TOUGHER TRITON

BOLDER LOOKS AND ADDED SAFETY TECH HERALD IN THE 2019 TRITON.

WORDS MATT RAUDONIKIS

MITSUBISHI has ditched what it described as a ‘sporty design’ for the Triton mid-size ute and opted for what it calls a tougher-looking truck for 2019. the word ‘tough’ was used a lot launch on the Triton in Thailand, as Mitsubishi rolled out what it believes is more akin to what ute buyers want.

To achieve this look the company has given the Triton a thorough reskin from front to back. The passenger cabin remains the same, but all the exterior metal has been replaced with a bolder, boxier design. They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so we’ll leave that to you to interpret, but we think the new look is a huge step up from the previous model and it should appeal to more buyers.

The Triton holds a solid third place in the new-4x4 sales race in Australia for 2018, only trailing the juggernauts, Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger. Mitsubishi can credit its sales to heavy discounting and great drive-away deals that have always made the Triton a good value-for-money proposition for both private and fleet buyers, but don’t think this is a cheap, stripped-out vehicle. Like most Mitsubishi products, the Triton is well-appointed, drives well and has a quality feel about it. Its smaller dimensions than many other utes in this class is also a reason buyers have chosen it ahead of the bigger offerings.

The 2019 Triton retains these traits, including the dimensions and capacities. In fact, underneath that new metal skin it is business as usual, with the same chassis, live leaf spring rear axle and independent coil springs up front. The suspension benefits from larger diameter rear shock absorbers and revised spring settings all around.

The 2.4-litre diesel engine and six-speed manual gearbox are carried over as well; however, if you tick the box for an automatic transmission, you’ll now get a six-speed auto in lieu of the ageing five-speeder. When asked why it didn’t fit the eight-speed transmission from the closely related Pajero Sport, Mitsubishi’s execs said that the two vehicles are for different markets, and that the Triton has to sell to a price point. The Triton remains the only ute in this class to offer a transfer case with the choice of 2WD (rear), full-time 4WD for on-road use, locked 4WD for off-road use, and locked low-range 4WD for serious off-road terrain. A rear diff-lock is also offered on some variants, but it is unclear yet which ones those will be in Australia. In the past it was only on the top-of-therange Exceed, which was disappointing for most buyers.

The Super-Select II 4WD System will come with upper-spec Triton 4x4 variants, while the lower grades will come standard with conventional parttime 4WD, which doesn’t give the driver the benefit of an on-road AWD setting.

BOLD MITSY

The Dynamic Shield grille design is the most obvious exterior feature of the 2019 Triton, while inside are accent and upholstery tweaks, plus new roof air vents.

The 4WD systems will be supplemented in some variants by a new Terrain Response-like Off-Road Mode that offers specific Gravel, Mud/ Snow, Sand and Rock settings at the twist of a dial to maximise all-terrain and grip performance through the integrated control of engine power, auto transmission and electronic stability control settings. Again, it is still unconfirmed which variants will get this when they land here in January 2019.

Other new tech in the 2019 model includes a suite of driver’s aid technologies such as Forward Collision Mitigation (FCM/AEB), Blind Spot Warning and Ultrasonic Misacceleration Mitigation System. The last of these, UMMS, guards against accidental hard acceleration in both forward and reverse gears during slow manoeuvres such as parking. The inclusion of AEB brings the Triton in line with the safety leaders in the class – the Mercedes-Benz X-Class and Ford Ranger – which are currently the only other utes to offer this technology. Again, Mitsubishi Australia is yet to reveal if this safety tech will be included across the Triton range or only on select variants.

TO COME

OFF-ROAD at the new Triton’ Thai launch didn’ reveal much of the new auto trans and revised suspension … so you’ have to wait until next year when we give the ute a fair dinkum Aussie test.

Full Australian specifications, variants and pricing will be revealed in December before the local launch. A Mitsubishi representative did indicate that prices will rise above current levels but wouldn’t go further than that. Our tip is that they will have to stay low if Mitsubishi hopes to maintain the sales popularity of the Triton.

We drove an Australian-spec Triton on an off-road course in Thailand. Fitted with leather seats with electric adjustment for the driver, a big-screen A V unit with Apple CarPlay, an Off-Road mode selector, and a rear differential lock, we’d say this would be an Exceed here. Unfortunately, the drive over a short and timid off-road track didn’t reveal anything about the new automatic transmission, and the vehicle easily climbed over the terrain. The good manoeuvrability afforded by the Triton’s relatively short wheelbase came to the fore when negotiating tight, heavily forested tracks.

The on-road part of the drive was in heavy traffic in a Thai-spec, manual car, so again it didn’t reveal a lot. The little 2.4 remains a willing and flexible engine that propels the unladen Triton along briskly, but it’s no rocket ship. The manual gearbox is easy to use and, as is the case with all small diesel utes, is the better transmission option for performance.

The revised suspension setting feels soft and comfortable, but without driving them back-to-back it’s difficult to distinguish any difference to the old model and it’s impossible to say how it will go with a load in the tray or lugging a trailer. The Triton has modest towing capacities but has struggled in our loaded test in the past, so it will be interesting to see how the updated chassis fares when we drive it in Australia next year.