► Mitsubishi’s brand-new Series 5 L200 pick-up
► More rigid chassis with stiffened suspension
► First of a host of new-breed pickups due by 2017
The pick-up market picture is one that’s rapidly changing at present. Unusually for a corner of the industry that’s known for its leisurely pace of change, a total of eight separate new pick-up models are expected to be launched between 2015 and 2017.
The first of this new breed to hit the road earlier in 2015 was the Mitsubishi L200 Series 5. First out of the blocks, but is it a market leader?
Mitsubishi L200 – a potted history
Since the Mitsubishi L200 was first launched in 1988, it has been held in high regard by the kind of customers that value utilitarian toughness above all else. The low list price, of course, helped, but what really set the L200 apart was its durability – Scottish hill farmers couldn’t break them, and there are still plenty of the earliest models on the road today.
Shortly after the benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax reforms at the turn of the millennium, Mitsubishi seized the opportunity to attract a new, more bourgeois cliental by teaming up with outdoor sports brand Animal to offer premium lifestyle trims and kick-start the so-called ‘Pick-up Revolution’.
Launched in 2006, the Series 4 was praised for its comfort and refinement but it wasn’t long before the likes of the Volkswagen Amarok and Ford Ranger came along and set the standard even higher. The Series 4 continued to sell well, though, thanks to generous dealer discounts.
Rather than a complete revolution, Mitsubishi has retained the same underpinnings for the Series 5, although the chassis has been strengthened and the suspension stiffened. The newly developed 2.4-litre MIVEC (Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing Electronic Control system - catchy) engine comes with power ratings of 152bhp and 178bhp, and is coupled to either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic gearbox.
What’s it like up front in the cab?
By pickup standards the interior is fairly stylish, although plenty of hard-wearing plastics remind that this is a working vehicle and not a high-end SUV. It’s all very functional, with large, user-friendly buttons and switches clearly laid out across the most fool-proof of dashboards.
The range-topping Barbarian spec welcomes passengers with illuminated door entry guards, while a 7-inch touchscreen display includes DAB radio, Bluetooth, USB connectivity and sat-nav. It’s a cabin that’s easy to see out of too, with a relatively short and sloping bonnet and low side windows making for great visibility.
On and off the beaten track
As its rivals have become more dynamically competent, the Series 4 L200 was starting to feel dated, with canal barge-vague steering and 45-degree listing round the bends. Despite the Series 5’s stiffened suspension there is still quite a lot of body roll, although the small steering wheel’s keener power steering setup is far more accurate and responsive.
Another area that has seen considerable improvement is the cab ambience, with the amount of road and engine noise perforating into the cabin dramatically reduced. The 178bhp engine offers a broad range of both power and torque, which means there’s less need to constantly shift up and down to hit the sweet spot.
However, it’s off the beaten track where the L200 really comes into its own. The long suspension travel, 205mm ground clearance and 30-degree approach angle means there is very little that the L200 can’t tackle, while the ‘Super Select’ 4WD system, which incorporates Mitsubishi Active Stability and Traction Control (MASTC), has four settings for different terrains.
Limited cargo capacity
One area that hasn’t seen much improvement is the load area. The towing capacity is fairly limited at 3.1t, at a time that the industry is moving towards the 3.5t standard, as is the maximum payload of 1050kg. The dimensions don’t quite meet the optimum standard either, at 1,470mm square.
While its ultimate practicality may not be able to match that of the Ford Ranger or new Nissan NP300 Navara, there is very little not to like about the Mitsubishi L200 Series 5. The new, fuel-efficient engine provides plenty of oomph and is hooked to a smooth, although sometimes hesitant, five-speed automatic gearbox with useful paddle-shifters.
You can’t grumble about the level of kit either, which includes cruise control, leather seats, dual-zone climate control and reversing camera, and the L200’s competitive pricing. However, with a whole bunch of new pickups in the pipeline for the next 18 months, we’d advise you postpone the purchase until all hands have been shown.