FIRST DRIVE: Mitsubishi’s new tough Triton ute

 

APPEARANCES count in the ultra-competitive one-tonne ute market.

Ford's Ranger has catapulted to near the top of the sales charts on the back of tough "F-Series truck-like" looks, and Mitsubishi is looking to follow suit with its new Triton.

A new chiselled, macho looking Triton will arrive in local showrooms in January to take the fight to Ranger and Australia's most popular vehicle, the Toyota HiLux.

But Mitsubishi isn't relying on looks alone to overtake its rivals.

The company says more than 2400 changes have been made to the previous model, with the enhancements focusing on new car-like safety technology and a cushier ride.

Australia's third most popular ute has sold mainly on the back of sharp drive-away discounts but the new model is likely to be more expensive and more desirable.

Mitsubishi has toughened up the look of its Triton ute.
Mitsubishi has toughened up the look of its Triton ute.

Spokesman Karl Gehling says pricing is likely to increase "commensurate with the new technology in the vehicle".

The new look was first seen on the Pajero Sport, a ute-based SUV that has proved a big success for the brand.

The previous Triton iteration arrived only three years ago but escalating competition and higher customer expectations have forced rapid improvement, particularly in the area of cabin refinement and safety.

No longer are utes confined to fleet and work duties. They've evolved into family cars with big boots and the best of them reflect that dual purpose.

Engine choices are unchanged on the new Triton - a 2.4-litre petrol (94kW/194Nm) and a tweaked turbo diesel (133kW/430Nm) matched to five- and six-speed manuals respectively. There is new six-speed auto for the diesel.

The turbo-diesel gets a new six-speed auto.
The turbo-diesel gets a new six-speed auto.

The Triton will dramatically improve its safety kit, though, with features that match the Ranger and Mercedes-Benz X-Class and surpass rivals including the HiLux, VW Amarok and Nissan Navara.

Among the new items are autonomous emergency braking (AEB) to help mitigate or avoid frontal accidents, technology to avoid pedal confusion and rear cross-traffic alert.

The AEB operates below 140km/h using camera and laser radar. If the tech recognises the risk of a frontal collision with a vehicle or pedestrian, it sounds a beep - if the driver fails to react, the brakes are applied automatically.

Blind spot warning, surround view camera and rear cross traffic alert also will be added to the safety repertoire, along with "Ultrasonic Misacceleration Mitigation" - a first for the segment.

Cameras and sensors detect hard acceleration when setting off in forward or reverse and the tech cuts engine power. It's doesn't operate in low range, so won't intrude when off-roading in tricky conditions.

Mitsubishi helped tuned the Triton’s off-road pedigree in Australia.
Mitsubishi helped tuned the Triton’s off-road pedigree in Australia.

There's more tech inside as well. The rear seat has a USB charging socket and aircon vents, while in high-end models, the 6.1-inch touchscreen gets smartphone mirroring.

Cabins in higher specification models are more car-like, with soft-touch double stitched materials, a darker colour scheme and extra silver garnishes.

On the outside, the distinctive curve where cabin joins tub is retained but the rest of the sheetmetal has been overhauled to make the Triton look more robust.

In profile, a pronounced crease runs front to rear. Fog lamps sit higher on the grille to avoid damage when off-roading; and the tail-lights, now bold and square, no longer stretch toward the cab.

Soft touch fabrics on the top-spec models make the Triton more car like.
Soft touch fabrics on the top-spec models make the Triton more car like.

"When you look at the general market trends they are going for the tough and durable image," Mitsubishi chief operating officer Trevor Mann says.

"The previous generation had its time. That was the market trend and it was different at the time from most of the other pick-ups so it wasn't a 'me too'."

Australia's Mitsubishi team played a key role in the 2019 model's development, with a vast testing program undertaken Down Under.

Engineers covered hundreds of thousands of kilometres over more than two years. They also spent time with customers evaluating the vehicle in real-world conditions, while experts from other markets travelled Down Under for off-road dynamic analysis.

Behind Thailand, Australia is Mitsubishi's second biggest market for Triton.

The Triton has an off-road mode for driving on mud.
The Triton has an off-road mode for driving on mud.

