I’ve never really been a fan of the Mitsubishi Triton. Yes, when it came out in 2005 it had styling that made it stand out, but there was never that feeling of being in a really competent ute that could be driven mostly on road as well as off it. It felt, in short, like a truck, when the competition was becoming ever more road like in their comfort and handling.
So now, here’s the new Triton, and it’s no surprise that it’s a better one than the old. But it is something of a revelation to realise just how much of a jump the ute had had over its predecessors. The chassis is a revision of the old, but the body is all new, if the overall look still retains the familiar Triton shape. The only real downside is that the rear tray has been shortened, supposedly to allow a better departure angle. The sides have been heightened though, which technically means there’s more room in the back, but it also means that the sides of the tray are too high to comfortably reach over.
The vehicle itself also rides fairly high, and in the NZ$59,490 4WD GLS auto model tested here I can fit my entire head between the top of the rear wheel and the wheel arch. But the real surprise is how good the new Triton is to drive. I recently transported the family to a holiday in Mount Manganui and had two different press cars to choose from. Choices were the Holden Astra GTC hatchback and the Triton. I had expected that we would be taking Holden’s semi hot hatch down, surely because it would be better on the road to drive. But a few days later it was the Triton we all jumped into. The obvious reason is that it’s a ute with a hard top over the tray, so packing is really more of a case of throwing stuff into it until it was full. But another unanticipated reason was that around town the suspension tune worked exceptionally well. Anything that passed under the wheels disappearing somewhere in the transition from tyre to seat cushion.
There was more than enough power from the new 135kW 2.4 litre diesel engine, and the six-speed manual encouraged you to slip into manual mode whenever you feel like a bit of more involvement. The gear change paddles are also mounted on the steering column, Ferrari style, so it doesn’t matter at which angle the steering wheel is – left for down a gear and right for up a gear. And it goes unsaid that with a diesel engine we would be able to make the entire trip on one tank of fuel.
Impressions on the road were mixed however, and it points to the suspension being tuned for specific speeds rather than a general tune to cover everything you might encounter. At town speeds, between 50km/h and a slightly naughty 60km/h it was smooth sailing. Move on up on the open road to 80km/h and the ride sort of falls apart, becoming choppy and generally uncomfortable. At 95km/h you hit another sweet spot that continues up to 110km/h and for all I know, continues right up to the vehicles maximum speed.
So if you keep up a good legal pace on New Zealand’s roads you will be impressed by the body control and lack of drama over cracked up road surfaces. Encounter one of the many people who like to wander down the road at 80km/h or so (this is of course inevitable) and you won’t be quite so impressed at the vehicle’s behaviour.
Inside the Triton it’s all-new, with a much more car-like look, and good quality trims. The seats are comfortable, and Mitsubishi claims best leg room in class. It all adds up to a ute that isn’t huge like the current crop of big utes, drives more like a car, and technically, at least for holiday fun, is better than a Holden Astra GTC.
So, kudos to Mitsubishi for designing a ute that feels great most of the time, which is something you could never had said about the previous model.