Review: New Triton deserves some credit

The Toyota Hilux is the best bakkie in South Africa. Done. It has the reputation, the reputability, the build quality, and value. Taking all of these into consideration would leave you with no other choice but to opt for it. Each time, every time. And why not? It’s not SA’s best-selling vehicle for nothing.

To counter the Hilux’s offering we are treated to the likes of the Ford Ranger, Isuzu D-Max, Nissan Hardbody/NP300, etc. All good bakkies in own right, but like the Hilux they’re very workhorse orientated. Meaning, their architecture is built around the needs and requirements of heavy duty workloads. But the Mitsubishi Triton… well, it’s a bakkie that’s moved away from such orientations and is aimed at catering to the leisure side of the bakkie market; without sacrificing the durable traits bakkies are known for.

The Colt and the Triton that came after it were perhaps the last of Mitsubishi’s bakkies to truly cater to the labour side of the market, because the iterations that followed were definitely softer on the eye and softer from behind the steering wheel. And this new bakkie undoubtedly follows on from that, but for some reason it just fails to find any good traction in the market.

Why?

A double battle

The Triton has to rate up there with the most aggressive looking bakkies currently on sale in South Africa. It’s different to all the bakkies it competes against and is it a very striking alternative. Neither market leaders (Hilux and Ranger) can compete with the Triton in terms of looks, at least in my opinion, but still the Triton manages to get the wrong reactions.

It’s weird, to say the least, because for once the Triton looks as if it can stand toe-to-toe with the Hilux. For once it is aggressive enough to show its intent for the top spot. But still it’s met with question marks as to why Mitsubishi made it this way. And even if Mitsubishi opted to keep the changes subtle, it would’ve still received negative marks. Perhaps it’s just a case of onlookers wanting to hate on the Triton; undermining and judging it before giving it a fair trial.

There can be no denying the Triton’s battle both against its rivals and the public’s perception. It has to fight harder than most bakkies and it will still come up short against most. And that is a shame, because the Triton virtually puts no foot wrong. It has a strong design bakkies require and it has the on-road presence. But it beats me why it just can’t win opinion over.

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Improved tailgate

The revised Triton range comprises only four models in both manual and automatic versions. And both derivatives can be had in either 4×2 or 4×4. The automatic 4×4 we have on test has all the features and equipment as the rest of the range and is it very well equipped.

For starters, leather upholstery is standard and the driver’s seat can be adjusted electronically. All four doors are fitted with electric windows and access to the cabin can be granted without using the key (as long as the sensor’s pick it up). Other standard features include cruise control, voice control, and a new multimedia system that is fitted with satellite navigation.

What is particularly nice about the new Triton is the rear tailgate. Unlike the other bakkies it competes against, the Triton’s tailgate has an additional hydraulic mechanism that prevents the tailgate from slamming down when you open it. Gone are the days when the latch would fall open and hit you in a spot you don’t want to be hit. Sadly, the tailgate can’t be locked.

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Not driving a bakkie

One of my personal criticisms of the previous Triton’s 2.4-litre diesel engine was that the torque became available quite late in the rev range. Only at 2500rpm would you have access to all 430Nm, which pales in comparison to its rivals (Hilux: 450Nm @ 1600rpm; Ranger 3.2: 470Nm @ 1500rpm). Unfortunately, the issue was not addressed when the new model arrived but there are suspicions that a revised or new powertrain might come into play when an entirely new Triton arrives in 2021. Until then we have this trusted engine that, if we’re honest, is not a bad unit at all.

The engine still produces 133kW and 430Nm, but has now been mated with a six-speed automatic gearbox. Not a fiver as with the previous model. Despite the torque being available relatively high up the rev range, there is no letting up from the Triton as it always finds the right beat on the open road. The drive is smooth, steering is very comfortable, and there is never really the impression that you’re driving a bakkie. And it’s here where Mitsubishi’s got one up over its direct rivals.

The Hilux and Ranger (the D-Max, too) are trying to be jacks of all trades, being both a workhorse and leisure bakkie. Though the features and specification in the higher models of these bakkies underline the leisure traits, they still drive like bakkies. Improvements have been made over the years, but not to the point where they have the Triton’s ride quality. Mitsubishi knows that the Triton will never sell as many units as the Hilux, Ranger, and D-Max, hence the Triton’s focus on being leisure bakkie that drives like a car. And all on the same type of platform as its rivals.

Bakkie purists will scoff at the Triton, but the informed consumer will have complete understanding of this.

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Summary

At R589 995 the new Mitsubishi Triton 2.4 double cab 4×4 automatic is considerably cheaper than its rivals, but it is in no way an inferior bakkie. The craftsmanship is good, build quality is on point, and it has a fantastic drive to support it. Sadly, the sales do not support the notion that the Triton is a good bakkie – which is quite bad – but a simple drive in it will have you realise that this bakkie deserves a fair chance in our brand loyal market.

The market leaders deserve their positions for various reasons, especially the Hilux (it really is a damn good bakkie), but the 2019 Triton has put on its boxing gloves and is ready to go toe-to-toe.