On the road

Under the skin changes are aimed to improve ride comfort and refinement. On Bangkok's highways the Triton felt quieter and more accomplished.

The suspension set-up - double wishbone front and leaf spring rear - is unchanged but the rear gains bigger dampers.

On some basic off-roading courses the Triton easily handled the conditions using its new armoury of hill descent control and an off-road selector on four-wheel drive models that enables the driver to choose between gravel, mud/snow, sand and rock modes.

The Triton’s braked towing capacity is unchanged at 3.1 tonnes
The Triton’s braked towing capacity is unchanged at 3.1 tonnes

On dirt roads it felt more compliant - but we'll reserve final judgement until a more comprehensive local analysis. U-turns and parking are easier with a tighter turning circle.

Fuel efficiency is claimed to be improved on the diesel auto models which currently drink between 7.0L-7.6L/100km, although official numbers are yet to be released.

Braked towing capacity remains unchanged at 3.1 tonnes (3.0 tonne for single and extended cab models), as does the gross vehicle combination mass of 5885kg.

Inside, it's the same layout, with some improvements to the areas you touch most such as the centre console and doors.

In front of the shifter is a handy storage area for phones and other devices, close to a 12-volt port, two USB slots and a HDMI plug. There are also two USB points in the back of dual cabs.

Among the interesting new inclusions are roof-mounted rear vents. Centrally located, the unit sucks air from the front and a fan pushes it into the back with a small louvre for directional flow.

Colour choices will include two whites, grey, orange, red, silver, black, blue and brown. Single cab, extended club cab and double cab body styles continue.

Pricing and full specification will be made available in December and expect the sharp drive-away deals to disappear as Mitsubishi tries to move the Triton more upmarket.

Some models are expected to land before Christmas, with the bulk of new Tritons landing around New Year.

 

The Triton is currently the third best selling ute in the country.
The Triton is currently the third best selling ute in the country.

 

Mitsubishi Triton vitals

Pricing: TBA.

Engines: 2.4-litre 4-cyl, 94kW/194Nm; 2.4-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 133kW/430Nm

Safety: 5 stars, 7 airbags, forward collision mitigation, blind spot warning, lane change assist, hill descent control, rear cross traffic alert, UMS, 360 degree camera, front and rear sensors.

Transmissions: 5 or 6-speed man, 6-speed auto; 4WD

Thirst: 7.2L-10.9L/100km (est)

Towing: 1800kg-3100kg (est)

 

Put it there partner

Mitsubishi's ute expertise is tipped to underpin the next generation of Nissan and Renault equivalents. Mitsubishi boss Trevor Mann says it's "highly likely" the Triton platform would be the basis for future Nissan Navaras and Renault Alaskans (not available in Australia). The trio's alliance aims to "turbocharge" each business and deliver economies of scale. Mann says each brand would contribute its leading expertise and in Mitsubishi's case that would be the Triton's underpinnings. "The platform development is becoming increasingly more expensive because of the regulations in various parts of the world (on) safety and emissions," he says. "We will be converging on platforms … which means the next Outlander will be on the same platform as the Nissan and Renault equivalent. Everything the customer, sees, touches, experiences will be Mitsubishi."

Bet on black

Orange could be the new black with next year's Triton. On show at the global reveal was a "Triton Plus" concept with orange paintwork and black alloys, grille and bumpers. Interior trim combined orange leather and grey suede. Mitsubishi is waiting for feedback before progressing but given the proliferation of black editions from various makers it's more than likely the one-off will become reality.

Plug-in utes next

The dawn of the plug-in hybrid ute is a matter of when, not if, says Mitsubishi's product strategist. It will come in response to growing pressure to reduce emissions and the guillotine hovering over diesel cars in Europe, according to company vice-president Vincent Cobbee. He reckons increasing global regulation and "changing horizons" will bring plug-in hybrid tech - as employed in the company's Outlander SUV - to utes. "There will be a limit to what traditional combustion engines can provide, especially because the demand for power, torque, towing will remain. If you put all of this together there is not that many technologies that can provide no range anxiety, high power, high torque and low CO2."


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