Johannesburg - Sporty body kits are becoming all the rage in South Africa’s double cab bakkie market, with the likes of the Ford Ranger FX4, Isuzu KB X-Rider and Toyota Hilux Black Edition being dolled-up with factory-approved pimp packages.

Mitsubishi hopped onto the bandwagon late last year by offering a limited-edition Xtreme version of its Triton bakkie, of which only 50 units were made.

Now it’s followed up with the Triton Athlete, which emerges from the beauty parlour with bold orange-and-black exterior accents and a similar colour scheme inside. The external revamp also includes a new-look honeycomb grille, a sports bar with integrated tailgate spoiler, and numerous dark highlights including black 17” alloy wheels.

The interior’s livened up with two-tone black leather seats with orange highlights, and also orange stitching on the steering wheel, gearknob and doors. 

Available painted in either white or grey, the Athlete sells for R559 995 which is officially the same price as the standard Triton 4x4 double cab auto, though the standard bakkie is currently selling at a discounted price of R479 995.

Triton prices include a 3-year/100 000 km warranty and 5-year/90 000 km service plan, with 10 000km service intervals.

This glammed-up bakkie isn’t just about being dressed to thrill, but gets improved practicality and safety too. The Athlete’s towing capacity is now certified at 3.1 tons - double what it used to be - and along with the introduction of Isofix child seat anchors the Athlete has an impressive seven airbags compared to the regular Triton’s two.

Standard features found on the Triton 4x4 also include ABS brakes, stability control, and hill-start assist.

There’s a mixture of old and new in the cabin technology. The audio system employs a modern touchscreen which incorporates a reversing camera, but the onboard computer is very old-school and basic, where you have to jab a stalk in the instrument panel to scroll through information – and the fuel consumption resets itself on every trip so you can’t get a long-term reading. 

This range-topping Triton is fairly well specced with items like keyless ignition, cruise control, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, and a steering column adjustable for both height and reach. Auto headlights are missing from the deal however.

The cabin radiates a reasonably classy vibe for a bakkie and the finishes avoid feeling too plasticky, while intuitively-located switches make simple work of controlling the functions. I wasn’t too impressed with the climate control however, which wasn’t good at maintaining the desired temperature and was usually a lot colder than indicated. 

The family-sized cabin is praisworthy for its roominess though, and the rear bench has plenty of stretch-out leg and head room.
The new-generation 2.4-litre turbodiesel produces decent outputs of 133kW and 430Nm – which rate well against larger-engined rivals like the Toyota Hilux 2.8 and Isuzu KB 3.0.

It’s a hearty cruiser once it gets going but is hampered by some turbo lag in initial pulloff, making it less responsive than you’d like in town driving. The five-speed auto transmission also doesn’t offer a sports mode to liven things up.

But it’s a smooth engine with decent sound suppression and the Triton rolls along quite silently in general. It’s a relatively unthirsty performer too, averaging around 8.7 litres per 100km (Mitsubishi claims 7.6).

The Triton 4x4 has all the gear to tackle offroad expeditions including an elevated 205mm ground clearance, and a 4x4 mode that’s easily selected at the twist of a knob. It also has low range and a rear diff lock to help it get through the trickier bundu bashing sections. 

Additionally, a centre lock apportions drive in a fixed 40/60 split for use at higher speeds, for instance when you need added traction on wet tar or gravel roads. 

Unlike the smoother-riding coil spring setups used in the rear suspension of the Nissan Navara and new Mercedes X-class, the Triton retains the time-honoured leaf springs. As a result it delivers a typically bakkie-like ride but without being excessively bouncy when unladen.

VERDICT

For those wanting to make a styling statement the Athlete package gives Mitsubishi’s Triton a refreshing splash of colour. But this isn’t just a Triton with mascara; there’s better safety and towing ability too.

A smooth-performing leisure bakkie with robust offroading skills, decent power and great space, it’s priced very competitively in a cut-throat market segment.

FACTS

Mitsubishi Triton 2.4D-ID DC 4x4 Athlete auto

Engine: 2.4-litre, 4-cyl, turbodiesel
Gearbox: 5-speed automatic
Power: 133kW @ 3500rpm
Torque: 430Nm @ 2500rpm
0-100km/h (claimed): 11.8 seconds
Top speed (claimed): 177km/h
Ground clearance: 205mm
Towing capacity (braked): 3100kg
Price: R579 995
Warranty: 3-year/100 000km
Service plan: 5-year/90 000km

ALTERNATIVES

Fiat Fullback 2.4D-ID DC 4x4 LX auto 133kW/430Nm R559 000
Ford Ranger 3.2 DC 4x4 XLT auto 147kW/470Nm R610 300
Isuzu KB 300D-Teq DC 4x4 LX auto 130kW/380Nm R585 700
Mazda BT-50 3.2 DC 4x4 SLE auto 147kW/470Nm R561 300
Mercedes X250d DC 4x4 Progressive auto 140kW/450Nm R729 675
Nissan Navara 2.3D DC 4x4 LE auto 140kW/450Nm R611 500
Toyota Hilux 2.8GD-6 DC 4x4 Raider auto 130kW/450Nm R601 600
VW Amarok 2.0BiTDI DC Highline 4x4 auto 132kW/420Nm R624 100

Drive360