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New Mitsubishi Triton launch report


The Mitsubishi Triton has been left behind of late – an aging entrant in a pickup-truck segment overloaded with talent. But Mitsubishi Motors New Zealand (MMNZ) reckons it’s on the comeback trail with the new model just launched.

Triton is a crucially important vehicle for MMNZ; one-tonne utes are the single-biggest market segment in New Zealand and will account for around 30,000 sales this year.

Or to put in another way, one in five new vehicles sold here is a pickup truck.

The outgoing Triton has been languishing near the back of the mainstream pack, fifth behind Ford Ranger, Toyota Hilux, Holden Colorado and Nissan Navara for 2014. Yet those 1600 sales still made it MMNZ’s most significant seller alongside the Outlander crossover.

With the new model, MMNZ expects annual Triton sales to reach over 3000 with this new model, which would depose the Colorado from the podium and put it in third spot on the sales table.

Why so confident? Parts of the previous platform remain underneath, but this is a comprehensive makeover. The 135kW/437Nm 2.4-litre turbo diesel is new and features all-alloy construction. It’s matched to either a new six-speed manual or five-speed automatic (borrowed from the Pajero).

Triton pricing and model designations have been carried over, with the GLX specification available in single-cab (chassis or wellside) and double-cab configurations, with two or four-wheel drive. The club-cab body style has gained two extra rear-hinged doors at the back.

The flagship GLS is expected to account for 50% of sales and is available exclusively as a double-cab. It also has a more sophisticated Super Select four-wheel drive system than the GLX models.

GLX prices range from $34,790 for a rear-drive cab chassis manual to $53,990 for the double cab automatic. The GLS sells for $57,490-$59,490.

MMNZ argues that the new Triton leads its class in virtually every respect. So of those claims are quite convincing, others curiously creative.

The facts: Triton automatic’s fuel economy figure of 7.6 litres per 100km (7.2 litres for the manual) tops the class and represents a massive improvement on the old vehicle’s 9.6 litres. A five-speed automatic seems behind the times on paper with rivals have six and even eight-speed transmissions, but MMNZ argues that the fuel economy figures speak for themselves.

Triton also has the highest ANCAP crash-test rating of any ute: five stars and a score of 36.22, just beating the Ranger’s 35.72. A driver’s knee airbag is standard across the range.

MMNZ claims Triton has the roomiest rear seat in the class and equals Hilux and Colorado with a 25-degree seatback angle.

Whether the Triton leads the pack on performance is open to debate. It’s not the powerful in class but MMNZ argues it has the best torque-to-weight, thanks partly to tipping the scales at 1950kg. The company also says that kerb weight gives it a class-leading total payload of nearly 3950kg, despite the 3.1-tonne towing capacity being lower than some rivals.

Whether these rather creative claims resonate with buyers remains to be seen.

MMNZ also argues that the GLS Super Select four-wheel drive system is a unique selling proposition. It’s not new, but it remains the only such drivetrain in the pickup segment to allow a combination of rear-drive, off-road-capable four-wheel drive and on-road all-wheel drive operation similar to crossover vehicles.

MMNZ claims that the only other ute that allows on-road four-wheel drive operation is the Volkswagen Amarok, but that model can’t be locked into rear-drive. According to the company, all other utes on the market have to run in rear-drive on the road, as their four-wheel drive systems have to be locked when engaged, making them unsuitable for on-road operation.

Time in the new Triton was brief indeed on the media launch, but the GLS has certainly fronted up with improved on-road credentials – essential when so many buyers are using pickups not as workhorses but also as pseudo-SUVs. Peak torque is delivered between 1500-3000rpm and top gear has the GLS turning over at 1600rpm, right where the pulling power is.

First impressions suggest the Triton isn’t as nimble as the Ranger/BT-50 cousins, but quicker steering (down from 4.3 turns lock-to-lock in the previous model to 3.8) has reduced the driver’s workload in the corners.

Triton is now fully on board with the world of factory-approved accessories – another thing the previous model lacked. MMNZ expects an average of $3500 worth of extras to be fitted to Tritons as they roll out the showroom doors.

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