Mark Smyth found himself quite enjoying the new Mitsubishi Triton single cab models.
I had an interesting discussion the other day with someone about which is more fun — a small sports car or a lightweight single cab bakkie.
It is not a typical comparison, but there are many motoring hacks that would avoid attending the launch of a single cab workhorse at all costs, after all, what is the point of driving something that does not have an iPod connection and leather seats?
They are missing out because without all that weight and with a light rear end, typically combined with a lack of electronic nanny control systems, a single cab can provide some of the most fun on four wheels, particularly on a nice dirt road.
However, one of the main reasons for the fun factor is actually a serious one. Single cabs are designed to be thoroughbred workhorses and generally have high torque engines, large load bays and superb payload ability.
Meeting these demands is what creates a vehicle that offers a surprising amount of fun to the thrill seeking petrolhead.
This brings me to the new Mitsubishi Triton single cab. Mitsubishi is distributed in South Africa these days by the Imperial Group after it took over the rights from Daimler South Africa last year.
Daimler itself had big plans for the Triton to follow the success of the Colt, but the market battled to accept the new styling and the introduction of derivatives was slow. In the end, Daimler handed it over, even pulling out of plans for local production with all models being imported from Thailand.
"When Imperial took over the Mitsubishi franchise from Mercedes-Benz South Africa in June 2011, we immediately set about rebuilding the brand and expanding our product range," said Mitsubishi South Africa CEO, Jaco Oosthuizen.
"The first step in the commercial vehicle market was to reintroduce a face-lifted Triton double cab and Club cab.
"The all-new Triton replaced the Colt range in 2007. However, until now the Triton range has been limited to double cabs and Club cabs, despite the fact that the one ton single cab market makes up approximately 55% of the overall bakkie market in South Africa," he said. "We believe that with the reliability and ruggedness of the Triton we will deliver a fantastic bakkie into this market."
To put this to the test, I headed to the monkey sanctuary of Bush Babies just outside of Hartbeespoort. I wasn’t initially greeted by monkeys, but by a giant sculpture of a rhino. This was because the company has put its weight behind the Rhino Force initiative.
Not long after my arrival though, I had a Spider Monkey sitting on my shoulder, and so the day began.
There are three models available, starting at R179,900 for the GL diesel, with the GLX petrol at R189,900 and the top of the range GLX diesel at R239,900. All have a three-year/100,000km warranty, while the petrol models get a five-year/75,000km service plan and a five-year/70,000km one on the diesels.
The 2.4l petrol boasts 97kW at 5,250r/min with 202Nm of torque at 4,000r/min, while the 2.5l turbo diesel has 100kW at 4,000r/min and 314Nm at 2,000r/min. Both models are rear wheel drive of course and have a five-speed manual gearbox.
While on the subject of specifications, all models feature Hi-Rider suspension for increased ground clearance even with a full load, and the diesel has a rear diff lock. Both also have an ABS brake system with electronic brakeforce distribution.
Inside, the Triton is all about practicality, with limited options in terms of adjustment on the seat and steering wheel, vinyl on the floors, hard plastics and sensible storage options.
As with most vehicles of this ilk, there is virtually nowhere to stash a bag away from prying eyes though, something that I really think manufacturers need spend more time considering.
On the road it handled pretty much as expected, with approximately 200kg of hay bales strapped into the load bay. The level of bounce from the rear suspension was surprisingly minimal, and it proved to be just as comfortable as many higher specification double cabs. Not surprisingly, I quickly adopted the traditional arm out of the window pose and took to the road.
The diesel proved to be a strong puller, but the gearbox required constant attention in order to keep it in the power band. The petrol model, on the other hand, required less stirring of the box and quite honestly unless you are looking for the better economy of the diesel, then the petrol would be my choice.
The single cab is definitely a worthy addition to the Triton range and will do much to bolster the image of revamped brand in South Africa.
Imperial still has its work cut out for it, though, as it seeks to increase the number of Mitsubishi dealerships and try to attract those fans of the Colt bakkie back into the fold. The single cab may well be a strong draw card, but with an ever increasing level of competition, the Triton needs to really stand out from the crowd.