Fleet News

Mitsubishi L200 (check out the video)

Mitsubishi

Review

ROUGH, tough and ready for anything. That’s the approach that has made Mitsubishi’s name in the world of rugged four-wheel-drive trucks.

With plenty of space in the back and four-wheel drive to clamber over terrain that would scare an ordinary van into submission, the L200 has been a workhorse around the world since its first incarnation in 1978.

So it continued as the years rolled by, but in the mid-90s the L200 started to be used by people more interested in the vehicle’s image than its load-carrying or off-road capabilities.

The last incarnation, particularly in Warrior and Animal spec, became a lifestyle vehicle used as an alternative SUV, while less flashy versions still retained the appeal to commercial users.

With its new version, Mitsubishi is conspicuously cashing in on this interest from drivers looking for a vehicle to haul the family around in. Its challenge is to do this without alienating its loyal base of farmers and builders.

Mitsubishi’s UK fleet and remarketing manager, Andy Wertheim, said the company was sticking with its past approach to fleet sales. The firm already has deals in place with several major utilities companies for the 4Work and 4Life models and plans to target the larger contract hire companies.

Wertheim said user-choosers would be interested in the more car-like appearance, but added that there was no specific drive to target them.

The new-look L200 is dramatically different from its square, chunky predecessor. This one has barely a straight edge on it, with sweeping lines and much more focus on details. The design is exclusively for the European market, unlike other new pick-ups such as the Nissan Navara and Toyota Hilux.

It stems from the slightly harder-edged Pajero Evo 2+2 concept, which was itself based on the Paris Dakar-winning Pajero Evolution rally car. Mitsubishi has been reasonably traditional under the skin, though.The vehicle is built on a trusty ladder-frame chassis, more rigid than the outgoing L200, and suspension is provided by independent double wishbones at the front and long established leaf-springs at the rear.

Power comes from a new Euro IV-compliant 2.5-litre DI-D common rail turbodiesel engine, pushing out 134bhp and 231lb-ft of torque. This puts the L200 squarely between the larger, more powerful Navara at 174bhp/297lb-ft and the smaller Hilux, which has 102bhp/191lb-ft.

A chip to boost power to around 160bhp will be offered as an upgrade and comes as standard on the Animal-spec vehicle in the UK.

Transmission choices are the standard five-speed manual or a four-speed auto available on the Warrior, Animal and Elegance models.

Commercial pricing starts at £12,249 for the business-orientated 4Work single cab, rising to £19,999 for the top-spec, double cab-only Elegance, featuring heated, electric leather seats and satellite navigation (prices ex-VAT). Those wanting a bit more bling can look towards the Warrior (available as club-cab or double-cab), which has lashings of chrome all over it, wider arches and tinted windows.

The Animal (double-cab only) features the global surf company’s logo on the seats and mats and even more chrome.

Behind the wheel

MITSUBISHI really pushed the boat out for the European launch of the L200, flying a plane full of journalists to Antalya in Turkey.

The test route was a monster – some 120 miles and eight hours of driving, much of it off road and following part of the route of the WRC Turkish Rally. The course tackled some formidable scenery, from gravel to mud and even through surging rivers (see video below: the L200 stalls halfway across the river, but is restarted and makes it across). Pouring rain throughout the launch added to the challenge.

It does the L200 considerable credit to say that it coped admirably with this Herculean task. Even hardened journalists baulked at some sections of the course, but the vehicle took it all in its stride.

There were several punctures from sharp rocks, and one river crossing threatened to send us downstream when the vehicle stalled midway through.

But even submerged up to the windows, with water rapidly filling the exhaust system and air intake, the truck fired back into life and crawled out the other side. The new L200 can certainly cope with anything it is likely to encounter during even the toughest of jobs in the UK.

On the road, it performs well too. A switch on the dash allows the gearbox to change from high-ratio four-wheel drive to rear-wheel drive while on the move. The ride is softer than a regular SUV but, considering the high centre of gravity, it corners well, with more grip than one might expect.

How to judge the interior? Well, for a working pick-up it’s fantastic, but for those more accustomed to genuine SUVs the quality and amount of slightly-too-hard plastic may grate slightly.

I drove club-cab and double-cab versions. The former has two jump seats in the back that fold down and can just about house two adults, but not for too long if they value the circulation in their legs. The double-cab has four doors and plenty of room for three in the back, but the extra space up front means less load space in the bed.

Driving verdict

ATTEMPTING to be all things to all men doesn’t always work but in this case Mitsubishi may pull it off.

Although its push to attract the SUV buyer may concern the traditional L200 owners, they can rest assured that it is still as tough as ever. And refinements for the family mean farmers and the like can reap the benefits in comfort and equipment – a CD MP3 player is standard even in the base model. Expect the L200 to sell well.

Max power (bhp/rpm): 136/4,000 (160bhp upgrade option)
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 231/2,000
Max speed (mph): 103 (102 auto)
0-62mph (secs): 14.6 (17.8 auto)
Fuel consumption (mpg): 32.8 (29.7 auto)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 228 (252 auto)
On sale: March 1. Prices (OTR): £12,249 - £19,999 (ex-VAT)

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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