The work-and-play Triton isn't bad but the rivals are much better.

If I had never driven the latest Ford Ranger or Toyota HiLux,I would probably think the new Mitsubishi Triton was pretty hot. But I have. And it's not.

The new Triton is pleasant enough but it's not nearly good enough in a field that's led today by the Ranger and HiLux but also includes an all-new Nissan Navara, the Mazda BT-50, Volkswagen Amarok and Isuzu D-Max that works so well as a towmobile.

In that field, the Triton is struggling for attention and is likely — again — to become a car that sells best once it's had a red pencil put through the showroom sticker.

The price of the previous model seemed to be locked on $29,990 drive-away for ages. That's a repeat pattern for the Triton, and I expect more from the new ute as Mitsubishi moves into a future plan that's focused almost entirely on four-wheel drives and utes.

It can barely be bothered about a worthwhile replacement for the Lancer, which is why there won't be any hotrod Evo in the company's future, and believes it can be a global success by relying on its three amigos, Pajero, Outlander and Triton.

It does have the Pajero Sport now, an SUV based on the Triton — created the same way Ford built the Everest up from the Ranger and Toyota has spun the Fortuner out of the HiLux — and colleague Peter Barnwell reckons it's a ripper.

But, here and now, there is a Triton in the driveway and I'm struggling to get enthusiastic.

There is lots of good news in the detail, from the 2.4-litre turbo diesel engine to more legroom for the driver and more knee space for passengers in the back.

I find styling that's more like a facelift than a total overhaul

But my test ute is a fully loaded Exceed, which means a bottom line of $47,490. That's a hefty haul for a pick-up, even a dual cab with classy on-the-fly 4WD package and leather trim in the cabin.

The price compares to $33,490 for the starter Triton and even that is a significant jump up from the discounted driveaway deals.

There are a lot of people spending big on work-and-play utes and Ford has been over-ordered and under-supplied on its Wildtrak for more than a year.

As I'm working my way through the Triton I find styling that's more like a facelift than a total overhaul despite changes to more than 80 per cent of the panels and parts. The extra strengthening under the skin helps it to a five-star ANCAP safety rating and the smoother front end contributes to impressive claimed economy of 7.6L/100km.

The cabin is a big improvement but the opening window through to the tray in the previous Triton is gone, sacrificed for extra legroom.

My mate Shane, who drives a superseded dual-cab Triton, finds a lot to like in the new model. He's impressed by the overall quietness, the extra support in the front seats, lighter steering with a tighter turning circle. This ute feels — to him — like a big step up from his current ride.

There are aspects to enjoy, among them the quietness and the smooth five-speed auto, which comes as a bonus after battling the heavy five-speed manual in the HiLux.

The turbo diesel is not a fireball but outputs of 133 kW/ 430Nm work well enough with people in the cabin and nothing to tow. On that front, Mitsubishi rates the Triton at "only" 3100kg, which is still up by 100kg from the previous model and — despite a 3500kg rating for the HiLux — it's only 100kg behind the equivalent automatic Toyota.

As I'm looking in the back I'm reminded, just as in the Ranger and HiLux, that double-cab utes are really not that good if you want to carry something like a motorcycle in the tray. Even my mountain bikes have to sit diagonally and the rollbar fitted to make it look like a "tuff truk" limits the ability to load gear in the tub.

Inside, I'm happy with the cushy new seats and a driving position that feels less cramped than I remember. It easily carries five adults.

I like the audio setup and reversing camera but that's a benefit you only get in the two top models of the Pajero and so the company deserves a kick for leaving it out of the base car. You can buy a dealer-fitted camera for $750 but it should be standard.

The Triton feels cheaper, less solid, than the class leaders

The actual drive in the Triton is below the best in the class, by a margin I can easily feel. It is less connected to the road, more prone to jiggling over bumps and wobbling when I apply the brakes.

Cornering is no fun. It also pitches more than its rivals, as the suspension lacks the wheel control of the opposition that allows them to roll through undulations instead of bouncing about.

And that's pretty much the whole story. The Triton feels cheaper, less solid, than the class leaders. And the Amarok.

It's not that it's bad, just that others are better. And, considering the previous generation of the Triton ran for a decade in showrooms, that's bad news for Mitsubishi.

My advice would be to get a product development team from Japan to Australia as soon as possible, for head-to-head comparisons against the whole range of rivals on the worst roads the Mitsubishi team can find.

But that's for the future, if Mitsubishi is listening, and right now the Triton is being shopped in showrooms and we have to judge what we have.

For me, the outgoing Triton was always the ute that was battling the Nissan Navara for a "best-of-the-rest" ranking behind the HiLux.

Discounted prices helped and it was easy to recommend the Mitsubishi because it was close to the Toyota but a fair way below on pricing.

But the fully loaded Triton Exceed is not cheap and the Ranger and HiLux are mightily impressive, which means the new Mitsubishi still trails — probably even further behind — in the class.