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Mitsubishi Triton


Volkswagen Crafter

Summary

Mitsubishi Triton

As the popularity of 4x4 dual cab utes continues to grow, so too does demand for premium models. And it’s not just family/recreational buyers driving this demand. Top-shelf utes are increasingly common on construction sites, where competition amongst tradies to win job tenders is often matched by a battle for bragging rights over who owns the best ute.

This goes back a long way. It really took off in the 1970s and early 1980s during production of Holden’s legendary HQ-WB One Tonner. They sold in huge numbers, but because they were produced in a very basic work-focused specification, it was only a matter of time before tradie owners wanted some individuality on the worksite.

Initially it was just a set of chrome 12-slotters and fat tyres with raised white lettering on the sidewalls. However, this showmanship quickly expanded into custom metallic paint jobs and leather interiors, Statesman or Caprice front-ends, jarrah trays with exquisite joinery showcased under 50 coats of clear and numerous other tweaks. Eventually some became too nice for work and joined the show car circuit instead - which defeated the whole point of the exercise! But that’s competition for you.

The Holden One Tonner era may be long gone, but rivalry between Aussie tradies for best ute honours remains strong. So we recently spent a working week in Mitsubishi’s stylish premium-grade Triton to see how it measures up in the premium ute market.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.4L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency8.6L/100km
Seating5 seats

Volkswagen Crafter

The person who delivers your new golf shoes or stretch denim jeggings isn’t just a nameless delivery driver – they’ve got families and friends to go home to, as well.

Their offices are often exposed to more danger than most, though, so Volkswagen decided to build its all-new Crafter commercial range to offer the same level of safety – and similar levels of comfort – as its passenger car range.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency—L/100km
Seating2 seats

Verdict

Mitsubishi Triton8.5/10

Compared to its more expensive mainstream rivals, the lavishly-equipped GLS Premium offers unmatched value for money.

For less than $53K it has more than everything you need in terms of safety and features, plus proven Mitsubishi performance, reliability and build quality. Premium by name and premium by nature, it can more than hold its own in any battle for best ute bragging rights. And there’s no chrome 12-slotters or hand-made jarrah trays required.


Volkswagen Crafter7.6/10

The medium commercial space is set to heat up in the next few years, and Volkswagen’s uncompromising approach to the Crafter should stand it in good stead. It’s a bit hard to get a read on the car after such a brief test, so we’ll add to our knowledge base in the coming months.

There’s a Crafter option for every application, though, and VW claims its service network will stand behind the product right across the country… which it will need to do if it’s to take the fight to arch-rival Mercedes-Benz.

Which Crafter grade would you pick for your business? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

Design

Mitsubishi Triton

The conspicuously long rear overhang is a Triton design signature, which contributes to its expansive 5409mm overall length that’s almost line-ball with a Ford Ranger equivalent.

However, in stark contrast, the Triton’s relatively short 3000mm wheelbase results in sharp steering response. Combined with a compact 11.8-metre turning circle and 1815mm width, it all adds up to impressive agility in all conditions, from tight bush tracks and inner-city parking to rugged worksites with difficult access.

The 4x4 models with the latest 18-inch wheel stock have 220mm of ground clearance and improved approach (31 degrees), ramp break-over (25 degrees) and departure (23 degrees) angles.

Triton rear seating has always been tight, particularly for three adults. Tall ones sitting in the higher central position can have their heads pressing into the roof lining. By contrast, that same roof lining also has wide slot-type air circulation vents, which are superior to console-mounted vents in directing cooling air to the faces of rear seat passengers.

The most annoying noise award goes to the ‘Steering Wheel Unlocked’ warning, which chimes loudly every time the driver stops and departs the vehicle.


Volkswagen Crafter8/10

Despite the Crafter looking like the easiest car in the world to design – draw straight lines and join them up – it actually shares a styling language with the sixth generation Transporter van range.

It’s available as a cab-chassis and a van, which comes with a side door on one or both sides, a rear step, rear barn doors and in a high roof version.

