With so many new models coming to market 2016 is shaping up to be the year of the pick-up.
Competition will be intense with old hands such as Nissan, Ford, Toyota, Volkswagen plus even the likes of Ssangyong gearing up to unleash either new or revised products and new contenders like Renault, Mercedes and Fiat Professional throwing their hats into the ring for the first time over the next couple of years.
But Mitsubishi has a long pedigree in the sector, spanning 33 years in the UK alone, and its fifth generation L200, which is the first of the new tranche of models to break cover, has set the benchmark that the others must attempt to match.
The brand is used to setting the pace – it created the market for lifestyle models packed with styling and features designed to build brand desirability and appeal to retail customers without compromising the trucks’ workhorse credentials. At the same time it developed an aggressive nomenclature that saw versions of the L200 emblazoned with names such as Warrior, Animal, Barbarian and Raging Bull.
Mitsubishi has retained its forthright approach with the new L200, available first in double-cab and later in Club and single-cab formats, launching the model under the strapline: “Showing the world how it’s done.”
The manufacturer is confident it can justify this bold claim, which also gives a clue that its ambitions for the truck, and indeed those of its rivals, extend to markets globally – particularly in South America, Africa and the Far East.
The Series 5 L200, which is more streamlined and less bulky than most of the other pick-ups out there, has upped its game in terms of performance, carrying capacity 4WD ability, driving refinement, styling, body and chassis strength, manoeuvrability and crucially, emissions and fuel efficiency and Mitsubishi’s UK boss Lance Bradley is confident the new model is class leading in this category.
“It’s almost impossible to make the heavy trucks of our competitors as efficient as the L200,” he says.
Bradley claims the L200’s official fuel economy of 42.8mpg is a comfortable 11% better than the best of the rest – the Isuzu D-max’s 38.7mpg.
The L200 has official CO2 emissions starting from 169g/km, which compares to the 192g/km of the D-max.
Bradley stresses that this could be a crucial consideration going forward, because it safeguards customers against the emissions-based tax regime for light commercial vehicles that he is convinced the Government is looking to introduce.
Mitsubishi introduced the groundbreaking Series 4 L200 in 2006 and the profound impact it had on the sector can be gauged by the fact that it scooped the What Van? Pick-up of the Year Award for six consecutive years until it was usurped by the Amarok, which marked VW’s return to the segment, in 2012.
Even when long in the tooth the Series 4 continued to sell strongly, recording growth of 23% to 5527 in 2013 and following that up with an increase of 17% last year to 6488 units.
Bradley is unfazed by the growing numbers of pick-ups coming to market and welcomes the spotlight it trains on the sector.
“Often more competition means more noise around the segment and so greater awareness. When you have the best product and the best dealer network for selling pick-ups, which we believe we do, as well as 33 years experience of selling pick-ups in the UK, that additional noise is a good thing,” he says.
Bradley is less concerned with the Series 5’ market share in an increasingly populated segment than with maintaining strong sales . While Mitsubishi does participate in large fleet business, the L200 is particularly popular with more discerning retail customers.
“Our focus is more on the retail and small business part of the market. We usually lead that part of the market,” Bradley explains.
The styling of the new L200 has not made the radical leap that took place between the third and fourth generation trucks but it remains the sleekest pick-up on the market and now sports a more generous helping of chrome on the front end, which features the brand’s three diamond logo in the centre of the grille with headlamps incorporating LED daytime running lights and Bi-Xenon projectors either side above the substantial bumper.
The back end gets new wrap-around combination lamps and a rear step in the bumper to ease access to the load bay.
The new model retains the ‘J-line’ design that smoothly integrates the load bed with the cab and gives the L200 a more cohesive appearance than some of its rivals where the cargo and passenger carrying sections give the impression they have been bolted together as separate elements. The J-Line also serves to maximize space in the cab, which provides plenty of legroom for front and rear occupants.
