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IS THIS THE BEST ‘BANG FOR YOUR BUCK’ DUAL-CAB IN AUSTRALIA

We don’t think that there is a more competitive or important market in the Australian automotive scene than the utility market. It has a distinct Australian heritage and flavour, and is a driving force behind the 4X4 and outdoor lifestyle scene. With competition comes innovation; new models spruik ever increasing levels of comfort, refinement and design. It’s a hard curve to keep up with.

Right now, the 4X4 utility market is split into two distinct categories: the old designs and the new designs. The Triton, coming into form in 2006, sits firmly in the old category. The more astute amongst us will know that it will be replaced in 2015 with a new model, but that doesn’t mean the soon-to-be-old model isn’t worth reviewing.

The motor is still the same 2.5L of intercooled, variable-vane turbodiesel that now bangs out an impressive 400Nm (when mated to a manual gearbox). The engine can trace a proud and noble lineage back through to the early 1970s, being a real bread and butter winner for the Three Diamonds.

Performance is good, without being blistering. DOHC and the variable turbo means lag is manageable, and there is a bit of get-up-and-go right across the 5000rpm rev range. It isn’t as powerful as the 3.2L and 2.8L big-hitters in later-designed utes, but it still does a commendable job.

The automatic gearbox is still available in four- and five-speed formats, but in our opinion should be avoided like the plague. Opting for manual gives you an extra 50Nm of power and a much more responsive and enjoyable driving experience.

Driving dynamics are, in a word, okay. You’ll happily live with the suspension during normal day-to-day use, but as soon as you throw a load in the back and/or tow across loose and rough surfaces, you’ll be considering aftermarket options. Undulations will see a bit of wallowing, especially at mid to high speeds.

The sloping nature of the back of the cab gives a reasonable amount of legroom for a dual-cab ute, with a comfortable amount of rake. Ferrying around Andrews Gaze and Bogut wouldn’t be the best idea, but it’s adequate for kids and the occasional adult.

The interior is really swish, and beguiles the age of the ute. We were particularly impressed with the quality and finish of the leather, as well as overall functionality of the cab. Our ‘Warrior’ spec test vehicle provided a swag of extra features for the bargain price (relative to other dual-cabs) of around $45k.

The Triton does have a good-sized load bed, which measures 1505mm x 1407mm for the dual-cab. The kicker here is that the departure angle is far from terrific, especially with the factory tow pack fitted up. Also, we don’t like how much load can end up behind the rear axle.

I drive an old dual-cab myself, and now want an electric rear window. It’s great for ventilation on those hot days, without huge amounts of wind buffeting in the cab. I’ve never been a big fan of aircon (it works really well on the Triton, by the way), and loved having this wound down for fresh air open road cruising.

If you’re looking for a real dollar dazzler, keep an eye on the specials that Mitsubishi regularly run. Just a shade over $30K will see you behind the wheel of a good performing dual-cab from a respected Japanese manufacturer. Performance and basic spec is still good, and you even score a set of alloys on the GLX+.

THE VERDICT

So does the Triton still stack up, after getting 10 candles on the birthday cake? At the very competitive price that Mitsubishi has set, yes. The motor, although far from the most powerful, is adequate enough (especially when mated to a manual) and well proven over years of use. Driving dynamics are doughy, but good enough. It’s the same deal with off-road performance as well; like most other factory dual-cabs, the Triton is a little too low-slung for our liking, but benefits from electronic driving aids and the option of a locking rear differential. It’s not the best ute out there, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t the best value.

At the time of writing, a runout deal was in operation that could net you a dual-cab Triton GLX+ with alloy wheels and Bluetooth connectivity for the princely sum of $31,990. Sure, you could buy a Foton, Tata, Great Wall or Mahindra for less, but anything else doesn’t even come close. Nissan’s D22 Navara carries a $5000-odd premium over the Triton, except if you are an ABN holder. The kicker here is that the rock-bottom prices for the Triton include the impressive five-year/130,000km warranty, something that can’t be matched anywhere in the market at this price point. You still get good value and plenty of bells and whistles on the GLX-R, but the real value is the GLX+. It’s priced so keenly, it’s even keeping the Chinese and Indians honest.

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