The Japanese work ute is no longer the humble hard working vehicle it once was; today's ute is now also refined, sophisticated, safe and sporty. Utes like the Mitsubishi Triton now regularly appear on our bestseller lists, among with perennially popular cars like the Commodore, Corolla and Falcon.
The ML Triton arrived on these shores in 2006 amid much fanfare about its funky styling, but it has since become a popular part of our ute culture.
Australia has one of the strongest ute markets in the world. And where utes were once bare and basic work vehicles with very few frills and even less safety, the latest generation, of which the ML Triton is a member, are much more refined, better equipped, and slowly but surely they're becoming safer.
There was much debate over the looks of the ML Triton leading up to its launch, opinion was divided over whether it looked good or was too swoopy. Three years on the debate has ceased and the Triton has become part of the regular road scenery.
The debate over its looks centred on the curved rear wall of the double cab ute's cabin, but it was done with a purpose in mind, to increase the space inside the cabin. Where most dual-cab utes had a flat rear cabin wall that meant the rear seat had to be vertical with little adjustment, the rear seat in the Triton could be cranked back and was more comfortable as a result.
Mitsubishi described the look as striking, sporty and futuristic, and there could be little argument with that. The range included two and four-wheel drive models, with single and dual cabs, ute or tray bodies, petrol and diesel engines, and three model lines.
The 3.2-litre common rail turbo diesel engine was new and boasted 118kW at 4000rpm and 347Nm at 2000rpm. On the road it was very flexible with good pulling power, and economical to boot. The 3.5-litre petrol alternative was a single overhead cam unit that put out 135kW at 4750rpm and 309Nm at 3500rpm.
Transmissions offered were a five-speed manual and a four-speed auto. Four-wheel drive models had high and low ratio with the ability to change between two-wheel drive to four-wheel drive 'high' on the move at up to 100 km/h. The changeover is done using a lever on the console alongside the gear lever.
For those wanting more traction Mitsubishi offered a rear diff-lock, which was operated by a button on the dash. Underneath, the ML had coil springs at the front with leaf springs at the back, large ventilated front discs and big rear drums, ABS braking and electronic brake force distribution.
Three model lines were offered beginning with the GLX, which came in single and double cab variants with petrol and diesel engines, GLX-R double cabs, and the fully equipped GLS rounded out the range.
ON THE LOT
Pay $15,000-$17,000 for a GLX single cab, add $5000 for a double cab; $25,000-$34,000 for a GLX-R double cab; $32,000-$40,000 for an all- singing, all-dancing GLS double cab.
IN THE SHOP
Tritons were built to do the hard yards off the beaten track or on the job site rather than soft miles in suburbia so look for signs of such use. Check underneath for damage caused by extended use offroad, such as gravel rash, or bashed and bent brackets, exhausts, suspension components and floor pans etc.
Plenty have been used for family transport, towing a boat or caravan, so look for those. Make sure of regular servicing with routine oil changes so engines don't get clogged up with sludge.
Also look for crash damage, particularly look for poor repairs that would cut the value of a vehicle. The ML Triton is generally a sound, reliable and durable vehicle that gives little trouble; there are no major flaws to report.
IN A CRASH
Driver and front passenger airbags are standard across all models, along with ABS braking and EBD for optimum brakeforce at each wheel.
ANCAP rated the ML Triton at four stars.
AT THE PUMP
With relatively large displacement engines the Triton isn't a fuel miser, and particularly so as a four-wheel drive. Expect to see 12-13 L/100 km around town, with autos a little higher and diesels a little lower.
. Funky styling.
. Roomy interior
. Flexible diesel engine
. Four-star safety
. Robust and reliable
ALSO TRY THESE
TOYOTA HILUX - 2005-2008 Once promoted as unbreakable, the current HiLux has become one of the top selling models on the Australian market. A good driving, safe handling ute with pleasant road manners, good economy and comfortable ride. Pay $10,000-$40,000.
FORD RANGER - 2007-2008 A new name to replace the blue-collar 'Courier' badge brought greater appeal to buyers wanting an allrounder for family transport. A choice of smooth and economical diesel engines with two or four-wheel drive, but cabin is a little cramped. Pay $13,000-$36,000.
HOLDEN UTE - 2007-2008 The traditional Aussie ute has been surpassed by the Japanese, but it still offers car-like road manners, performance, and unbeatable style. Pay $16,500-$32,000.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Good driving and comfortable ute that can double as a workhorse or flexible family transporter.