If your vehicles don’t carry a Ford or Toyota badge on the nose, entering the bakkie market in South Africa requires equal parts bravery and excellent product. We’ve recently sampled the latest, long-awaited new-generation of Mitsubishi’s Triton 4x4 double cab. Does it have enough pull to steal a few sales from its established rivals?
We like: Extensive list of standard features, ride quality, off-road capability, good rear space
We don’t like: Plain cabin design
- The staple: The Toyota Hilux is still SA’s best-selling vehicle. Buyers flock to this long-established bakkie due to its reputation for reliability and excellent resale value. The top-spec Hilux 2.8 GD-6 double cab 4x4 Raider automatic is priced from R573 500 (March 2017).
- The Hilux's archrival: The Ford Ranger has led a strong charge against the Hilux, occasionally topping the Hilux in terms of month-to-month sales. Muscular looks, strong engines and advanced infotainment are the draw cards here and the Ranger 3.2 double cab XLT automatic is priced from R588 900 (March 2017).
- The poser: Volkswagen’s Amarok has proved itself as a worthy rival in the double-cab bakkie market. With an SUV-like interior and ride, flashy good looks and a huge load bay, it has won over more than a few buyers locally. The Amarok 2.0 BiTDI double cab Highline 4Motion automatic is priced from R587 400 (March 2017). Note that the facelifted Amarok is due in South Africa soon.
Where does it fit in?
We see the Triton as offering an interesting blend of workhorse and leisure talents.
The top-of-the-range 2.4DI-D Double Cab 4x4 Auto derivative is priced at R559 900, nearly R60 000 less than the range-topping Ford Ranger Wildtrak, and just R13 000 cheaper than the most expensive Hilux, the 2.8GD-6 4x4 Raider. Given the Triton’s small displacement engine, perhaps it is fairer to compare it with the 2.2-litre Ranger and 2.4-litre Hilux, but bear in mind that the Triton’s 2.4-litre turbodiesel motor is significantly more powerful than both of the aforementioned engines.
In our assessment, the Triton offers a midway point between the Ranger and the Isuzu KB; striking an interesting balance between the feel of a premium bakkie and the robust practicality of a workhorse. Bear in mind that the Triton is virtually the same vehicle as the Fiat Fullback (the latter is based on the former, FYI). However, the Fiat makes use of an older generation 2.5-litre Mitsubishi motor. Waiting for the newer, more efficient engine to become available was the main reason that Mitsubishi SA delayed the launch of the new Triton. The Fiat, however, is significantly cheaper than the Triton, at R468 900 for the top-spec 2.5 DI-D Double Cab 4x4 LX model.
How does it fair in terms of…
A sharp, tapering silhouette gives the new Triton commanding presence on the road.
There’s no doubt that the Triton is a handsome bakkie. With sharp design cues and a shoulder line which rises dramatically from the nose to the tail, the new Triton drew a fair amount of attention in traffic. The sporty rollover bar is a very nice touch indeed and certainly adds to the purposeful look of the vehicle.
In a segment where good looks are increasingly important, and in a motoring culture where the bakkie is often a status symbol, the Triton surely has enough kerb appeal to rival the established players in the double-cab bakkie game.
Ride quality and ease of use?
The reality is that most premium bakkies will spend the majority of their lives commuting on tar. Modern bakkies have to offer an acceptably comfortable ride quality and in that sense the Triton delivers. The Triton can feel slightly jittery at highway speeds when the tarmac is less than perfect but this is typical of the suspension setup on most bakkies and is not notably worse than any of its rivals. The Triton, in auto guise, makes for an impressive daily driver. The torque of the motor is easily accessed, the steering feel is light and the ‘box swops cogs with minimal intrusions. You quickly find yourself steering the vehicle along with barely a finger on the steering wheel, elbow resting on the window sill.
Striking alloy wheel design for this range-topping derivative.
Practicality and towing ability?
There is some confusion as to the towing capability of the Triton. According to the spec sheet which accompanied the vehicle supplied by Mitsubishi SA, towing capacity (braked) is rated at 1 500 kg. However, on various Australian car sites, the braked towing capacity is rated at 3 100 kg. This is 400 kg shy of both the Ranger and Hilux, which are rated at 3 500 kg. Mitsubishi South Africa says the anomaly is the result of specification levels available to the South African market currently, and that the situation is likely to change when the range is expanded later this year (probably 4th quarter).
Load carrying capacity/payload is quoted as 1 030 kg, but we noticed that, given the design of the load bay, the bed does seem to be quite shallow compared to its rivals'.
Comfort features and infotainment systems?
Leather-wrapped steering wheel and splashes of piano black plastic and satin-silver accenting attempt to lift cabin ambience.
