► 2019 Mitsubishi L200 pick-up driven in UK
► Revised suspension for more comfort
► Car-like safety kit, even better off-road
There are few corners left in the UK’s automotive landscape where you can enjoy some old-school engineering, unashamed large-capacity grunt and an occasional challenge behind the wheel at legal speeds. Those that remain are generally low-volume, high-cost and your accountant won’t like them – let alone your family.
Apart from the curious anomaly of double-cab, 4x4 pickups. This is a genre where a separate chassis, rear-wheel drive and live-axle rear, double-wishbone front suspension set-up meet space for five and surprisingly luxurious trim for a reasonable, mass-produced price.
Mitsubishi are masters of the art, and that tall, big-wheeled stance, unstoppable 4x4 potential and post-apocalyptic chic has more showroom appeal than any mildly-dressed up hatchback.
A tough act to follow, the series 5 L200 was one of the most well-mannered, and quickest pick-ups of its generation, but it looked a little, well… meek. Now the 2019 Series 6 Mitsubishi L200 is here – it's claimed to be a serious makeover of the series 5, and it’s ready to fight back.
What’s new on the 2019 L200?
Nearly everything has been improved, to a degree. The most obvious aspect, the styling, is one of the most successful redesigns we’ve seen for a long time, particularly as the core body and loadbed remain largely intact.
You’ll see hints of Eclipse Cross in the angular foglights, and a bit of Shogun Sport in the grille, but the high-set LED headlights and deep sculpted bonnet lines are new – and very effective. Such striking lines may not be to everyone’s taste, but the overall look is muscular and assertive, with a hint of futurism rarely seen on commercial vehicles like this.
And the interior?
Inside, the newer Mitsubishi L200 pick-up runs out of puff. Carrying over a lot of the interior from the previous version, there’s too much hard grey plastic on display, and although it isn’t quite as austere as some commercial cabs, the style doesn’t gel with the lines outside - or the luxury trim added to the Barbarian X we drove. It’s all very user-friendly, though; the important bits like dual-zone climate control or the Mitsubishi SDA touchscreen infotainment are intuitive enough.
Rivals are beginning to bring in car-quality audio, and Mitsubishi has access to nice affordable stereos used in their other cars - but the L200's is pretty basic. It’s also surprising to find that the tailgate still doesn’t lock, given the new damper and lift-assist tech fitted to higher-spec models.
How does it drive?
The previous 178bhp 2.4-litre engine was one of the nicest you’ll find in a four-cylinder pick-up – but a reduction in power and capacity has been necessary to meet emissions requirements for the future. The effect – a 25% reduction in power-to-weight ratio – can be felt in town and on motorways.
Reach a nice 40-50mph cruise, and the engine is reasonably suppressed: this is where the L200 is best, pulling a low engine speed, returning impressive fuel economy for a pick-up, and not yet reaching the worst that wind and road noise can inflict on it. On the motorway, it’ll hold 70mph just as effortlessly, but should you choose to overtake or encounter an incline, even unladen, it’s quick to change down in search of peak torque. That top speed of 108mph feels a long way from comfortable. Best to relax, leaving the intimidating antics of pick-ups in the outside lane to the big boys...
But it’s still not a car...
Refinement really isn’t up to the levels you'd expect from a passenger car. The 2.3-litre engine is intrusive at idle – though stop/start means it’s at least quieter at the lights than before – and pretty vocal through the rather narrow rev range. Peak torque, of 295lb ft, occurs at 2000rpm, and the six-speed automatic dances around the ratios to keep the engine spinning there. It’s not quite CVT-like, but it’s surprisingly reminiscent of the Eclipse Cross. Except louder.
However, rural roads and A-roads are, as with the previous L200, a pleasure for the driver and less enjoyable for passengers if you’re pressing on. There’s plenty of grip and feedback from the wheel on the standard tyres, and you can use all-wheel drive with a 40:60 front wheel bias to minimise understeer if you want – very welcome on wet roads, or in light snow.
Talking of which, about off-road stuff?
Make no mistake, the L200 is engineered to be good away from tarmac. It’s one of the few pick-ups in the UK to feature full-time all-wheel drive – selectable, so you can save fuel in rear-wheel drive mode, or lock the centre diff and engage low-range off road, but crucially you're able to have four driven wheels on wet tarmac too. A strong double-wishbone front suspension, a heavy metal guard for the vulnerable radiator and carefully designed reinforcements underneath mean it’ll beat any surface into submission – and 2019’s L200 gains hill descent control and off-road modes on the Barbarian and Barbarian X, plus a 360-degree surround camera on the top spec.
The low-speed ride over poor roads and off-road is much better, and it’s not just the body movement – it’s quieter on big imperfections, too.
Hydraulic power steering with a lot of turns lock-to-lock is also great off-road, but it’s a different matter on-road, where you’ll get adept at spinning the wheel quickly. Steering ratio aside, the L200 is one of the sharpest, most engaging pick-ups you’ll find if you genuinely enjoy driving; narrow, responsive and not too floaty.
Mitsubishi L200: pick-up verdict
Contributing to the L200's success as an alternative to a conventional car, it’s the benchmark for pick-up affordability. There are better equipped rivals – but they cost more. You can spend less, but you’ll sacrifice refinement, handling or off-road capability. That’s still the case, though there’s been a realignment of trim levels – not all of which are helpful…
For example, you’ll need the Barbarian X to get the 360-degree camera, blindspot warning, rear cross traffic alert and the low-speed ultrasonic mis-acceleration system which prevents driving into things from a standstill; it comes with a lot of extra bling too – like LED foglights and interior mood lighting, plus genuinely comfortable seats, a heated steering wheel and parking sensors all-round.
Regardless of the trim tweaking, though, the 2019 Mitsubishi L200 is a better pick-up, and a better car, than its predecessor – but it’s lost some of the lively, sporty feel of the old model.
Model tested: Barbarian X £32,200 CV OTR (£38,640)
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