Fleet News

Mitsubishi L200 4Life - 2,289 miles



HOW do you turn a seven stone weakling into Charles Atlas in three seconds? Put him behind the wheel of the Mitsubishi L200 4Life.

For in a world of macho 4x4 vehicles, they don't come much tougher than this - the car seems to have been pumped full of testosterone on the production line.

When word first got out that Fleet News was to have this vehicle on long term test, there was a fair buzz of excitement among the various testers who all fancied themselves as Arnie Schwarzenegger.

As editor of Fleet News' sister title Fleet Van, I had tested a 4Life some months previously and I warned the lads that there was a downside too, but they wouldn't listen.

It wasn't until road test editor Simon Harris and managing editor John Maslen had both tried it that the whingeing and whining started.

'No air conditioning - can you believe it?' moaned Harris. 'Handling is frightening in the wet,' bleated Maslen. What a bunch!

Sorry lads, but when it comes to sorting the men out from the boys, the 4Life is the vehicle to do it and I've come to the conclusion that I slot firmly into the former category. I'm afraid I can't speak for my colleagues.

While drivers may be tempted into vehicles like this to save on their benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax - more of which later - it must never be forgotten that the L200 is a commercial vehicle with a few cosseting goodies like carpets thrown in. As a man more used to driving vans and a self-confessed poseur of the first order, the 4Life suits me down to the ground.

The upside of driving a car like this is that for the money, you won't find another which will turn so many heads. If you enjoy that sort of thing you'll find young boys flocking round the vehicle when you park it, middle-aged men looking at you with envy and old men going dewy-eyed, wishing they were 20 years younger and could afford one.

Firing up that big 2.5-litre turbodiesel powerplant shows it to be smoother and quieter than you might imagine too, so on the road it doesn't feel as though you are behind the wheel of a tractor.

But the downsides, unfortunately, are several. For starters, although this car is basically a five-seater, you wouldn't want to sit in the back seats for long, unless you happen to be a garden gnome. There is not a lot of legroom.

Ride and handling are more van than car, with suspension hard enough to re-arrange your spinal column every five seconds on rough ground.

And if you are expecting searing acceleration, forget it. The L200 lumbers along at a sedate pace and peaks at just over 90mph.

The box on the back is an added extra at a monstrous £1,400 plus VAT. It looks great but opening it up reveals only a small space for cargo. If it were mine, I would opt for the bigger Truckman top.

Back to the subject of BIK tax - our staff were staggered to discover (Fleet News August 1) that the Inland Revenue has decided that double cabs with a payload of more than one tonne can be classed as commercial vehicles, thereby charging them at a flat rate of £500 per year rather than basing taxation on a percentage of list price depending on CO2 emissions.

This has been a grey area for some time and a good many company car drivers have been opting for these vehicles as a means of avoiding swingeing tax rises. We were fully expecting the taxman to slam this tax-dodge door shut once and for all but maybe someone caught him in a good mood the morning the decision was being taken.

Mind you, a 'complete review' is being carried out, according to the Revenue, so my bet is that before long, these drivers will be back in the car-fold, coughing up a fortune like the rest of us. You have been warned!

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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