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ANALYSIS - Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian X

By Glenn Brooks | 10 December 2019

Thai-built L200 is exported to 150+ countries and is one of MMCs global best sellers

Thai-built L200 is exported to 150+ countries and is one of MMC's global best sellers

Mid-life facelifts aren't often as dramatic as the one which Mitsubishi has given the fifth generation L200 pick-up. There's also a new Euro 6d compliant 2.3-litre diesel engine and the choice of six-speed manual or new six-speed automatic transmissions plus a significantly upgraded four-wheel drive system.

This isn't anywhere near being Mitsubishi Motors' best selling model in the European market but neither is its volume insignificant. According to the company's data, during the first three quarters of 2019, the pick-up ranked fifth: 

1- Mirage: 30,373 (+12%)
2- Outlander PHEV: 26,934 (+78%)
3- ASX (pre-facelift): 24,585 (-7%)
4- Eclipse Cross: 22,126 (+8%)
5- L200 (pre-facelift): 18,450 (+12%)

With the arrival of the refreshed model in October, L200 registrations should end the year up a fair bit more than that twelve per cent. Provided there are no overall market shocks, it should be up there with the Ford Ranger as one of the best performers in the segment.

Europe is an important region for this brand although when you consider that Mitsubishi reckons the Laem Chabang #2 factory in Thailand will churn out some 180,000 L200s in fiscal 2019-20, it's clear we're but a small part of the global picture. Known as the Triton in some countries, this was MMC's second most popular model at a global level last year, the Outlander being the company's top performer.

Even though it's an update of the fifth generation model, Mitsubishi terms this major refresh the Series 6. Looking at the vehicle front-on you could be forgiven for thinking it's a fresh design too. Just about everything is new, including the bumper, headlights, grille, wheelarch shape and even the bonnet, which has been raised by 40mm.

There is a claim of "car-like driving refinement", which stands up to a certain extent. The steering seems better, the springs, dampers and brakes have been replaced, while inside there are new seats, a thicker-rimmed steering wheel and the redesigned engine definitely sounds more refined. On the downside, there are still drum brakes at the rear even in top-spec Barbarian X form; handling while good, isn't on the same level as the Ranger or VW Amarok.

You need to be careful not to push the L200 too hard as it can lean alarmingly on occasion. As a motorway companion it's way better than I had been expecting though, and that's not often the case with pick-ups. Which is why I say the statement about refinement is mostly accurate.

The example I tried came with the new automatic gearbox, which would be my recommendation: it replaced a five-speed auto transmission. The older gearbox was perfectly fine but the new one means better economy. A lot of the reason is down to the 2,268cc diesel engine which produces 110kW (150PS) at 4,000rpm and 400Nm at 2,000rpm.

Thanks to that generous amount of torque and the low engine speed at which maximum power is developed, fuel economy in the high thirties or even low forties is a realistic average. CO2 varies between 199 and 206g/km depending on the gearbox.

When it comes to safety equipment, there is much to report, along with a lot of abbreviations. The list of standard or optional tech includes BSW & LSA (Blind Spot Warning system with Lane Change Assist function), RCTA (Rear Cross Traffic Alert system), FCM (Forward Collision Mitigation system), UMS (Ultrasonic Misacceleration Mitigation System), LDW (Lane Departure Warning) and M-ASTC (Mitsubishi Active Stability & Traction Control). That's not everything either, as I didn't mention ESS (Emergency Stop Signal), TSA (Trailer Stability Assist) or HSA (Hill Start Assist).

There are two four-wheel drive systems, the first of which is called Super-Select 4WD, the alternative Easy-Select 4WD which includes a locking centre differential. Both use a new Off-road Mode which has GRAVEL, MUD/SNOW, SAND and ROCK (in 4LLc only) settings. When engaged, this links engine power, transmission and braking to regulate the amount of wheel slip, the idea being to improve self-extraction performance in mud or snow.

If no vehicle in this class has a properly premium interior, at least the L200's update now means there is less in the way of boring, hard grey plastic wherever you look. Mitsubishi has made a real effort to improve the feeling of perceived quality, while the infotainment system is a big improvement over what went before. Finally, the new seats help with the sense of improved comfort - something those tasked with making the suspension more compliant have also succeeded with.

What's next for the L200?

Will we be seeing a production version of the Absolute, a prototype that debuted at the Bangkok motor show in March? The only question seems to be when such a variant will appear rather than if. In theory, this will be a tough-looking version of the L200, developed to entice those who might otherwise buy a Ford Ranger Raptor. The show truck came with a broader track, heavy duty tyres, an extra 50mm of suspension travel, special protective body cladding, front and rear skid plates enbedded with red accents, a redesigned tailgate and bespoke lighting.

Giving the L200 range such a big series of updates almost certainly means an extended life cycle. That could now last until 2023/2024. As for the replacement, this should use a platform which can be shared with the Renault-Nissan Alliance. Nissan might even build the next generation model in one of its US or Mexican plants for the North American region. Even if that doesn't happen, a PHEV seems a certainty for European countries, such a variant probably being manufactured in Thailand.

Pricing for the new L200 starts at GBP21,515 (Commercial Vehicle On The Road Price excl VAT) and rises to GBP32,200 for the as-tested Barbarian X dual cab. Top speed is 108mph, owners can tow up to 3.5 tonnes and the tray's capacity is now 1,080kg.