The ute market is hotly contested in New Zealand, with the top models often outselling the most popular passenger cars.
Quality counts: light-commercial buyers are a discerning bunch and there's a lot of choice out there.
But there's something else that counts for a lot in the ute market: a really good deal. Especially when thousands of potential buyers gather in one location, chequebooks at the ready.
Such as Fieldays, the monster agricultural show held annually at Mystery Creek near Hamilton. As well as being Australasia's largest such event (117,000 visitors last year), Fieldays has almost become New Zealand's default motor show – especially for light commercials and four-wheel drives.
At Fieldays this year (13-16 June), as with any year, you can expect to see much massive discounting and the odd special-edition model. Or in the case of the Mitsubishi Triton Charger X, a bit of both.
Mitsubishi New Zealand is at least being pretty honest about this effort: it's a special model configured specifically with Fieldays in mind. It's a bit of a double-cab dress-up, based on the mid-range GLX 4WD but with extra chrome detailing, logos everywhere and side steps. Not a lot to get excited about then – even less if you don't like big red stickers on the side of your automotive workhorse.
However tenuous the ‘Fieldays special-edition' tag may be, it does give the company an excuse to knock the Triton Charger X off at $41,388 (that's $35,990 excluding GST) in manual-transmission form. To put that into context, the GLX 4WD on which this vehicle is based costs $51,990, so you're getting more than $10k off without even trying.
Mitsubishi confidently predicts the Charger X will be "Mystery Creek's best value". That remains to be seen, but if there's one ute that really needs a big push it's Triton. It's one of the oldest light-commercials on the market and year-to-date its sales trail every rival bar the Volkswagen Amarok – which is still a bit of a niche effort at the moment.
What's wrong with Triton? Nothing really, assuming you can accept the idiosyncratic styling. It has a torquey 407Nm 2.5-litre 2.5-litre turbo diesel engine, plenty of off-road ability and a braking towing capacity of three tonnes. The Charger gets Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control and a decent stereo that you can plug your portable music player into.
However, the Triton just isn't up with the performance, refinement and on-road dynamic ability of the latest generation of utes like the Ford Ranger, Mazda BT-50 and forthcoming all-new Holden Colorado (which we sampled briefly a couple of months back). The diesel is noisy, the steering is slow and the ride is bouncy. The latest generation of light-commercials are car-like in comparison.
Enter the Charger X. At this price, none of that will seem to matter quite so much.