VEHICLE ANALYSIS: 2015MY Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian
It might be about to enter its ninth year of production but the L200 pick-up remains competitive and has aided Mitsubishi Motors Europe's 23% year-on-year H1 sales rise.
As noted in a recent analysis of the Isuzu D-Max, there are multiple pick-ups in the L200's segment but the Mitsubishi has a formidable reputation for strength and reliability. In Europe, and the UK specifically, you could argue that it even leads the Toyota Hilux when it comes to customer perception of toughness.
The formula for this vehicle is the same as all others in its class. A ladder-frame chassis to which panels are attached, and a choice of two- or four-door body layouts. In Britain, the L200 costs from GBP 14,499 (ex-VAT), which gets you the base two-door commercial variant. The pricier Warrior, Trojan and Barbarian double-cab versions have the same 2.5-litre four-cylinder diesel engine and 4x4 system but each has a lot more in the way of luxury trim.
The on-test Barbarian looked the business with its chrome rear bumper and side steps and front under-bumper finished in matte silver. One clever touch is the chrome-effect exterior mirrors' aerodynamic strakes. These seemed to prevent the wind noise that some competitors, including the D-Max, suffer from. And as a feature to match the mirrors, the big silver fuel filler flap has three much larger aero strakes.
For such an old vehicle, while in my possession it got a lot of admiration from various friends and the interior is still up to date. All the door trims are hard plastic but that works in such a vehicle, while opening a door at night sees BARBARIAN glowing red on the sills.
Selecting four-wheel drive is easy enough: there's a lever to the right of the gear shift and a dashboard indicator shows which axles are in play at all times. The press review vehicle had a five-speed automatic transmission which, while obviously trumped for ratios by the eight-speeder in the VW Amarok, shifts very smoothly indeed. It's a shame there are no paddles behind the steering wheel but at least there's a + and - tiptonic-style gate to the left of the normal PRND one.
Barbarian trim includes perforated upholstery with that word stitched into the front seats in white, and the model grade also features on the tailgate and front doors.
The turning circle is often a hassle in these type of vehicles but the L200's is 11.8m so better than some, plus it’s 5,180mm long. If the length means it can be occasionally tricky to find a suitable parking space, at least the width is fine at just 1,800mm. Nor do you have to worry about low garages as the height is only 1,780mm. A 3,000mm wheelbase is a lot of the reason why there’s such good interior legroom and it also means you don’t get any of that unpleasant pitching which some shorter wheelbase pick-ups and SUVs suffer from.
You won’t find a lightweight aluminium bonnet here - it’s steel and surprisingly heavy - but despite that, the curb weight is only 1,875kg and the maximum payload is 1,045kg.
To drive, there’s an audible whistle from the turbocharger but it’s never intrusive; in fact it’s quite pleasant and reminds you you’re not in an ordinary car or SUV. Roadholding is strong and while the handling shows the vehicle’s age, you couldn’t call it uncompetitive. Keep things at sensible speeds and you can’t get into trouble. But even at 70mph and beyond, it all feels very stable, while acceleration and even more importantly, braking, are as good as the class leaders. Just don’t ever forget you have a live rear axle and drum brakes back there and all will be well.
The Kenwood infotainment system which comes with Barbarian trim was very good, as was its navigational functions, plus there’s an extremely handy reversing camera. One thing I found strange was that the tailgate doesn’t lock but possibly, if you specify an extra cost canopy it would. The tray itself is covered in dark plastic which looked hard-wearing.
We first saw the current L200 in European markets in 2006, though it was launched in Thailand, the place of build, in September 2005. In May MMC announced it had built the 1.1 millionth fourth generation model: “Over the last 9 years, 1,148,000 L200s have been sold with Thai domestic sales totalling 263,000 units and export sales 885,000 units,” according to a statement. Russia & Ukraine are the combined largest export markets. Given what has been happening to the vehicle markets in those nations, that might not be the case in the future.
The fifth generation of this pick-up is due for launch in the northern hemisphere autumn, Mitsubishi Motors further announced in May. It will share some of its styling details with 2013's Concept GR-HEV design study. MMC is also believed to be planning to supply a pick-up based on the L200 to Fiat Professional for selected markets. The new L200 is not expected to be in European market dealerships until the second quarter of 2015.
As per the current truck, production will be at Laem Chabang. MMC has three Thai plants, and with combined annual capacity of 460,000 units, this puts the country second only to Japan for production of Mitsubishi vehicles.
The way sales of the current L200 are going in Britain, things are looking very good for the arrival of the next model. In June, registrations for the Mitsubishi brand surged by 204% to 1,266 vehicles from just 416 in June 2013. Much of that is down to a big rise in marketing spend plus demand for the Outlander PHEV but all other models are playing their parts, with L200 sales up by 24% in June.
The 2015 model year L200 is priced at between GBP 14,499 and GBP 28,508 +VAT.