VW will also sell the Crafter with an optional Trendline styling package, but it won’t include a body kit, rear spoiler, side skirts or front spoiler. Instead it offers chrome garnishes for the interior, an additional 12-volt socket and hub caps.

Interior dimensions are vast even in the medium-wheelbase version, with familiar controls across the dash and steering wheel plucked from VW’s passenger car range. The van can be ordered with a regular or high roof, as well as with a so-called super high roof version.

The rear barn doors can also be upgraded to versions that open to 270 degrees on the medium- and long-wheelbase versions. They come standard on the biggest version.

Practicality

Mitsubishi Triton

With its relatively light 2045kg kerb weight and 2900kg GVM, the GLS Premium has an 855kg payload rating. It’s also rated to tow up to 3100kg of braked trailer and with a GCM (or how much you can legally carry and tow at the same time) of 5885kg, that means you only have to reduce your payload by 115kg to do it. Or you could just lower your towing limit by the same amount (to 2985kg) and keep your full payload.

Either way, this is a realistic set of numbers to play with, because most 4x4 dual cabs with 3500kg tow ratings have to reduce their payloads by half a tonne or more to legally do it. Which is totally impractical of course, meaning most 3500kg tow ratings are more like 3000kg or less in the real world. And most people don't need to tow more than 3000kg anyway.

The load tub is 1520mm long and 1470mm wide with a depth of 475mm. There’s 1185mm between the rear wheel housings, so you can’t squeeze a standard 1165mm-square Aussie pallet in between them, but a smaller Euro 1200 x 800mm pallet can fit. There’s six tie-down points (would be better if they were closer to floor height) and a full tub-liner.

Cabin storage consists of a bottle holder and storage bin in each front door plus an overhead glasses holder and single glovebox. The centre console has a small storage cubby at the front, two small  (500ml) bottle or cup holders in the centre and a lidded box at the back which doubles as a driver’s elbow rest.

Rear seat passengers get a bottle holder but no storage bin in each door, flexible storage pockets on each front seat backrest, a pull-down centre armrest with two cup holders plus an open cubby in the rear of the console for small items. The base cushion is fixed, with no storage space beneath or the ability to be stored vertically for more internal carry space, like some rivals.


Volkswagen Crafter7/10

The Crafter comes in two styles, three lengths and three powertrains, and will eventually expand to a range of 59 variants by the time all models come on stream by early 2019.

The van comes in a three-seat single cab chassis style, while the dual cab is only offered in a seven-seat dual cab version.

A variety of roof heights is also offered, and it’s worth noting the higher roofs lower the roof rack load limit of 300kg on the standard height van.

VW is making a lot of the fact that it has worked the Crafter over from the ground up with feedback from real tradies, right down to making sure that there’s enough light in the cargo area for parcel couriers to read labels in the dark.

The interior, too, is festooned with storage compartments small and large right across the dash and through the cabin.

The new FWD version offers a 100mm lower loading area than the AWD and RWD models, too.

Load capacity, of course, varies from model to model. In the medium wheelbase van line, it’s the more powerful TDI410-powered rear-drive model with dual rear wheels that can carry the most across all vans at 2024kg, while the entry level Runner can carry 1384kg.

In the cab-chassis line, single-cab dual-wheel TDI410 takes the overall crown with 2392kg of payload ability.

If you want to add a towbar, the Crafter can tow up to 2500kg.

Overall, the ergonomics are quite good. It goes without saying there is a load of headroom, and there are small storage containers above the driver and passenger area.

The windscreen is massive, though the sealed off driver compartment does restrict visibility through the rear vision mirror. The Crafter also features aids like hill-start assist as well as hill-descent assist.

Crafters also feature a bench seat arrangement in the single row versions that can seat three people. The centre seat back can be folded down to form a tray table with two cupholders as standard. There's also an additional pair of cupholders on the dash, and huge door pockets on either side that can accept large bottles or Thermos flasks.

Other hidey holes for day-to-day gear are scattered through the cabin, including small trays in the doors and on the dash itself.

