James Dallas bids farewell to our pick-up and assesses whether it’s equipped to remain at the helm of the lifestyle sector it created
Mitsubishi has a long pedigree in the pick-up sector, spanning 33 years in the UK alone, and its fifth generation L200, which was the first to break cover of the new tranche of models set to come to come to market in a four year period starting from September 2015, has laid down the gauntlet for the others to take up.
In a sense the L200 is a victim of its own success: With the creation of lifestyle models packed with styling and features designed to build brand desirability for retail customers without sacrificing the trucks’ workhorse credentials, Mitsubishi did more than any other manufacturer to shape the market as we know it today, because when rival brands saw the success of the upmarket L200s, they wanted a slice of the pie too.
Hot on the heels of the L200 Series 5 came the new Nissan Navara and facelifted Ford Ranger and waiting in the wings are the new Toyota Hilux, revised VW Amarok and debut pick-ups from Renault, Mercedes and Fiat Professional, which is to introduce a re-badged L200 in June.
Isuzu is keeping up the pressure with a procession of special edition models before launching its new D-max next year and Ssangyong has also got in on the act by giving its Korando Sports a one-tonne payload.
So in December 2015 we took possession of a fifth generation L200, newly crowned as our LCV of the Year for 2016, to find out whether it’s equipped to remain at the forefront of the sector.
We opted for the range-defining, flagship Barbarian model with six-speed manual, rather than five-speed automatic transmission.
Style-wise, the new L200 is not radically different to its predecessor. It remains a sleeker, narrower truck than other pick-ups on the market, most of which – think of the Ford Ranger, Nissan Navara and Volkswagen Amarok for example – tend to look chunkier and squarer, although the Barbarian has gathered considerably more chrome on the front end.
Mitsubishi 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 brand claims fuel consumption of 44.1mpg for the base model with CO2 of 169g/km, but quotes 42.8mpg and 173g/km for the rest of the range, which, at the time of launch was lower than the competition.
However, Nissan claims to match the most frugal L200’s figures with its flagship NP300 Navara Tekna, which went on sale in February.
Although the Barbarian is the most well-specified L200, much of the most useful and appealing equipment is also standard lower down in the range. The 17-inch alloys, DAB radio, lane-departure warning and dual-zone air-conditioning all come on board with the Titan and the Warrior adds heated seats for both front occupants and electric adjustment for the driver’s seat as well as the very useful satnav and indispensable reversing camera. The Barbarian offers mainly cosmetic upgrades on the Warrior: more chrome, leather trimmings and door handle covers so customers may not want to make the, albeit modest, step up in price from £23,049 to £23, 799 (excluding VAT).
For urban operators, such as builders or dual-use customers, the L200’s dimensions are an advantage. With a turning circle of 11.8m curb to curb, the L200 Series 5 is more manoeuvrable than the Isuzu D-max (12.2m), the new Nissan Navara, Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger (12.4m) and the VW Amarok (13m). What’s more, the steering can go from lock to lock in 3.8 turns as opposed to 4.3 turns in the Series 4 L200.
Changing from 2WD to 4WD High mode is effortlessly accomplished via a turn of a centrally positioned dial and the L200 Series 5’s Super Select 4WD system means it is the only pick-up that can be driven in 4WD mode on the road without compromising cornering ability due to its Torsen-design centre differential. The driver can switch between 2WD and 4WD High at speeds of up to 62mph.
While most pick-ups offer 4x4 mode in high and low-range gearing, the L200’s Super Select system means it is the most accomplished model for tackling extreme off-road conditions.
The Barbarian offers a decent level of refinement and comfort on long motorway stretches. The steering provides a fair amount of feedback, and in extremely windy conditions the truck remains reassuringly steady. If it does stray then a selectable lane-departure warning immediately makes the driver aware with a sharp beep.
On the downside, the reversing camera is far less dependable than those on the Navara or Ranger, for example, and although its payload of 1045kg is just about on a par with the likes of the Ranger, Navara and D-max, its towing limit of 3.1-tonnes, falls short of the workhorse ability offered by the 3.5-tonnes of its rivals.
As an all round package however, the L200 Barbarian has enough going for it to hold its own in the vanguard of the sector.
|Mitsubiishi L200 Barbarian 2.4 DI-D double-cab manual|
|Official combined consumption 42.8mpg|
|Our average consumption mpg 30.1mpg|
|Price (ex VAT) £23,799|
|Insurance group 9|
|Service intervals 12,500mls|
|Load length 1470mm|
|Load width 1470mm|
|Load bay height 475mm|
|Gross payload 1045kg|
|Engine size 2442cc/178hp|
|On sale September 2015|
|Options (ex VAT) GST hardtop £1393|
|Tow bar and 13 pin electrics £274|
|Load liner £177|
|Bonnet guard £54|
|Mat set £50|