Mitsubishi's looking to make up for lost time with a new entrant in the ute market.
With extended-cab utes making up about 13 per cent of the local 4WD ute market, Mitsubishi's been missing out. Japan's been able to supply only single cabs and four-door double cabs.
The extended-cab falls between the two, with a cab able to accommodate a pair of occasional seats in the back, and a wellside cargo tray significantly larger than a crew cab's.
Now, the company has introduced an extended-cab as both a cab-chassis and a wellside. The Club Cab is offered only in a basic GL specification, a muddy paddock apart from the car-like utes that have found favour in the suburbs. The wellside costs $45,990.
Mitsi says upmarket trim is available, but sees the new model's place as mainly with tradesmen and farmers, for which hose-it-down flooring is good.
Squeezing the cab allows a wellside deck that's 1805mm long compared to the double cab's 1505mm. Although 300mm doesn't seem like much, it represents a 20 per cent boost in length and volume and transforms the carrying ability.
Unlike some modern utes, this Triton includes a headboard to protect the rear window and provide a convenient lashing point for such cargo as ladders.
The trouble with the Club Cab is that getting into the rear is not easy.
It means clambering past the front bucket seats that don't slide and tilt far enough. However, despite a pair of occasional seats few people will want to sit there. The seats are upright, thin, and there's little legroom.
The space is more useful as secure storage for equipment you wouldn't want to put on the deck. It's for this reason the cab-plus configuration was first devised - by the Americans, not the Japanese.
So if you're just going to chuck stuff in the back, human-friendly access isn't such a problem. On the other hand, it's still inferior to the door arrangement on the Ford Ranger, Mazda BT-50 and Nissan Navara. These use a small door on each side hinged on its trailing edge to open clamshell-like, once the main door has been opened.
The Club Cab is a willing enough performer, both on and off road. As with the other diesel Tritons, it's powered by the 2.5 litre DID common-rail, motor that produces 133kW and 407Nm of torque. In the ute world, that torque is second only to the 450Nm of Nissan's Navara ST-X. A heavy load makes little dent on performance. And, typically for a ute, a good load improves the ride.
Standard on the Club Cab is an off-roading aid that gives it a big edge. A locking rear differential, activated by a switch on the dashboard, binds the two axles together so that if a wheel on one side loses traction, it doesn't spin helplessly and stop the truck. Drive from the engine always finds its way to the wheel that breaks traction. Lockers are widely used by off-road enthusiasts but most new vehicles with serious off-road ability use electronic rather than mechanical traction aids.
Others with mechanical lockers include the Rubicon version of Jeep's Wrangler and the Toyota Land Cruiser 70 series.
Other 4WD wellsides, in ascending price, with manual gearboxes. They all cost more than the Mitsi's $45,990.
* Mazda BT-50 DX Cab Plus
* Holden Colorado Space Cab LX
* Ford Ranger XL Super Cab
* Toyota Hilux Extra Cab
* Nissan Navara King Cab
* Ford Ranger XLT Super Cab
* Toyota Hilux Extra Cab SR5