The steering wheel is polycarbonate, as is the gear shift knob. Don't forget these vehicles are built for hard work, not necessarily for luxury. A higher brake and accelerator pedal placement is quite a common feature of vans, and it places the foot at a slightly unusual angle if you're used to driving a regular car.

It's a more upright seating position, and does take a little bit of finessing to get the best fit. The sealed driver's compartment in our medium van tester allowed the seat to be ratcheted back to suit this 187cm driver, although we wonder if an XL-sized owner would be able to comfortably fit behind the wheel given the restriction of the rear bulkhead.

An 8.0-inch multimedia system has Apple CarPlay or Android Auto as standard, and it can be controlled from the steering wheel. You can also have two phones connected at the same time via Bluetooth. If you’re hanging onto the 1990s, unfortunately there’s no CD player any more, nor is there a DVD player… but the DAB radio is pretty good.

VW claims the Crafter’s 'App Connect' is a first for the category. Volkswagen also fits a 'Customer-Specific Functional Control Unit' (CFCU) to each Crafter. For example, the lights and siren on an ambulance can be controlled through the on-board CFCU, or if you have a digger unit on the back, the car can be programmed not to move while the digger arm is in motion.

Price and features

Mitsubishi Triton

Our test vehicle is the MY20 GLS Premium which is the top rung on the Triton model ladder. With a list price of $52,490, it represents outstanding value for money given that premium versions of its mainstream 4x4 dual cab ute competitors are priced above $60,000.

Beyond its black nudge bar, sports bar, load tub-liner, side steps and rear-step bumper, there’s chunky six-spoke 18-inch alloys with 265/60R18 tyres and a full-size spare. Plus LED dusk-sensing headlights and daytime running lights, halogen fog lights, chrome door handles, chrome door mirrors with integral heating and turn indicators, speed/rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, reversing and 360-degree cameras plus a rear diff lock.

Keyless entry reveals a sumptuous interior with dual-zone climate control, rear privacy glass, leather-appointed seats with heating up-front, leather-bound steering wheel/gearshift/handbrake and height/reach adjustable steering column. There’s also 12-volt/USB connections and a six-speaker system with 7.0-inch touchscreen, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, DAB radio and multiple connectivity including Bluetooth.

Like we said, it’s fully loaded, but if subjected to a working role it wouldn’t take long for muddy boots and dirty grit-filled shirts and shorts to make that fancy leather and carpet look pretty second-hand. Tough canvas-type seat covers and dirt-trap rubber floor mats might be a good idea if you want to preserve such niceties.


Volkswagen Crafter8/10

Sitting above the Transporter in size, the Crafter will actually become the single most complex range in VW’s local line-up, with up to 59 variants set to go on sale by January 2019… so there’s a lot to look at.

In basic terms, it’ll come in three main chassis types, comprising medium, long, and long-with-rear-overhang (basically, there’s more van behind the rear axle). That’s then divided into unibody vans and cab-chassis variants, while the latter is divided further into single- and dual-cab models.

The price list starts at $48,490 for a six-speed manual-equipped medium wheelbase van, and covers 36 price points all the way through to a long-with-overhang high roof van with dual rear wheels, a twin-turbo 2.0-litre diesel and eight-speed ZF auto, as well as range-topping 5.5-tonne GVM (gross vehicle mass, or maximum weight of Crafter and cargo) limit, at $71,490.

Of those 36 price points, seven are offered with a single-turbo EA288 Nutz (VW’s designation for commercial engines) 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel, while the rest feature a twin-turbo version of the same engine. Seven are also offered in six-speed manual guise.

All models are equipped with single-zone climate control, tilt- and reach-adjustable steering column, daytime running lights, an 8.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system with digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, voice control, a four-speaker sound system and Bluetooth.

There is also lots of USB and auxiliary connectivity, rubber floor mats, cruise control, heated and powered external mirrors, power lumbar support for the driver seat, and front power windows.