Mitsubishi has replaced the 2.5-litre engine in the Series 4 with a new common-rail direct fuel injection 2.4-litre unit with outputs of 151hp in the entry-level 4Life and 178hp in the Titan, Warrior and Barbarian derivatives.
The manufacturer’s use of an aluminium, rather than a steel, engine block is an innovation that has reduced weight by 30kg and facilitated a 20% improvement in fuel consumption compared to the previous generation model.
A slick, six-speed manual gearbox is the norm but five-speed automatic transmission is also available with paddle shifters mounted on the steering column, another first in the pick-up market.
Mitsubishi has stiffened the L200’s chassis with new bracing and higher strength steel to increase torsional rigidity by 7% - this contributes to outstanding handling and stability for a pick-up and has also cut interior noise and vibration.
The Series 5’s class-leading turning circle of 5.9m remains the same but can now be achieved lock-to-lock in 3.8 turns compared to 4.3 before.
The new L200’s cargo bed is 1470mm long, 1470mm wide and has a depth of 475mm, which is a 15mm increase on the previous generation. The double-cab has a payload limit of 1045kg. The truck’s dexterity means this falls short of some of its chunkier rivals.
However, the manufacturer claims the truck’s combined carrying and towing capacity of 4090 kg outshines the Isuzu D-max (4013kg), the Toyota Hilux (3860kg) and the Volkswagen Amarok (3857kg).
The L200 Series 5 is an impressive and versatile off-road performer. It comes with two 4WD systems: The entry-level 4Life gets Easy Select, which offers high and low ratio settings for off-road terrain but should be switched to 2WD once on-road, where power is directed to the rear wheels.
The Titan, Warrior and Barbarian specifications get the more sophisticated Super Select system that allows on-road driving in both 2WD and 4WD modes and can be switched from two- to four- wheel drive at speeds of up to 62mph. Mitsubishi’s engineers have altered the centre differential split between the front and rear wheels from 50/50 on the Series 4 model to 60/40 rear/front on the Series 5 model. This helps to reduce understeer, improves traction when accelerating and provides more stability when towing.
The cabin offers plenty of head and shoulder room and is tastefully finished with the Warrior and Barbarian versions getting leather trimmings and seats. The steering column on all versions is adjustable for rake and reach and there is decent stowage provision, including space for litre water bottles in the doors and a useful, discreet storage space underneath the rear bench seat. Nice touches include a convenience hook on the front seat head restraint for hanging small shopping bags and a space on the centre console for holding a phone or wallet.
The well thought out, classy L200 has once more raised the bar in the pick-up sector and is a worthy winner of our LCV of the year for 2016.
Did you know?
Mitsubishi claims to have captured 70% of UK pick-up retail sales in 2003 with the Series 3 L200 when it shifted 12,000 units.
Pick-up of the year
It’s no surprise that the L200, our LCV of the year, has also scooped its category prize to claim the Pick-up of the Year title.
Having done more than any other model to define the pick-up sector as we know it today in the 33 years since it was launched in the UK, the Series 5 L200 has once more raised the bar in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
The sophisticated new model features economical new engines, versatile loading capacities, a spacious and comfortable cabin and is an accomplished on-road performer as well as being extremely competent when taken off-road.
With its balance of style and genuine workhorse capability, the L200 is a worthy winner of our 2016 Pick-up of the Year
The blue oval’s big truck won the Pick-up of the Year prize for three years in a row from 2013 to 2015 but, with a facelifted model in the pipeline, it had to settle for Highly Commended this time around.
One of the Ranger’s strength is the breadth and depth of its line-up, which is unmatched by many competitors.
Customers can choose from a 4x2 or a 4x4 with selectable four-wheel drive and can opt for regular, super or double-cab bodystyles. The Ranger is also available in four trim levels, X, XLT, Limited and Wildtrak and with either a manual or an automated gearbox.
The current Ranger gets a 2.2 or 3.2-litre Duratorq TDCI engines and bpasts a class-leading towing capacity of 3.5-tonnes.