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Click for pictures“The radical-looking
  new Mitsubishi L200
  Warrior Double Cab
  pick-up is big on style
  if not quite as big on
  load length... but it’s
  still a very satisfying
  piece of kit

SALES IN THE UK of the all-new range of Mitsubishi L200 single and double cab pick-ups started in March 2006, with prices ranging from 12,249 through to 19,999. Club cab versions will be joining the range during the summer. If you're one of the ever-growing number of private motorists buying a pick-up for recreational purposes — or even as a second family car — then don't forget that while the prices given are 'on the road', they do not include VAT So you'll need to add another 17.5 per cent.

Pick-ups are something of a sales phenomenon in the UK, with eight years' of successive sales growth — last year 34,314 were snapped
up by UK buyers. When double and club cab pick-ups started to enter the market back in '98, total sales were just 7,553 units.

This 347 per cent growth has been driven by private buyers wanting more versatile SUV vehicles, company car users attracted by the low taxation levels, fashion conscious must-have recreational users, owner-operators, small business customers and — to a lesser extent — by commercial and farming users opting for a pick-up rather than a utilitarian 4x4.

In addition to customers wanting more recreational and lifestyle vehicles such as sporting pick-ups, company car users (who see them as a way of reducing personal taxation) have also fuelled double cab sales. Mitsubishi points out that although 'Benefit in Kind' tax will increase from April 2007 to 3,000 (up from 500) for a driver using a pick-up as a company vehicle, this is still significantly less than the charge for an equivalently-priced car. There will also remain an advantage for pick-up drivers paying less fuel tax than their counter-parts driving an equivalent company car. For a company or business, the VAT element can also be claimed back if the pick-up is used as a commercial vehicle — hence the reason prices for commercial vehicles are quoted 'less VAT'.

The L200 range has consistently been the market leader and at its peak in 2003 the range accounted for 45 per cent of all UK pick-up sales. Since then — and in spite of the emergence of lifestyle and workhorse models from other manufacturers such as Ford, Nissan, Toyota and Isuzu — the L200 has still remained the top selling range overall, with a 35 per cent market share.

Last year 12,026 Mitsubishi L200s were sold in the UK, 9,242 of which were what Mitsubishi call 'high series' models such as the accessory-loaded Animal and Warrior derivatives. Reflecting the demand by today's UK customers for up-market pick-ups, the L200 accounted for 44 per cent of all sales in the private retail sector. In the fleet sector, L200 models accounted for 23 per cent of sales with Ford leading the way with a 37.4 per cent market share.

Now comes the crunch: Will the UK pick-up market continue to grow
or will it follow the car market into a period of decline? And are people getting bored with this type of vehicle? There are now lots of used ones for sale throughout the UK as customers have bought and sold and moved on to other types of SUVs. For Mitsubishi it is imperative that the radical new L200 still drives their sales as they account for one third of all their car and light commercial vehicle business in the UK.

The new L200's styling is quite radical and while the interior space has been improved the load bed length is now shorter. Last year the L200's strongest competitor — the new Nissan Navara — was launched. This is bigger and far more powerful than the models it replaced. Toyota has also launched their new Hilux pick-up range — again with more power and more load space — and even the double cab versions have more interior space and more load bed length. Later this year, Ford will intro-duce their new Ranger pick-ups. These, too, will have more power and more interior space plus increased loading and towing capacity.

Seemingly out of step with the competition as far as interior space versus improved exterior load carrying capabilities, Mitsubishi has chosen to ride on the back of their Dakar Rally successes and gone for sporty new looks for all the versions. In fairness, Mitsubishi know their market. The 4Work and 4Life models are in the range to meet the needs of customers who want a practical business tool. The 'high value' models (Warrior, Animal and Elegance) are forecast to take an estimated 80 per cent of all L200 sales, and will doubtless appeal to buyers attracted by the lifestyle looks and the SUV comparable drive-ability and performance offered by the new range.

The new L200's dramatic exterior styling is derived from Mitsubishi's Dakar Rally winning Pajero Evolution model. This sporty look will appeal to younger buyers and, perhaps, to the business owner-operator and even company car users. The high level of specification and the driveability is excellent and will not disappoint these buyers either.

However, I've already had some feedback from owners of the previous generation L200 double cabs who are not smitten with the new styling and the slightly shorter load bed length. As many of these people use the 4x4 function of the vehicle, they are also none too pleased that the rear differential lock is no longer fitted. Towing a trailer or caravan off-road, or even a boat or jet ski on a beach or up a wet slipway, needs the facility of a differential lock.