There are also a host of options for the driver’s compartment, including upgraded multimedia, automatic wipers, better seats and more driver aids, while LED headlights, GPS sat nav, wooden floor coverings and plywood panelling for vans are also on the long options list.

If you’re looking for accessories like a nudge bar, bullbar, awning or a light bar, you’ll need to source them yourself, and the same goes for leather seats.

When it comes to colours, there’s a surprisingly wide variety on offer, including black, blue, white, orange, silver, red and grey.

Engine & trans

Mitsubishi Triton

The venerable 4N15 four-cylinder turbo-diesel is still one of the best in the business, with strong all-round performance that belies its relatively small 2.4 litre capacity. It produces 133kW at 3500rpm and a competitive 430Nm of torque, which is served full strength at 2500rpm but remains plentiful from as low as 1500rpm.

The six-speed torque converter automatic transmission matches the engine’s impressive refinement, with over-driven fifth and sixth ratios for economical highway cruising and a manual shift mode using steering wheel paddle-shifters.

The excellent Super-Select 4WD-II system offers a choice of rear-wheel drive high range (2H) and full-time 4WD high range (4H) with centre diff unlocked, which is ideal for sealed and unsealed road use. The centre diff locked 4WD high range (4HLc) and centre diff locked 4WD low range (4LLc) settings are aimed at the rough stuff. 

There’s also a choice of four off-road driving modes to maximise traction and stability on Gravel, Mud/Snow, Sand and Rock. And if that’s not enough to get you out of trouble, there’s also a rear diff locker.


Volkswagen Crafter8/10

Two specs of the same engine size are offered in the Crafter. The (EA288 Nutz) 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel comes in both single and twin-turbo configurations; the single spinner is known as the TDI340, puts out 103kW/340Nm, and the TDI410 twin huffer grunts out 130kW/410Nm.

It’s best to check your manual for oil type and capacity, while injector problems haven’t been noted as an issue in the Nutz (commercial) version of the EA288. It uses a timing chain rather than a timing belt for longevity. VW has fitted the driveline with an AdBlue system, along with a diesel particulate filter.

No petrol version of the Crafter is available. There are no reports of injector problems.

The AWD version uses a Haldex system, a mechanical diff lock and hill descent assist, and offers a 4000kg GVM as well. It’ll cost $4500 more than the FWD system, which VW claims is a quarter of the cost of similar systems from its key competitors.

A six-speed manual gearbox has been the only option up to this point, but VW believes the market for vehicles like the Crafter will swing from 90 per cent manual to 80 per cent automatic within a couple of years.

The ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission is a key upgrade to the Crafter, and it dates back to 2008. A derivative of the unit used in the Amarok (and the Bentley Continental GT, as it happens), it’s available on all three drivelines. Automatic gearbox problems aren’t an issue with the ZF.

A second battery and/or alternator is also available from the factory, to help power any and all devices you might want to mount.

Fuel consumption

Mitsubishi Triton

Mitsubishi claims a combined figure of 8.6L/100km. The dash display was showing a slightly higher 9.7 figure when we stopped to fill the 75-litre tank after just under 500km of testing. That wasn’t far off our own figure of 10.7 based on fuel bowser and trip meter readings, which means you could expect a realistic driving range of around 700km.


Volkswagen Crafter7/10

Our drive program was far too brief to comment meaningfully on fuel economy figures, but we noted a figure of 10.2 litres per 100km after a 65km test period around the streets of Auckland aboard an auto TDI410-equipped van.

Volkswagen doesn’t supply fuel consumption figures because of the sheer variance in size and spec across the range. None of its competitors do, either.

All Crafters have a fuel tank capacity which measures 75 litres in size.

Driving

Mitsubishi Triton

The GLS Premium’s ride quality when empty or lightly loaded is not as jiggly as the lower-grade GLX+ we've previously tested. We can only put this down to the increased sprung weight of the top-grade model, which being almost 100kg heavier results in a noticeable improvement in suspension behaviour. It just feels more composed when empty or lightly loaded and therefore nicer to drive on a daily basis in cities and suburbs.

