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JOHANNESBURG – Mitsubishi revealed its first one-tonne pick-up back in 1978. Now, some four decades later, the Japanese company has launched the fifth-generation model here in South Africa, where it’s tasked with taking on big-sellers like the Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger.

During the local launch at a game reserve on the Highveld, we had the chance to sample the top-spec Triton 2,4 DI-DC 4x4 auto derivative.

Fresh look

Of course, the most dramatic update to the Triton is its redesigned front-end, which now features the Japanese marque's so-called "Dynamic Shield" design. Divisive it may be (I, for one, appreciate the angular styling), the refreshed Triton certainly turn heads. Even a couple of Ford Ranger drivers tilted their crowns ever so slightly on the day.

Interestingly, the rear design is still fairly conservative, featuring revised, P-shaped taillamps. This shape is carried over to the subtly revised interior, where elongated “P” inserts, finished in silver, now surround the central air vents. A seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system offers smartphone mirroring and Bluetooth connectivity, and is sited above a dual-zone climate control unit.

A highlight of this model's cabin is the comfortable leather seating, which offers support aplenty. The driver's and front passenger's items, which feature thick side bolsters to keep their occupants in place when traversing rough terrain or during quick cornering, are especially impressive.

A ground clearance of 220 mm lends the Triton a commanding driving position, which can be fine-tuned to suit the driver's individual preferences thanks to electrical adjustment for the pilot’s pew and manual, reach-and-rake adjustable for the steering column.

Under the bonnet

Mitsubishi SA has stuck to its guns by carrying over the familiar 2,4-litre turbodiesel engine, which did duty in the pre-facelift model. Power figures again come in at 133 kW (at 3 500 r/min) and 430 N.m of torque (offered at 2 500 r/min). Coupled to a new six-speed automatic transmission that replaces the previous five-speeder, the four-cylinder oil-burners offers improved levels of refinement, both on- and off-road.

Fore of the gearlever sit the dials that control the Super Select II 4WD system. This arrangement includes 2H and 4H, plus 4HLc (4WD high range with CD locked) and 4LLc (4WD low range with CD locked) configurations. Thanks to this four-wheel-drive automatic model's electronic assistance system, we also had the option of selecting gravel, mud/snow or sand mode in 4HLc, or opting for the rock setting in 4LLc. Hill-descent control, meanwhile, can be initiated with the press of a button.

Upon arriving at the off-roading location, the tyre pressures were lowered to 1,3 bar. Before setting off, we prodded the dial, twisted it to 4LLc and readied ourselves for the first obstacle, where we were instructed to activate the rear diff. In short, the Triton handled the entire course with aplomb.

Local range

The local Triton line-up will comprise four models: 4x2 and 4x4 derivatives coupled to either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. The entry-level variant costs R509 995, with prices rising to R589 995 for this top-spec, four-wheel-drive automatic version. All variants are sold with a three-year/100 000 km warranty and a five-year/90 000 km service plan (with intervals of 10 000 km) as standard.

The standard safety equipment list includes seven airbags, ABS with EBD, a reinforced body construction with side-impact protection bars, and Isofix child-seat anchors.

According to a Mitsubishi Motors South Africa representative, only the top-spec derivative will be available at launch, with the other three variants set to arrive in the country at a later date.

Mitsubishi SA says it’s confident the refreshed Triton will find a place in our market, despite the dominance of the Hilux and Ranger, and to a lesser degree, the Isuzu D-Max (the firm adds the production version of the recently revealed Triton Absolute is on its agenda, too). Still, just how popular the new model will be remains to be seen. One thing is for certain, though: with its striking new looks, it won’t go unnoticed.

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