Mitsubishi’s Triton double cab recently received a few upgrades – including a new 2,5-litre oilburner – but are these changes enough? With so many great bakkies on the market, can the aging Triton still compete?
Since the launch of the Triton in 2007, the local bakkie market has changed quite a bit. Not only has Volkswagen entered the fray with the technologically impressive Amarok, but popular bakkie makers such as Ford, Mazda and Isuzu have all released new versions of their vehicles.
Although Mitsubishi is apparently working on a brand-new double cab, the release of this vehicle is probably still a couple of years away so, for now, the Triton soldiers on. Thankfully, though, it has evolved a bit over the years, and there have been several changes to both its styling and mechanical bits. Most notably, it has just been fitted with a new 2,5-litre diesel mill that promises good fuel economy while still providing adequate oomph.
*** FEATURES AND EQUIPMENT
The Triton’s well-known 3,2-litre Di-D engine is no more. In fact, almost the entire derivatives list has been scrapped, and it is now available with only one engine option – a four-cylinder 2,5-litre diesel mill. Moreover, the Triton range has been greatly simplified overall.
In addition to the fact the bakkie is now only available with 2,5-litre diesel engine, the double cab model line-up has been reduced to just two models — a 4×2 version and a 4×4 version. But while the 4×4’s 2,5-litre mill has been boosted to generate 131 kW of power at 4000 r/min and 400 Nm of torque at 2000 r/min, the 4×2’s oilburner still generates the same 100 kW of power and 314 Nm of torque that the outgoing 2,5-litre model produced.
How does the new 131 kW 2,5-litre oilburner perform? Quite impressively. Although not class-leading in terms of power and refinement, the engine is on a par with many of those found in other popular double cabs, and even bests the popular Hilux’s D-4D engine when it comes to power and torque. That said, the Triton’s torque isn’t generated as low down on the rev range (the Hilux’s 343 Nm of peak torque kicks in as low down as 1400 r/min), so the engine feels as though it needs a bit of coaxing before it really gets going. But once the Triton starts cruising, the engine feels powerful and responsive. In fact, it feels as though it could have benefited from a sixth gear.
The engine is mated to a five-speed manual gearbox – no auto option is available — and can overtake without hassle at highway speeds.
Fuel economy was impressive. During our test, which included quite a bit of 4×4 driving, we averaged 10,2 litres per 100km. With some gentle driving, the Triton should be able to dip below 10 litres per 100km fairly easily.
The new engine isn’t the Triton’s only impressive feature. Like the Pajero and Pajero Sport, Mitsubishi’s bakkie boasts a Super Select 4×4 system. This means that the driver can choose between 2H, 4H with an open centre differential, 4H with a locked centre differential, and 4L. The ability to switch to 4H without locking the centre diff is a neat trick, which effectively provides the Triton with full-time 4WD – something unique in the segment.
The Triton’s age is most obvious in the cabin. It is quite clear that this design has been around for a while, and seems a tad outdated when compared to those of bakkies such as the Isuzu KB and VW Amarok.
While most newer bakkies now sport SUV-like interiors, the Triton’s cabin still seems rather utilitarian. A lot of hard plastics can be found inside. But there are some features. It has automatic air conditioning, a USB jack, Bluetooth capability, electric windows and leather seats. It also has two airbags (driver and passenger).
Space is more than adequate, with the rear being able to accommodate a pair of adults pretty easily.
**** GRAVEL PERFORMANCE AND HANDLING
The Triton’s performance on gravel is good. Most noticeably, the cabin remains remarkably comfortable and quiet, even on very bad dirt roads. Noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels are low for a bakkie, and the suspension does an admirable job of smoothing out corrugations.
As mentioned, the ability to engage 4WD without locking the centre differential is a nice feature, especially when you venture onto a smooth gravel road or wet tar.
When you engage 4H without locking the centre diff, 33% of power is sent to the front wheels, and 67% to the back. However, the system reacts to traction loss, and can send up to 50% of power to the front wheels if needed. The system provides that added bit of confidence you need when dealing with an unpredictable road surface.
Like all bakkies, the Triton has a tendency to feel a bit skittish on bad gravel roads, but its overall performance is impressive. It might lack some of the electronic wizardry that some newer vehicles use in order to improve safety, but it nevertheless feels solid and surefooted.
*** TRAIL CAPABILITY
On the trail, the Triton really comes into its own. It is one of the smaller bakkies on the market, so it navigates narrow paths and tight turns with relative ease.
The low-range gearing taps every drop of power from the new engine, and most obstacles can be tackled in second gear, with first reserved for only the toughest of inclines. The throttle response isn’t overly sensitive, making it great for rock crawling at very low speeds, although it did idle a bit high for two of the steep descents on the trail.
With two bash plates fitted underneath the vehicle and 220mm of ground clearance, there’s little danger of damaging the fuel tank or oil sump over obstacles – the only real threat to clearance being the sidesteps.
The 2,5-litre diesel engine has impressive power on inclines, and despite a lack of traction control, the Triton powered up very loose surfaces where traction was periodically lost. The electronically-controlled rear diff lock engages almost instantly and – just as important — disengages within moments as well. This made steep inclines with tight turns at their crest far easier to handle.
On steep and slippery descents, the light weight at the back of the Triton becomes quite obvious, with the rear wheels losing traction quite often. It would be advisable to have some cargo in the bakkie when tackling trails.
The ground clearance and reasonable articulation – paired with a very short overhang at the front – makes the Triton quite capable over tight, rocky obstacles.
With no modern features such as hill descent control or ESP, the Triton may seem less capable than its competitors. However, its performance on tough trails showed otherwise and proved that the right engine, gearbox and ground clearance combination can get drivers much farther than one might imagine.
*** OVERLANDING SUITABILITY
Like most double cabs, the Mitsubishi Triton is well suited to overland travel. Its 2,5-litre oilburner is powerful yet promises to be quite frugal on long overland journeys. Thanks to its Super Select 4×4 system, it will undoubtedly be able to deal with any off-road situation thrown at it.
If you’re looking for a double cab that can be used as a leisure or overland vehicle, the Triton won’t disappoint.
The Mitsubishi Triton is a vehicle that, despite showing its age in certain respects, remains a solid buy. It isn’t a class leader on any front, but it is a total package that won’t easily disappoint. Moreover, it is well priced (R419 900), which is why we have given it such a high overall rating. With an excellent sticker price and an oilburner that promises to be reasonably frugal, the Triton represents fantastic value for money.