The power-assisted steering response and turning weight is good, being light at parking speeds and increasingly firm as speeds rise. Braking from the front disc/rear drum combination is reassuringly strong and consistent under all loads.

Around town it’s quiet and comfortable with more than adequate performance thanks to its healthy torque to weight ratio. The short wheelbase and tight turning circle also make parking and other low-speed maneuvering a breeze.

It’s a comfortable and relaxed highway cruiser too, with low engine, tyre and wind noise allowing conversations without raised voices. The over-driven sixth gear allows the 2.4 litre turbo-diesel to maximise fuel economy, loping along with only 1650rpm at 100km/h and 1800rpm at 110km/h.


Volkswagen Crafter7/10

If you've driven any fairly recent Volkswagen product, or indeed a regular sedan or hatch, you'll be familiar with the operation of the Crafter.

There is nothing aboard that makes it difficult for the average operator to jump in and use it. It's really just like a regular car to drive, except for its sheer size.

Ease of use is vital for a van that's often used on the road for 12 hours a day, or more. And the Crafter has been designed from the ground up to make life as easy for its driver as possible.

Climbing abroad, the ability to adjust the steering wheel for reach, and height instantly gives you the impression the Crafter is going to be a very user-friendly device.

Volkswagen has worked hard to make the standard seats as comfortable as possible, and there is the ability to option them to an even higher level.

The medium wheelbase automatic we tested also featured automatic parking, which, for a large van in an urban environment, is an absolute bonus. And it works amazingly well. There's nothing like a five metre-plus van reverse-parking itself as the driver holds his hands in the air to make passers-by gawk in amazement.

Throttle response is linear and easy to manage, as is the electrically assisted steering, though you have to wind on a bit of lock to get around a corner. Disc brakes all round give the Crafter a good middle pedal feel, too. A brief drive in a manual reveals a light clutch and shift action.

The ride is well controlled even when it’s unladen, if verging on a little stiff – but it’s possible to uprate the suspension to suit loads of up to 2.4 tonnes, depending on variant, so a spin around Auckland’s CBD aboard a Crafter with 500kg of low-slung weight isn’t going to tell us too much.

We can tell you that if you’re looking for a 4x4 with air suspension and off road-ready all-terrain tyres that’s begging for a lift kit, this is not the place. The Crafter only comes with steel wheels, and its 0-100km/h acceleration speed isn’t especially important.

Safety

Mitsubishi Triton

Maximum five-star ANCAP rating (last tested 2015) and the latest active safety features including AEB, lane departure and blind-spot warnings, rear cross-traffic alert, trailer stability assist and lots more. There’s also seven airbags including full side-curtains, plus ISOFIX and top-tether child seat anchorage points for the two outer rear positions.


Volkswagen Crafter9/10

VW has taken standard safety for a commercial vehicle to a new high. Front, side and curtain airbags for front-row passengers, 'Front Assist' with AEB, post-crash multi-collision braking, crosswind assist, front and rear parking sensors and reversing camera are all standard. It would be great to be able to turn on the rear view camera just to check what is behind the Crafter without reverse engaged, but that's a minor quibble.

Optional systems include park assist, adaptive cruise control, rear traffic alert, active lane keep assist and sensor-based side assist. You’ll have to leave the youngest tradies at home, though – there are no ISOFIX points in the Crafter.

Ownership

Mitsubishi Triton

New vehicle warranty of seven years/150,000km and scheduled servicing every 12 months/15,000km whichever occurs first. Capped-price of $299 for the first three scheduled services up to three years/45,000km.


Volkswagen Crafter7/10

Given the Crafter is a brand new build, it’s far too early to look for common faults or problems, but the ZF eight-speed auto, for example, has a proven record of reliability.

Service intervals of 20,000km or 12 months are recommended, and Volkswagen’s fixed service program applies. The first five services to 100,000km will cost $3279 in total; just keep the owner’s manual up to date.

A three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty is offered, along with three year’s free roadside service.