Road tests 13.6.2018 09:05 am

We drive the new Mitsubishi Triton Athlete bakkie

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Leather all round, with the power to go with a classy ride.

Gone are those days where bakkie buyers were purchasing them for hauling goods.

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Today, bakkies take on the duties of a normal car – and there is nothing wrong with that. Mitsubishi has recently introduced its new special-edition Triton bakkie dubbed Athlete to challenge the much-contested bakkies segment.

It is either you love or hate the Triton Athlete bakkie, and some of my closest friends hated its nose.

However, there is more to like than dislike about it. Starting with its looks, the Triton Athlete looks sporty with its body styling kit and matching interior seat trimmings.

You get a new grille, while there are orange highlights and black mouldings on the front and rear bumpers.

You also get Bi-xenon HID headlamps with daytime running lights.

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It boasts a stylish sports bar and an integrated tailgate spoiler, dark-grey and orange decals with black highlights found on the side steps, door mirrors, door handles, rear bumper and new tailgate.

It rides on new black powder-coated diamond-cut 17” alloys. Inside you get two-tone black leather seats with orange inserts.

Mitsubishi says the instrument display has been upgraded but it felt a little bit old-fashioned and can be difficult to use in bright light conditions.

Nonetheless it functioned well.

A bit of a disappointing thing about it is the lack of navigation and AppleCar Play as competitors within the same segment offer these as standard.

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A smart-key system with engine starter button and automatic dual-zone air-conditioning come standard.

The orange theme on the seats includes the word “Athlete” – something that I have seen in the Ford Ranger Wildtrak.

You get black leather seats that match with the orange leather, leather steering wheel, gear lever plus door panels.

Safety comes from seven airbags, Isofix child seat anchors, ABS with EBD, Brake Assist, Active Stability and Traction Control, Hill-start Assist and Super Select 4WD-II 4WD system activated by a rotary switch near the gear selector.

Power comes from a 2.4-litre MIVEC VGT turbo-diesel engine churning out a healthy 133kW at 3 500rpm and 430Nm of torque at 2 500rpm.

Depending on the type of terrain, you can choose whether to send all the power to all four wheels or just to the rear wheels via a five-speed automatic transmission.

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On the road, the four-cylinder engine possesses impressive oomph, thanks to the punchy enough grunt torque.

I hardly used the paddle shifters and that left the impression the bakkie is best driven in D mode.

The shifters could be useful when towing or carrying a heavy load. Gear shifting is smooth as I have expected but it lacks enough shove during overtaking.

The gearbox would go gear-hunting.

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During the entire week of evaluation, I managed to average a fuel consumption figure of 8.9 litres per 100km and this was during urban driving.

Point the bakkie to an open road and the figures would drop below the 7.5 litres per 100km mark.

To conclude, the Triton Athlete is spacious, easy to drive and it does not pretend to be what it is not. It feels more relaxed like a passenger car – particularly in its ride and handling.

There is no wobbling at the rear without any weight there – something I have experienced with other key competitors.

The new Triton Athlete comes standard with a three-year/ 100 000km manufacturer’s warranty and a five-year/90 000km service plan.

Service intervals are every 10 000km.

The Triton Athlete is launched at R559 995, the same as the listed retail price of the standard Triton 4×4 Double-Cab A/T.

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