In the kiwi ute market it’s become a case of ‘go hard or go home’ with potential purchasers now expecting their spending dollars to buy more than ever before. While the Mitsubishi Triton is sometimes overlooked when compared to its competitors from Toyota and Nissan, it’s showing no signs of throwing in the towel and heading home. Instead, it’s ready to go hard and a 2009 model year update brings some new features and capabilities to help it compete.
Providing motivation for the updated Triton is Mitsubishi’s 3.2-litre diesel power plant. Using direct injection and an intercooled turbo the unit pumps out 120kW of power and 343Nm of torque. It’s a strong engine and pulls well making use of the full complement of torque from just 2000rpm. The generous torque figure results in a flexible driving feel. The Triton can work itself off the line briskly and is relaxed at motorway cruising speeds. While there is no doubt the Triton has a handy motor, it’s also a noisy beast. Utes are never librarian quiet but the Triton’s diesel chest thumping and chattering can unfortunately be heard in the cabin at most speeds.
Transmission options include a 5-speed manual and 4-speed automatic unit. Our test vehicle was fitted with the automatic gearbox and while it could have benefitted from another ratio it did a decent job of changing gears. Without being too busy or too lazy it’s workman-like in sending available power to the wheels. Despite the auto box’s impressive work ethic it does deny the Triton very good fuel economy with the quoted consumption figure being 9.9l/100km; we achieved closer to 11l/100km.
Which wheels to power is the job of Mitsubishi’s clever Super-Select 4WD system. This allows four driving modes and can make on-the-fly shifts from 2WD to 4WD at speeds up to 100km/h. The high range 4WD makes use of the centre diff with a viscous coupling unit, but the diff can also be fully locked in this mode by a button in the cabin. When it’s time to really go hard, the Triton’s 4WD low range with permanent locked diff uses the vehicles low-end torque to maintain traction in more testing off-road terrain.
On the tarmac the Triton’s ride and handling are impressive. A double wishbone front and rigid leaf spring rear suspension setup make for a comfortable compliant ride because being hard isn’t always a good thing. Handling is also relatively good for a utility vehicle, some body roll is definitely evident but it doesn’t wobble round when changing direction. While the Triton is mild-mannered around town it’s not a total gentleman and being gentle on the gas pedal is still required to maintain optimum grip in wet conditions. On the downside the Triton’s steering is excessively long in its ratio meaning parking and U-turns require too many wheel turns. Steering feedback and feel is also a notch on the light side.
Aesthetically the Triton is rich with styling features. It’s suitably masculine but marks a significant departure from the straight-lined style of its ute ancestors. It’s the Triton’s curves that set it apart, particularly the curved line that runs along the rear of the double cab separating it from the square tray. Elsewhere the GLS double-cab promotes a tough guy demeanor with its pronounced contrasting wheel arches and metal side steps. A grimacing face incorporates an integrated grille and fog lights housed into a chunky front bumper. Out back, wrap-around jeweled lights flank a tailgate with built in high stoplight. The rear bumper also has a handy built-in step allowing quick access to the rear tray. The tray itself isn’t very long in double cab form but has good depth and width and can handle a 1000kg payload. Overall, the Triton is a bit of a looker but you wouldn’t dare call it a pretty boy. It’s well rounded, distinctively Mitsubishi and is dressed to attract rather than intimidate.
Climb into the cab and your greeted with a detailed and stylish interior that may be a selling point for those looking in search of a work/recreation vehicle. A two-toned split-level dash is a focal point and blue accents are used on the climate knobs, instrument faces and even stitching on the steering wheel. The rounded theme continues inside with sweeping lines in the dashboard and extending into the door inserts. The GLS also receives a multi-function screen that can display a compass, barometer and altimeter if required during adventuring. Fit and finish is fairly sound, not all materials feel high quality but there is a general sense of durability to the Triton’s interior. Switchgear is minimal and well laid out, the only real complaint comes with the stereo which is dated in its appearance and has small untextured buttons not suited for thick fingers.
What’s most impressive about the Triton cabin is the level of space for both rows of seats in the double cab. The front seats are firm but well bolstered with ample head and shoulder room. The rear seat is excellent, there is genuine legroom for passengers of all sizes and this is further accentuated by a slightly reclined seat-back angle. The generous proportions of the rear seat possibly come at the cost of some length in the rear tray but if the back-half of the cabin is going to be regularly used it’s a smart compromise.
The 2009 model update has seen the GLS Triton’s specification list grow with the welcome inclusion of cruise control and 17-inch rims. Other standard equipment includes: leather steering wheel and gear knobs, electric windows, rear power window, air-con and a trip computer.
The 2009 upgrade has also seen the addition of side and curtain airbags, a first for a ute in the kiwi market and making safety one of the Triton’s greatest strengths. The Triton holds a four-star ANCAP safety rating and can boast a level of collision safety comparable to a new passenger vehicle. Dual front airbags are also standard as is ABS with electronic brake force distribution and the passenger airbag can be turned off if a child seat is in use.
So can the Mitsubishi Triton really go hard?
It definitely can, its diesel power source offers strong performer with ample torque and it’s off road pedigree is obvious. So it’s got no issues with rolling up its sleeves and getting dirty, but it has more to offer than just that. The Triton is a solid all rounder and although it’s unlikely to become the obvious choice in the utility vehicle segment it shouldn’t be overlooked either. With it’s passenger-friendly spacious interior, lively styling, and safety credentials it is better suited for work and family dual-purpose duties than it’s direct competitors. So when it comes to ‘Going hard or going home’ the Triton is a machine capable of doing both.
Click through to the next page for a list of specifications.
Price: from $50,990
What we like:
- Spacious double cab
- Safety focused
- Strong diesel engine
- Exterior styling
What we don’t like:
- Dated stereo
- Engine noise
- Excessive steering wheel turn
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo
Mitsubishi Triton GLS – Specifications
Engine displacement – cc 3,200
Bore and stroke 98.5 X 105.0
Compression ratio 17.0:1
Max power (kW @ rpm) 120 @ 3,800
Max torque (Nm @ rpm) 353 @ 2,000
Fuel consumption – l/100km 9.1 – manual / 9.9 – auto
CO2 – g/km 237 – manual / 258 – auto
DIMENSIONS / WEIGHTS
Overall length with wellside – mm 5,174
Overall width – mm 1,800
Overall height – mm 1,780
Wheel base – mm 3,000
Track front – mm 1,520
Track rear – mm 1,515
Ground clearance – mm 205
Turning circle – m 11.8
Kerb weight – kg (manual [auto]) 1,920 [1,930]
Gross vehicle weight – kg 2,930
Pay load – kg (manual [auto]) 1,010 [1,000]
Maximum front axle load – kg 1,260
Maximum rear axle load – kg 1,800
Seating capacity – persons 5
Towing unbraked – kg 750
Towing braked – kg 2,700