Bigger is not always better. Well, so said Mitsubishi when it launched its new MQ Triton ute in the middle of the year.
While other utes have grown in size and stature, Mitsubishi chose to keep its truck compact, claiming that there are buyers out there who appreciate the smaller vehicle.
Looking at Mitsubishi’s sales numbers, you might think the company was right, as the Triton has been a strong seller through the back half of 2015 – but the numbers don’t tell the whole story. Regardless of size, buyers appreciate bang for their bucks, and the Triton remains a great value-for-money package. That’s why we requested a top-spec Triton Exceed for 4X4OTY contention – as, for $48,000, the well-equipped Mitsubishi can save buyers close to $10,000 over other similarly equipped utes.
“Buy a Triton and put the money you save into a trip around Australia,” Roothy quipped.
The Triton is still only one of two 4x4 utes available with the option of full-time four-wheel drive. While some might dismiss this as ‘so what?’, the benefits of being able to seamlessly travel on gravel roads then on to sealed roads and back again – without having to shift between two- and four-wheel drive – needs to be experienced. It just makes life much easier, especially with electronically-selected transfer cases that don’t always co-operate with requests.
With its more refined, smaller yet more powerful 2.4-litre engine, the Triton punts along nicely on the highways, with the calibration of the five-speed auto now better than it was before. Interestingly, it never feels like it wants another ratio in the ’box.
The Exceed also has paddle shifters for the transmission and is one of the few cars in which the paddles are fixed to the column and don’t turn with the steering wheel. That is what you want in a 4x4 with steering that needs multiple turns, lock-to-lock. The short-travel suspension makes the Triton feel almost rally-inspired and more dynamic than most others.
The Triton’s the most frugal diesel sipper of the group, consuming 11.6L/100km on our test – 7.6L/100 is the ADR figure.
Again, having Super Select and full-time 4x4 is a huge plus when travelling in the alps or anywhere with tight tracks, or when manoeuvring in small spaces. Having drive to all four wheels without the centre diff locked makes this so much easier. It leaves us wondering why none of the other new utes have adopted a similar system to this (or Volkswagen Amarok’s system).
The Triton’s shorter wheelbase and overall size, compared to its competition, helps here, too, making the Mitsubishi more nimble. It’s easy to see over the bonnet, too.
SET-PIECE HILL CLIMB
Another thing that leaves us scratching our heads is why Mitsubishi now only offers the rear diff lock in the top-sped Triton Exceed. The Triton couldn’t overcome the first challenge at the base of our hill when we left it to the electronic traction control alone, yet it was able to scrabble its way up with the RDL engaged.
We guess it’s just as well the Exceed is relatively cheap, so more buyers might choose it or save the money for aftermarket lockers.
Relatively short wheel travel doesn’t help the Mitsubishi, and it hung wheels in the air more than the others.
Manoeuvrability came to the fore again, making the Triton the easiest to turn around at the top of the hill, before bumping and scraping its way back down.
CABIN, EQUIPMENT AND ACCOMmODATION
As the top of the Triton range, the Exceed gets all the fruit, which makes it such good value at less than $50,000. Leather seats; big screen sat-nav; quality fit and feel; and tilt-and-reach adjustment on the steering column all add up to a sweet package.
As you would expect, the cabin is a bit smaller than other dual-cab utes, especially across the back seat. There is also just one 12-volt outlet and one USB outlet for power.
The Triton comes with a tub liner to protect the back, but the load-securing points are too high to usefully tie down anything back there. The fact that the whole load area is behind the rear axle is also a concern when carrying a heavy load. Maybe that’s why the Triton has a lower GVM and towing capacity than the bigger utes.
The engine breathes through the inner ’guard, which is a step in the right direction for Mitsubishi. You might be able to get an auxiliary battery in the engine bay, but you would need to relocate some parts.
The Triton wears relatively small 245/65R-17 rubber but readily accepts bigger tyres. A few of our testers commented on the odd-looking alloy wheels, saying the design looked like high-heeled boots spinning around.
The Triton provides a true alternative in the 4x4 ute segment. It’s different and it’s a great-value option – not a bad one either, if it floats your boat. If you don’t need or want a bigger ute, then the Triton is worth checking out. It’s a big improvement on the superseded model.
We had a small problem regarding an item that was subject to a vehicle recall earlier in the year – our vehicle obviously hadn’t been attended to. The problem relates to the accessory tonneau cover and the rivets that hold its mounts on. On our test vehicle, these had ripped out and Dave Morley had to patch it all up before we set out.
Still, he said of the Exceed that it’s “sportier to drive than the other utes (or anything else here) and sensational value.” But he also said it “lacks that last little chunk of mountain-goat DNA, and the tonneau rails and front fascia both fell apart.”
Engine 2.4 litre 4-cyl turbo- diesel
Max power/torque 133kW/430Nm
Gearbox five-speed automatic
4X4 System dual-range full-time (+2WD)
Kerb weight 1950kg
Towing capacity 3100kg
Fuel tank capacity 75 litres
ADR fuel cons 7.6L/100km
fuel cons on test 11.6L/100km
Price $47,490 (auto only)
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