By Jon Thomson
ne of the true surprises in the Australian vehicle market in recent times has been Mitsubishi, not least of which for vehicles like the 2020 Mitsubishi Triton GLS Premium. It’s a brand that has been punching well above its weight.
They’ve been selling more vehicles than any one could imagine, from a line up of products, that in all fairness has no stand outs, is generally older and less glitzy than its opponents, but which is dependable, good value and clearly appeals to the market.
A bunch of fairly non-descript SUVs, a four-wheel drive flagship that is well into its second decade, and a ute that some might say has challenging looks make up a line-up that’s selling up a storm, and we reckon Mitsubishi is laughing all the way to the bank.
We recently had a week with the top of the line Triton GLS Premium ute. Our original plan was to take it to Rally Australia at Coffs Harbour for a photo assignment on the WRC event, but the disastrous, tragic fires around Coffs saw the rally cancelled.
It meant we didn’t get the chance to explore the dirt roads and forests of the NSW North Coast. Instead we navigated the urban jungle with a short but effective excursion on to a dirt track to validate the Mitsi’s off road capability, not that we doubted it.
In the burgeoning ute market, the Triton quietly gets on with it, sitting third behind the star Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger in sales. But the Triton is less expensive than the two leaders, and this makes up for the slightly smaller dimensions and lower power it offers.
The 2020 Triton GLS Premium jumps into the market at $51,900 plus on-roads, and that’s the key to its success. Value. Under the bonnet is Mitsubishi’s highly capable direct-injection 2.4-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.
It’s a little less sophisticated than its opponents which have more gears, but there’s an excellent four-wheel drive system, with power levels sitting at 133kW and torque of 430Nm, figures that are also shaded by both the Toyota and Ford offerings.
The engine does the job, has bags of usable torque and power, and does it with a minimum of fuss, loaded or unloaded.
Where the Triton GLS Premium really excels though is in its equipment levels, with dual-zone climate control, heated leather front seats with power adjustment on the driver’s seat, and automatic lights and wipers.
There’s also a seven-inch touch screen multimedia system equipped with Apple Car Play and Android Auto, as well as DAB+ digital radio, a 360-degree camera, LED headlights and taillights, and key-less entry with push button start.
As well as all that fruit, the Premium also get 18-inch rims, a full tray liner, a sports bar, a nudge bar, and a rear diff lock all as standard. The Triton benefits from Mitsubishi’s off road expertise and uses a proper low-range transfer case too.
It’s also equipped with hill descent control, while four-wheel drive high and low range can be selected with an easy to use twist knob on the centre console. And it’s off road that the tough, highly capable Triton is in its element.
With leaf springs at the back and coils at the front, it ambles over rough country with ease and delivers good traction and performance in all sorts of conditions. It has very good ground clearance too, with 220mm available.
It has a big and very usable tray, lined as it is, with the aforementioned standard tray liner, and again while it is a few millimetres smaller than its two rival utes, it is nothing to worry about.
The Triton is rated for a 3100kg towing capacity; a much discussed topic these days with dual cab utes, given they are often the vehicle of choice for grey nomads and their mobile McMansions, otherwise known as caravans.
The Triton is down about 400kg on most of its 3500kg rated opponents, however it has more payload, so you will still be able to have some passengers and gear inside the ute while hauling the van, a factor some other utes struggle with.
With a tare weight of 2045kg and a total potential loaded weight or GVM of 2900g, it means the Triton delivers an 855kg load capacity including people and payload, which is the real weight you have to concentrate on.
It’s a heavy duty setup and it does have suspension built to cope with a load off road. You can feel it as it walks over rough ground, and it has a durable quality about the way it handles the rough stuff.
The combination of the suspension and Mitsubishi’s superb 4WD system ensures you never have a problem achieving good traction and road holding in all sorts of conditions.
The electronically controlled system offers multiple off-road modes, but with auto mode, the locking rear diff and hill descent control, the system is damn near fool proof.
Inside the well appointed cab there is a reasonable amount space, particularly in the back seat, where there is room for three decent size adults. However, like a few other utes, it sports a low roof-line, combined with the high floor and ground clearance.
It makes it a real chore to enter and exit, even for a 178cm tall driver. This is where utes like the VW Amarok and Ford Ranger stand out, particularly alongside the likes of the Triton, Nissan Navara and Toyota HiLux.
The dash is well laid out and switch gear and gauges are easy to use and read, while the steering wheel is adjustable for reach and rake, and along with the driver’s seat, it is able to deliver a good range of driving positions for all sizes.
The premium leather seats are well designed and sized, and are comfortable and supportive, even after hours at the wheel. There are big front door pockets, which easily accommodate water bottles, so there is plenty of room for all the odds and sods.
On the road, the 4×4 Triton is no sports car. If you’re buying a dual-cab ute because you think they will drive nicely on the road, you’re going to be disappointed. Let us repeat, it’s a ute folks, it has a high centre of gravity, and is sprung stiffly for a big load and towing.
The nature of the suspension means it skitters about on bumpy roads, but it’s well damped and controlled, and is far from being nervous. Of course if there’s weight on board, it sits down on its suspension and is a whole lot nicer to drive.
Steering is not the pin sharp response you’ll get in a sports car either, and the brakes have their limits, but it is still a comfortable drive across a range of conditions, and at least as good as the HiLux and Ranger in this area.
With full time 4WD in high range on the road, it’s also a lot safer in wet, muddy or icy conditions. That safety extends to full-length curtain bags, lane departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot warning.
There’s also trailer sway control and an unmitigated acceleration prevention system, stopping drivers from accidental acceleration into obstacles in slow-speed situations. As a result, the Triton enjoys a 5-star ANCAP safety rating.
Overall, the 2020 Mitsubishi Triton GLS Premium manages its dual jobs of road-going passenger car and off-road utility vehicle pretty well. It’s even got paddle shifters so you can override the transmission and choose your own gears.
It’s easy on the fuel and during our 450km at the wheel, we averaged 9.1-litres/100km, not too far off the claimed average of 8.6-litres/100km. With a 75-litre tank, the Triton can deliver a range of around 875km.