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Tested: Mitsubishi Triton ClubCab

2009-04-07 12:16
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Mitsubishi
Engine 3.5l, V6
Power 136kW @ 4 750r/min
Torque 303Nm @ 3 750r/min
Transmission Five-speed manual
Fuel Tank 75l
Fuel Consumption 15l/100km
Steering Power assisted rack and pinion
ABS Yes, with EBD
Airbags Dual front
Tyres 245/70R16
Front Suspension Independent double-wishbones with coil springs
Rear Suspension Rigid-elliptic leaf springs
Service Intervals 15 000km
Service Plan 5 year/100 000km
Warranty 3 year/100 000km
Price R 262 000
Rivals Ford Ranger SuperCab, Isuzu KB Extended Cab

Lance Branquinho

Mitsubishi is hardly a mass volume player in the local bakkie market, but honestly, has there ever been a bakkie to have artisans, small business owners and farmers talking in such polarised terms with regards to styling?

When the range was launched locally in 2007 (replacing the much vaunted, and quite pretty, Colt), it stopped traffic at agricultural shows and industrial parks - and not necessarily for reasons of aesthetic appeal.

Local bakkie buyers, deeply conservative and brand fanatical in equal proportion, castigated its alien cab design and odd rear-three quarter proportions. Were they perhaps missing the point though?

Trippy exterior styling continues inside with odd shapes, peculiar textures and blue dials. Steering wheel satellite controls would have been nice.

A very, very different looking bakkie – both inside and out

Mitsubishi’s stylists deserve kudos for attempting to move boxy bakkie design aesthetic into the 21st century, yet their Triton is undoubtedly the odd kid in the class.

It’s like the class geek in matric who you hoped would fill out her features and astound you with attractive symmetry when you met again at your 10-year school reunion. And we all know how underwhelming those school reunions end up being…

Our test unit was a ClubCab, which is a peculiar product niche considering its inherently compromised nature - it's neither a full loadbed capacity (single-cab) nor offers five-adult portability (double-cab). In ClubCab form you have the option of claiming tax back on the purchase, though.

If you’re a Bob (or Bongani or Bakkies) the builder type, additional stowage space behind the seats is quite useful for tools and overalls, though without suicide doors, loading bulky toolboxes and artisan equipment behind the seats is a chore.

Inside, the Triton ClubCab architecture is airy, with a nearly car-like design. Trim and ergonomic design is rather strange though, with blue-faced dials, and a quartet of mixed trim textures to touch around the cabin surfacing.

Tie-down points inside the loadbox are great for securing bodies, need some on the outside for real African loads though.

Triton ClubCab boasts a loadbox 1.85m long, which means that if the wife has locked you out while away for the weekend you could sleep in the back if you’re not a Super 14 rugby player sized bloke. Loadability, with a touch more than a metre’s worth of width between the rear wheel arches, is fair.

Unfortunately there is a dearth of tie-down and securing points, especially on the outer edge of the load-box.

Payload is close enough to a ton, with our 3.5l V6 rated at a 938kg payload, which means in a game of evens, carrying capacity sacrifices over a standard one ton bakkie are scant.

Not a mistress, but a servant?

So, we’ve established Triton is hardly the Lee-Ann Liebenberg of bakkies. Beneath the strange styling – and peculiar interior trim coordination – there is some clever, locally validated engineering though.

Like most contemporary bakkies Triton might feature an old-school ladder frame chassis, but suspension is of the independent, double-wishbone variety on the front axle. Tritons retailed locally (and built in East London) feature stiffer front springs, revised damping and reinforced front suspension mounting brackets to appease South African customers exposed to harsh dirt roads and to set the bakkie apart from its international brethren.

Rolling on a set of Bridgestone Dueler 245/70s, sporting 205mm of ground clearance and a lockable rear differential, the ClubCab 3.5l is a very well resolved drive on both dirt roads and tar.

Obviously, considering the amount of ground clearance, there is a fair amount of body roll when pushing on, yet steering is not of the old-school, dim-witted bakkie vintage and you’re always aware when approaching the limits of adhesion.

On rough tracks, the steering feedback can be a bit too keen when the wheels tends to buck in your hands, yet, in comparison with the high-speed stability on offer, this trade-off is a fair one.

Five-speed 'box has a great, old-school mechanical rear-wheel drive feel. Pseudo riveted H-gate surround inexplicable.

Powered by an over-square 3.5l, multi-valve V6 engine, the range-topping ClubCab petrol is a curious mix.

On paper the 3.5l V6 engine appears distinctly underpowered, producing only 136kW and 303Nm of torque. When one considers the engine’s architecture (bore and stroke dimensions are 93mm x 85.8mm) and single-overhead cam valve gear, it becomes apparent: this is one very clean revving bakkie V6.

On the road the Triton never feels out of its depth. It spins the rear wheels with disdainful ease, and pulls strongly from below 2 000 r/min through to 4 000 r/min, with the sonorous V6 soundtrack an unexpected boon too, best sampled with the driver’s window down and a right forearm on the frame.

By no means a Navara 4.0 V6 eater, the ClubCab 3.5 tops out at 180km/h, and if you find a good surface, it will sprint from 0-100km/h in a shade over 10 seconds – the chunky, tall, five-speed shifter is a pleasure to engage.

It's quick enough all things considered, and when you gauge the fuel consumption you’ll probably reckon it’s thirsty enoug,h too.

It may be the least powerful of the local V6 ClubCab bakkies, but a fuel fairy it’s not. We averaged around 15l/100km, and on one particularly brisk 160km jaunt up the coast, with the air-conditioning liberally turned up, the Triton worked those six 582cc cylinders to the tune of 17l/100km…


If you’re an organic farmer, or a builder who studiously recycles, you’re probably quite individualistic in your industry. Subsequently you might appreciate the Triton’s otherworldly design. In reality though, the cab and loadbox seem about as happily married as Joost and Amor.


It’s roomy, yet equipment levels are a mite sparse, especially considering Ford’s Ranger offers both front and side airbags in SuperCab configuration. Absence of satellite steering wheel controls are nigh on unforgiveable at this end of the market, especially considering the ClubCab radio’s inexplicably small buttons and fidgety controls.

No suicide doors mean plenty of seat-fabric and trim scuff marks if you regularly stow stuff in the space behind the seats.

Nice stowage space; it deserves its own access though.


Engine power figures might be back of the class, but it runs pretty well during break-time. Localised suspension tweaking increases dirt-road driveability and durability and, considering the bakkie origins, road manners are very good.


The local bakkie market is an automotive retail landscape where customers do not suffer fools gladly. Bakkies are expected to work hard and last long, which is why the initial hysteria concerning the Triton aesthetics was so hard for me to fathom – who cares what it looks like, as long as it works.

Currently the extended cab market is a fight between Ford, Isuzu and Mitsubishi, with only the latter not sporting crucial suicide door access. The Triton is also the least powerful extended cab V6.

With an extended cab Navara waiting in the wings for the third quarter this year and Toyota another probable market entrant, a tough market has just got a whole lot tougher for Mitsubishi’s Triton. This is a good bakkie in most respects, but hardly exceptional in a single area of expertise.


Car-like road manners
Looks different


Looks too different
No suicide doors
Needs more power to justify the fuel consumption


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