Tuesday, 15 November 2011

COLUMN - November 2011

This was my column from the November edition of The Local Herald. It was mostly dedicated to the review of the Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian I had borrowed in October...


Now last month I wrote about America, and their view of how a vehicle should be. What I didn’t even scratch the surface of however was the most popular form of vehicle in the states. The pick-up truck. They sell by the millions; the Americans love them.

It is important to realise that the size of a pick-up truck in America is that of a small cottage. These things are huge. Again powered by extremely large engines they do ridiculously few miles per gallon, and require a small field to be parked on.

This concept of pick-up trucks never really caught on in the UK. However, in more recent years we too seem to have become a sucker for a good old pick-up. There have been increasing numbers of them appearing on the road. The main reason for this is the VAT saving. This means that anyone who is VAT registered can claim the VAT back on one of these pick-ups, which is a significant chunk of a discounted price.

In reality though, just how practical are they? Can they be compared to normal cars, and are they a viable choice when looking for a new vehicle? Well I wanted to find out, and so I borrowed a Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian for a week.

When it arrived, the first shock is at the sheer size of this machine. At over 5.2metres long and 1.8metres wide, the double cab with a new long-wheel-base is gargantuan. It will overhang normal parking spaces; a trait which resulted in me parking on the roof of a notably small multi-storey car park so as to not obstruct anybody.

Get behind the wheel however, and the Barbarian’s size is easy to judge and you don’t feel like you’re behind the wheel of a house; more a tall car. The cabin is generously equipped with leather seats, a touch-screen navigation/media system, cruise control and lots of storage in the armrest, glove box and even a sunglasses holder.

Where the cabin is let down is the dashboard and door card trims. In contrast to the leather this trim feels cheap and isn’t as visually impressive. This is only a small complaint though, as the cabin is quiet and comfortable making it a nice place to be on long journeys.

There is seemingly endless space in the bed, and it dealt with a heap of mountain bikes and gear effortlessly. If you were thinking of buying an L200, or any similar pick-up, I would suggest looking at the rear boxes as these make the bed more secure and the space more useable.

To drive the Barbarian was pleasantly surprising. You will achieve around 30mpg, which isn’t too bad for a 2 tonne lump. On normal roads the ride is comfortable, and the 175PS diesel engine provides ample power and torque for the 5-speed automatic gearbox to put down on the road with notably smooth changes. On twisty, bumpy A-roads however, the ride can be ‘wallowy’ and the seats won’t give you much horizontal support if you are a small chap.

Overall, the Barbarian has plenty of space and makes a great long-distance commuter. Prices for the Barbarian start at £23,824 (non-VAT) which means that unless you are VAT registered you will pay £28,588. This is quite a lot, and I can’t help but feel there are better ways to spend it. I did like the ease with which the L200 deals with long journeys and large loads, and how easy it is to drive considering its size. For a full review, score breakdown and photos see my blog.

Score: 35/50

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