic placement of sound insulation, absorption and vibration damping materials contributes to significantly improved cabin quietness.

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Powered by a new all-aluminium 2.4-litre MIVEC turbo diesel engine with variable geometry turbo, paired to a new 6-speed manual transmission or optional 5-speed automatic, the new generation model retains Triton's working vehicle durability and load-carrying capacity without compromising passenger and drive comfort.

The new power unit replaces the two versions of a 2.5-litre used in the previous Triton and despite giving away 100cc, it's more powerful and more torquey. The old Triton's 2.5 came in 102kW/319Nm and 133kW/407Nm versions, while the new 2.4-litre makes 135kW at 3500rpm and a useful 437Nm at 2500rpm. Enough to tow up to 3100rpm, says Mitsubishi, explaining that by using the Triton's torque-to-weight ratio, it turns out that it has the potential to tow/carry a handier load than some trucks whose ostensibly greater towing capacity is cancelled-out by its kerb weight.

2015 Mitsubishi Triton: Crisper styling works well. The bars, alloy wheels, deck cover and running boards are part of a ...
Dave Moore/Fairfax NZ

2015 Mitsubishi Triton: Crisper styling works well. The bars, alloy wheels, deck cover and running boards are part of a long list of accessories available for the new range.

The motor also works out as cleaner and more frugal than before with economy and emissions rated from as low as

7.0L/100km and 182g/km CO2, which is about 20 per cent better than the old model. As well as cruise control in every model, the Triton also uses a speed limiter which is better at holding the vehicle back to a predetermined velocity, a setting which can be driven through should it be deemed necessary.

The new alloy engine also adds up to remarkably refined progress, with a lusty bottom end to its delivery of useful urge suggesting that a good percentage of the model's torque peak is available from well under 2000rpm. Thus short-shifting the six-speed manual is a doddle allowing the driver to surf on the low-rev torque in sand and on broken surfaces rather than wheel-spinning into the power band.

A simple push and twist button on the centre console for selecting up to four drive positions, is a cinch to use, with a crenellated outer ring to help with touch familiarity and pictographs in the instrument cluster to confirm which setting you're in. The AWD uses Mitsubishi's Easy Select transfer set-up in GLX versions of the truck, with the top-echelon GLS working through the more advanced Super Select with additional low range All-wheel-Drive with differential lock.

It was expected that the Triton would grope and grovel easily through everything from the beach gravel, to stream gullies and rock-slabbery we found within half and hour of Wellington's CBD, after all, it has been the Triton name's stock in trade for 20 years.

What this driver didn't expect were the high levels of refinement on the motorway and the nimble, communicative chassis.

Chassis rigidity, suspension compliance, changes to the door seals, engine insulation pads/ mounting rubbers and the use of a greater amount ot high-strength steel body parts than before help to give the new Triton its implacable feel on various surfaces. It neither judders over holes and ridges nor transfers bump rebound into cornering disturbance and we'd say its flat, predicTable cornering is one of the best in the segment.

Well-weighted, the power steering is meaty and communicative, but transfers little kick-back off road, just enough feedback to let you know what's going on without the wheelrim flailing dangerously through your thumbs.

With front, side and curtain airbags and an extra bag for the driver's knees, the Triton scores well for safety, and with ABS, EBD, ASC, and ATC, plus that trailer stability assist taking care of active safety the Triton outpoints some passenger cars.

Every Triton is priced identically to the previous model, despite better performance, greater economy, improved emissions, increased equipment, safety, passenger space and load volumes.

The most impressive change in the new truck is that it can perform like a workaday ute all day and yet drive home with the refinement of a modern sedan.

Mitsubishi says it wants to increase sales to double last year's or a total of 2500 for the year. With highest figures for torque-to-weight ratio, lowest for fuel economy, the segment's tightest turning circle and what its maker says is "class-leading interior comfort, legroom and ride quality" - all with a 10-year warranty, it might just do it.

AT A GLANCE

Drivetrain: 2.4-litre MIVEC turbo diesel 16 valve four with variable geometry turbocharger, six-speed manual or five-speed automatic, two-wheel-drive or selectable high/low all-wheel-drive.

Outputs: Maximum 135kW at 3500rpm, 437Nm at 2500rpm, 7.0-7.6L/100km, 182-198g/km. Chassis: Front wishbones with coil springs, Sport (GLX-R and GLS) or Heavy Duty (GLX) rear leaf springs. Power-assisted rack and pinion steering. 16 to 17 inch wheels, alloy on top models.

Safety: Front, side, curtain and driver's knee airbags, ABS, EBD, ASC, and ATC, plus trailer stability assist, and hill start assist. Reverse camera on wellside models. 5-star NCAP rating.

Connectivity and media: AM/FM CD, MP3, USB port, Six-inch touch-screen on double-cab GLX, GLS and GLX-R.

Dimensions: L 5280mm, W 1785-1815mm, H 1765-1780mm, W/base 3000mm, F/track 1520mm, R/track 1515mm, Weight 1555 to 1940kg, Braked towing 3000-3100kg, unbraked 750kg, Fuel 75L.

Pricing: Unchanged from previous model:
2WD manual GLX Single Cab Chassis $34,790, 4WD adds $9,400.
2WD GLX-R Double Cab $45,150, auto adds $2000.
4WD GLX Club Cab chassis manual, $45,190, Double Cab adds $1300.
4WD GLX Double Cab manual wellside $51,990, auto adds $2000.
4WD GLS Double Cab wellside manual $57,490, auto adds $2000.

Hot: Sharp new looks, new refinment levels, flexible engine, nimbler chassis on road with no off-road compromise, extra cabin and tray space, well-shaped seats.

Not: No wellside Single or Club Cab, or petrol option.

Verdict: With its new talent and features, bit to mention improved styling, Triton will be an easy upgrade with unchanged pricing and accessory listings.

 - Taranaki Daily News

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