Monday, 28 September 2015

REVIEW - Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian

Not to get all nostalgic, but my first ever review was of a black Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian. So when I heard there was a new L200- the series 5- I just had to give it a try. I put my request in with the ever-so-helpful Mitsubishi press team, not knowing what would actually arrive on my driveway was- yes you guessed it- a black Barbarian. It’s almost 4 years ago since that first review, and I want to see how much has changed. I’ve driven several L200’s in between. It’s been the king of pick-ups in the UK, but would that still be the case with the new one? I hit the road to find out…

Looks – 10/10

This new L200 is barely recognisable from its predecessor. Mitsubishi have ditched the curvy styling in favour of more bold, angular lines and this approach has paid dividends. At the front the chrome grille is prominent, and new LED daytime running lights bring a more modern edge to the styling. Some two tone gloss-black/polished 17-inch alloys compliment the black paintwork, whilst the chrome wing mirrors and door handles match the grille. There is now a prominent line down the side towards the back, and this is one of my favourite angles on the L200. At the back there’s a new bumper and tail-lights with chrome surrounds. The centre brake light is also integrated into the tailgate. The whole appearance is much tougher, and also looks less agricultural and more premium, something which I previously said was needed.

If you think the outside is an improvement over the previous model, then you will be even more impressed with the interior. The plush leather seats are now more in keeping with their surroundings, with some nicer-look plastics and a combination of silver and gloss black finishers. The terrible trip computer from the old model is nowhere in sight, and an updated steering wheel looks good with the gear shift paddles either side. The media system is now nicely integrated into the dashboard, and the 4WD selector is an electronic dial as opposed to the additional lever. The new dual-zone climate control system is much easier on the eye than the oversized dials of old, and completes a cabin that feels like a nice car as opposed to a tractor.

Handling/Performance – 9/10

The engine in the new L200 is a new 2.4-litre turbocharged diesel engine, but gets a marginal power increase to 178PS and 430Nm of torque. My test car came with the automatic gearbox, which sadly is still a 5-speed, and is also a bit fiddly to get into gear thanks to a notch-style box. On the plus side it makes excellent use of the torque on offer. The 0-62mph time has been shaved slightly to 11.8 seconds, which is just over a second quicker than the outgoing model. If you go for a manual gearbox this is quicker still, and offers 6 speeds to choose from. Top speed is 109mph and 111mph for the auto and manual respectively. The engine did feel somewhat more refined than the old one; which was a bit rattly as you got towards 3,000rpm.

The handling of the L200 has always been pretty good. Despite the leaf-sprung rear suspension the ‘bounciness’ associated with pickups just isn’t there. And once you get on a country road that matters. The new L200 has even better handling thanks largely to updated steering. The agriculturally-geared steering steering is no more, with 3.8-turns lock to lock (vs. 4.3 in the old model). There’s a little bit of body roll, but thanks to stiffer front springs and greater torsional rigidity it’s significantly less than before, and remarkably minimal for a vehicle this size. More importantly on the motorway the ride is smooth and when you have to go down a country road it won’t shake your teeth out.

Economy – 7/10

Mitsubishi has also focussed efforts to improve the efficiency of the L200. Combined fuel consumption for the automatic I tested is 39.2mpg and CO2 emissions are 189g/km. The L200 still falls within the Light Goods Vehicle (LGV) tax band, and the rate is currently fixed at £225 a year. The manual Barbarian is 42.8mpg and 173g/km which on paper doesn’t sound like much more. But I have a feeling the reality will be different. Doing mostly urban mileage I was achieving more towards the 30mpg mark, and I’m planning to grab a manual at some point as a comparison. With the previous model I found the manual a revelation when it came to fuel economy, so I am keen to do the same here.

Practicality – 10/10

Being the king of pickup trucks in the UK, you will not be disappointed at the practicality on offer. The cargo bed in the new model is 15mm deeper than the previous model, which was already pretty big. For towing the L200 is ideal; with braked towing capacity of 3,100kg. The double cab is spacious, and definitely seems roomier in the back than its predecessor. With the automatic you now gear gearshift paddles, and the whole car has a lot more creature comforts. The range-topping Barbarian gets keyless entry and start, dual-zone air climate control and a digital 4WD selector amongst other things. I criticised the previous model for feeling agricultural and needing an update, and that’s exactly what Mitsubishi has given it.

Fun – 8/10

With the previous L200, the fun factor was impeded by a less-than-luxurious cabin and low-geared steering. The nice leather seats felt like they stuck out in what was a commercial grade cabin. Now though the L200 feels like a well-equipped car. The Barbarian doesn’t feel commercial, and I think that will make it more successful. With keyless entry and an integrated media unit, there’s a better level of tech to keep the L200 fresh. Thanks to improved handling characteristics and the excellent new engine you really do enjoy driving the L200. There’s something good about the high driving position, and catching the striking new bodywork in a shop window feels good. I miss the opening rear window, which I referred to as my “shootin’ hatch” but I’d take the new cabin over the old in a heartbeat.

Concluding Remarks

So that just about concludes my week behind the wheel of the L200 Barbarian. The new model is better than the old in just about every conceivable way. Having been the UK’s best-selling pickup for some time now, I can only see this continuing with the new model. A much-improved ride, more refined engine and a greater specification will no doubt ensure sales growth. Log on to the Mitsubishi website to find out more and compare models, or pop into your local dealer to see the L200 in the flesh and arrange a test drive. The all new Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian; the king of pickups just got better.

Total Score – 44/50

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