Intelligent new 4x4 system
Road Test Blocks
On-road cabin shake
Inevitable wave of special editions likely to follow
Ten years ago, the Mitsubishi L200 helped define the pick-up market. It was one of the sleekest and most desirable pick-ups on the market, but most importantly it had all the equipment a car did.
Fully chromed L200s became the vehicle of choice for financially savvy tradesmen looking to reclaim the VAT and company car users wanting to cut their benefit in kind costs and pay a flat rate of tax. Series 3 versions of the L200 hit their peak by selling more than 12,000 units per year, and although that success was not quite repeated with the Series 4 L200, Mitsubishi have seen considerable success with the pick-up truck in the 30 years since its launch.
A fifth generation is now ready for market and it can’t come soon enough. The Mitsubishi L200 has been looking tired for quite a long time, and while the new Series 5 doesn’t radically refresh the model’s looks, it has been smartened up and the specification vastly improved.
The flagship Barbarian model still tops the range at £23,799, throwing more equipment at the L200 than most well specced cars, but Mitsubishi is still catering for the entry-level, workhorse end of the market. Less well appointed Warrior and Titan models provide buyers will further options, but it’s the L200 4Life that kicks off the whole range with a starting price of just £19,749. Despite it being the base model, there is a good level of standard equipment, with all models getting air-conditioning, bi-xenon headlamps, a switchable 4x4 system and a range of safety equipment that includes 7 airbags, traction control and Trailer Stability Assist. Where the 4Life differs from the rest of the range is in its engines and four-wheel-drive system.
Engines in the L200 range come in two states of tune, a 151hp version with 380Nm of torque that appears in the 4Life and a 178hp unit producing 430Nm that features in all other models. The entry-level model also only gets a basic Easy Select 4x4 system, that is much less sophisticated than the Super Select system found in the other models. The Easy Select L200 has a part-time 4x4 system as well as a low-ratio gearbox and locking rear differential. Super Select is a more elaborate active system that allows the truck to be in rear-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive modes for on road driving. In the previous generation, power was split 50:50 between front and rear wheels when in 4x4 mode, however the bias is now 60:40 in favour of the rear in order to split the torque to the steering axle and reduce understeer. Super Select models also get a locking centre differential and a low range gearbox.
On the inside, the new L200 has also been improved with a new interior, the highlight of which is the greatly improved front seats. They provide much greater support – particularly useful when being flung around off-road – and combine well with the new rake and reach adjustment of the steering wheel. The cabin tries to blend passenger car refinement with commercial requirements, and as a whole does the job rather well. It feels smart and practical without leaning too far in either direction - you could get it mucky in the week and still make it feel comfortable enough to take the family away at the weekends. Storage in the cabin is limited with thin door pockets and a fairly pokey glovebox, but the L200 isn’t about the storage upfront.
Capacity in the load deck is where it really matters for L200 customers, and with a bed measuring 1,470mm x 1,470mm and a depth of 475mm, the new Mitsubishi is actually fractionally deeper (15mm) than the Series 4 model, but narrower than many of its rivals.
The L200’s loading height is 850mm so access to the rear of the load bed can be difficult, but a step is cut into the rear bumper of the higher specification Warrior and Barbarian models. There are six load lashing points and Barbarian models also get soft-opening tailgate.
The all-important one-tonne payload threshold – required for VAT and Benefit in Kind purposes – is met with a maximum payload of 1,050kg. That figure drops by 5kg if an automatic transmission is specified over the standard manual. The L200 does have a disappointing towing capacity for a braked trailer, with just 3,100kg, a figure that is now almost universally 3,500kg.
On the Road
Pick-up trucks are never the best vehicles to drive on the road. Their performance is always somewhat of a compromise, but the new L200 goes some way to find an acceptable halfway house between off-road and on-road driving. Body roll is impressively low in corners, and the ride is generally composed, but poor road conditions do translate into shakes in the cabin and through the steering wheel. Yet, even at a motorway cruise – usually the last place you want to take a pick-up truck – the new L200 feels tranquil and refined in comparison to the old model. Noise from the engine is much lower, and although there is still a meaty growl under acceleration the overall experience is a world away from the clatter of the Series 4 L200.
Off-road, the L200 4Life capable demonstrates the no nonsense working nature of Mitsubishi’s pick-up model. The four-wheel drive system comfortably tackles steep inclines and slippy surfaces, but the L200’s abilities are magnified by the Super Select system that effortlessly tackles all manner of terrain. Where the 4Life does have the edge is at the pumps. With a 44.1mpg combined economy figure, it leads the range, but the manual gearbox versions of the higher spec models still return a claimed 42.8mpg, while the 5-speed automatic transmission reduces economy to 39.2mpg. Those figures, however, are still better than any claimed by their rivals.
There is little doubt the new Mitsubishi L200 should once again lead the pick-up market. Rivals have outshone the L200 in recent years, and while the new model lacks the brash appeal of the chunkier Ford Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok, the technology and engine behind the Series 5 model elevate it to the top of the pile. New models will come from the rivals throughout 2016, but for now the L200 is not only the most economic, but once again the most desirable pick-up on the market.