At first glance, the Triton’s interior may appear sparse. The dashboard has a no-frills design and is relatively plain-looking compared to its rivals. However, it is well equipped. Dual-zone climate control, cruise control, a multifunction steering wheel, leather upholstery, trip computer, a touchscreen infotainment system featuring a USB port and Bluetooth, topped off with electric side mirrors makes for an impressive list of standard features.
However, it must be noted that the infotainment system appears very dated by modern standards. It is, however, easy to operate and switch between functions, but connecting our smartphones using Bluetooth wasn't exactly a smooth affair. Navigation is not included.
Instrumentation is very basic in appearance compared with flashier Ranger and Hilux displays.
Turbodiesel performance and efficiency?
As mentioned, the wait for the availability of the latest-generation 2.4-litre turbodiesel motor resulted in the delay of the Triton’s introduction to the local market. This is the only engine available in the Triton range. We feel it was largely worth the wait, as the new motor is noticeably quieter and offers 30 Nm more torque than the previous generation's 2.5-litre turbodiesel, which is offered in the Fiat Fullback.
Mitsubishi has made much fuss about the fact that the new engine is leaner and greener than the older powerplant. However, in terms of on-paper fuel economy figures, the Triton’s average consumption figure is quoted at 7.8L/100 km, while the Fullback is quoted at 7.7L/100 km. Co2 emissions are equally similar, at 207g/km and 206g/km respectively. In reality, we found the Triton to run at around 10 L/100 km in real world driving, which is better that what we've experienced with the 3.2-litre Fords by some margin.
5-speed Automatic transmission is fitted, and well matched to the engine's power delivery characteristics.
Despite the smaller displacement of the 2.4-litre engine, it punches above its weight, comparing favourably with the 2.8-litre turbodiesel found in the current Hilux. With a power figure of 133kW and torque quoted at 430Nm, that easily gives the 130kW and 450Nm of the Toyota a proper run for its money. However, the Toyota’s peak torque arrives at a low 1 600 rpm, compared to the Triton at 2 500 rpm. In practice, it does feel like most of the torque arrives sooner, and even though the automatic is only a 5-speed, compared to the Toyota’s 6-speed, it does feel as if the engine’s power is managed effectively in each gear.
We took the Triton on a 300 km freeway journey to the quiet West Coast village of Paternoster. With the cruise control set to 120 kph, the Triton proved itself to be a decent cruiser. Overtaking ability wasn’t hugely impressive, but we also didn’t struggle to pass slower moving traffic.
The 4x4 models in the range now feature Mitsubishi’s venerable Super Select 4x4 system found in the Pajero. Four modes are available, including low range (with locked centre differential) and the system features a separate lockable rear differential. The system is operated by a simple rotating knob mounted near the handbrake. It must be said that the Triton’s ride quality was impressive on gravel. It does feel like the sort of car which would offer occupants a comfortable journey on all but the very worst dirt roads.
The Pajero's Super Select 4-wheel drive system has been carried over to the Triton and works a treat.
Pricing and warranty
At R559 900 (March 2017), the top-spec Triton makes for a bit of a bargain compared to its range-topping rivals. The Triton is sold with a 3-year/100 000 km warranty and a 5-year/90 000 km service plan with service intervals of 10 000km.
The new Triton is a well-priced, attractive offering with a good reputation.
The Triton certainly offers a comprehensive level of specification for its asking price. While the infotainment system continues to lag behind rivals in terms of look and feel, this downside is not enough to detract from what is a comfortable, spacious and well-specced interior.
With a comfortable ride, sharp looks, a strong new engine and Mitsubishi’s tried and trusted off-road system, it appeals as both a daily driver and a workhorse, while ticking enough boxes to ensure it also qualifies as a leisure vehicle. Good manners on both gravel and tarmac and generous rear seat space make it very suitable for families tackling long journeys.
While Mitsubishi’s badge appeal may have faded a bit from its former glory during the Colt era, we feel the Triton is possibly the product the company needs to restore some much-needed lustre to the brand. Time will tell as to whether the new Triton holds up well on the second-hand market. But as a newcomer, we feel it offers enough to convince a good few South African motorists to consider it instead of the ever popular Toyota and Ford offerings.
Watch our video review of the new Mitsubishi Triton
Most Powerful Double-Cab Bakkies in SA
Mitsubishi Triton (2017) – Meet its Rivals
Nissan Navara (2017) First Drive
What People Think of the New Nissan Navara
Extended Test: Ford Ranger 3.2 4x4 Wildtrak [with Video]
Ford Ranger 3.2 4x4 Wildtrak (2016) Review
The World's Most Badass Toyota Hilux [with Video]
Toyota Hilux 2.8GD-6 DC 4x4 Raider Auto (2016) Review