Fleet News

Mitsubsihi L200 4Life

Mitsubishi

Review

##mit4lf.jpg --Right##DOUBLE cabs have long been a niche product in Britain, confined for many years to farmers and wealthy young surf dudes. But things are changing.

After an alteration in tax law that means business users can now reclaim VAT on these vehicles, provided they have a payload of 1,000kg, the double cab is about to become THE fashion statement of the new millennium.

Manufacturers are already gearing up to feed this new phenomenon with a rash of fresh models, but none are in a better position to take advantage than Mitsubishi.

Thanks in part to its awesome reputation for reliability and good, solid engineering, the Japanese maker already enjoys a 17.4% share of the double cab market in the UK with the L200 series. A raft of improvements for 2000 could well see this position consolidated.

The L200 range is a simple one which splits into two - GL spec for the commercial user and 4Life for the lifestylers. Both are powered by a 2.5-litre intercooled turbodiesel unit pumping out 98bhp and 177lb-ft of torque at a low 2,2000rpm, and offer a choice of three modes, 2wd high, 4wd high and 4wd low. Gear ratios alter to give the GL more low-down grunt.

Which one you choose depends on whether the end user is a poser or a grafter. A quick glance at the pictures above will make it obvious who will choose which. After all, would you fill the rear end of a 4Life with bricks and rubble?

The L200 cab's interior has been improved, with the 4Life gaining a passenger airbag, new upholstery, bigger head restraints, front seat pockets, front passenger seat undertray and rear centre armrest. The GL now has central locking.

On the safety and security front, both models feature an immobiliser, fire retardant seat material and a load-sensing proportioning valve for the braking system. At the business end, the cargo bed length is 1,500mm, carrying capacity is 1,005kg (1,025kg for the GL) and the L200 will tow 2,700kg.

The 4Life spent a month with us at FNN and it didn't take long for word to get round. It was amazing how many testers suddenly found they had a need for such a vehicle, no doubt in the hope of a weekend's posing.

High profile fleets could use the 4Life as an aggressive marketing tool. It is a head-turner extraordinaire and will say more about your company than a whole fleet of Mondeos. Unfortunately, it is not only admirers who pause to look. The local lowlife soon got wind of the car's presence outside my city centre home and smashed the side window one night in the hope of making off with the stereo. As the front portion was safely tucked away in my kitchen cupboard at the time, they went away empty-handed.

The unit includes a Carin on-board navigation system which, staying true to my technophobic principles, remained firmly switched off. My battered old road atlas will do nicely thankyou, even if the A14 is drawn in with Biro!

The system is just one of a huge list of optional extras which can boost the 4Life's price at an astonishing rate. The alloy lockable tonneau cover, for example, is a monstrous £1,057.57. And who could live without the optional surfboard/canoe holder at £52.19 or wooden gear shift knob at £36.44?

Climbing aboard (and in this case it is a climb), the cabin is more spacious than it looks from the outside, and can seat five in reasonable comfort. The dash is functional rather than smart and features a hooded binnacle on top, housing, among other things, an inclinometer.

Firing up the big diesel powerplant, the initial death rattle soon subsides to reveal that driving the 4Life is a much smoother experience than one would imagine at first. With nicely weighted power steering and a slick gearchange, the overall feel of the vehicle - apart from the high driving position - is little different from that of a normal car.

Problems can arise, however, at parking time. With a wheelbase of three metres and a turning circle of nearly 13 metres, finding a suitable space at Sainsbury's on a Friday evening can be a challenging experience. With none of the car's corners clearly visible from the driver's seat, I eventually mastered the knack of hanging out of the door like a baboon in a tree while reversing, thus solving the problem.

On the road, motorway driving is a breeze, but any surface bumpier than that of a billiard table shows up the truck's ultra hard suspension. The novelty of having your insides rearranged every five seconds soon wears off. Conversely, the seats are on the squidgy side - presumably to compensate for the hard suspension - and don't give enough back support.

Acceleration is steady rather than impressive and the L200 runs out of steam at around 90mph. Unofficial fuel consumption figures hover between 28 and 34 mpg, so this model could by no means be described as economical. On the servicing front, too, you'll have to visit your local dealer every 4,500 miles for a check-up.

Whatever its shortcomings, the fact remains that the 4Life has looks to kill for and a profile to set the blood racing - and all at a relatively knock-down price. So would I choose the 4Life as a company car, even though I don't require the loadspace or off-road capabilities?

You bet I would!

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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