Many L200 pick ups have been sold or leased to utility companies and other services such as the Airports Authority or Fire and Rescue Services, and they need a double cab pick-up with all the load space possible. And I'm not too sure that they will be convinced by the new sports styling. In double cab form, it has become a bit of a compromise vehicle.

On the plus side a new Euro IV 2.5-litre, 134bhp, DI-D common-rail diesel engine gives 17.5 per cent more bhp, 30 per cent more torque and a 26 per cent improvement in fuel economy over the previous models. If you need more, a 160bhp power upgrade is available for all models and Mitsubishi says it will be fitted as standard on the Animal versions. Additionally, an automatic transmission option is also avail-able for 'high series' versions.

Part of the new specification is a 'best in class' turning circle for all versions and improved legroom for double cabs. The workhorse attributes of the L200 remain, with a towing capacity of 2.7 tonnes and a payload for all derivatives of over one tonne.

My test model was the L200 2.5 DI-D Warrior Double Cab with a five-speed manual transmission and full leather trim. The 136bhp produced by this new engine is less than the Navara and the soon-to-be-launched Ford Ranger, although far more than the new Toyota Hilux. The Animal is clearly aimed at the lifestyle and business sector and is equipped accordingly, with air conditioning, alarm, front airbags, central door locking, electrically operated windows and door mirrors, stereo radio and CD player, alloy wheels and a rear bumper style chrome bar with a built-in step.

The test vehicle had an optional sliding shutter top fitted to the load area. But while this restricted the load bed loading capacity somewhat, but it did provide a secure area for valuable items of luggage or cargo. However, if the rear tailgate is fully lowered it rests heavily on the rear bumper bar so I can see a few tailgate dents occurring. The cheap rear fog guard light is also fixed below the bumper bar and so positioned to be knocked off whilst driving off-road or to be filled with water when seriously off-roading or using a slipway. This lack of attention to detail will no doubt be the cause of some irritation for owners.

But there's much to admire. The leathered interior is exceptionally smart and better than that found in most medium-priced 4x4s and SUVs. The instrumentation and controls are comprehensive, although the use of a light blue as the background colour for the gauges makes the white lettering and numbers difficult to read. The extra legroom
for rear seat passengers is a big improvement but not, some will argue, worth losing load bed length for.

Driveability and performance have also improved over the previous L200s. The suspension is compliant and although the rear system still uses leaf springs, ride comfort is good. Handling is reasonable but the rear end still needs to be watched in wet weather conditions. Anti-lock braking is standard across the range and the lifestyle models like the Animal have a Super Select four-wheel drive system with M-ASTIC.
No, it's not mastic sealant — as it sounds! — but Mitsubishi's Active Stability and Traction Control system.

One of the most noticeable improvements over the old L200s is the turning circle. Previously the L200 was hopeless at making tight turns But now it's up to the standard of most modern SUVs and commend-ably better than all other pick-ups.

The new 134bhp direct injection turbocharged diesel engine is another big step forward. It's responsive (courtesy of 231lb ft of torque avail-able from 2,000rpm), feels strong both off and on road and has a top speed of 103mph with 0-62mph acceleration managed in 14.6 seconds. The fuel economy — never the previous L200's strongest point — is also improved. My test car averaged 29.5mpg over all kinds of driving and that's close enough to the 32.8mpg quoted by Mitsubishi.

Mitsubishi say ownership costs for the L200 have also been improved. Service intervals have risen from 9,000 to 12,500 miles per year, and a comprehensive 3-year/100,000-mile mechanical with a 12-year anti-corrosion warranty plus 3-year pan-European breakdown cover is provided.

Having driven lots of pick-ups of all types for many years — both driving on road, and off and as a tax-saving company car — I can honestly say that there are real advantages for saying 'yes' to using
a double cab. It's fair to say that customers will either love or hate
the styling. The L200's overall quality is very good, and the extra interior space most welcome. But where it matters for a pick-up is the rear load area — and that's not as spacious as that offered by the
new Hilux, Navara and the forthcoming Ford Ranger. All of these have improved rear seating space but not at the expense of load area length. Size might just matter for the L200.

However, if you don't need every last inch then — apart from the trifling matter of the bumper styling bar marking the tailgate and the vulnerable rear foglight guard — the tighter turning circle, extra rear legroom, better equipment levels, quality interior, more powerful engine, better driving dynamics and reduced servicing intervals could mean the L200 is just the thing for you to step up into. — David Miles

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Mitsubishi L200 2.5 DI-D Warrior Double Cab | 17,999
Maximum speed: 103mph | 0-62mph: 14.6 seconds
Test MPG: 29.5mpg | Power:134bhp | Torque: 231lb ft
Visit Mitsubishi's website Click to go there now

-------------------------------------------------------- Mitsubishi L200 Warrior