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Long-term test review: Mitsubishi L200

Final report: we’re going to miss our workhorse Mitsubishi L200 pick-up truck, because it has been so versatile

Overall Auto Express Rating

5.0 out of 5

The hugely capable L200 is going to be missed. The ride could be better, but when it comes to long trips involving load-lugging or towing, then the Mitsubishi excels.

Mileage: 3,795Economy: 25.4mpg

The reports we run on the models on our fleet often feature cars hauling stuff to the dump or helping members of the team move home. But our Mitsubishi L200 pick-up must be the first to double as a store room.

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The arrival of hundreds of samples for our annual car care testing coincided with me painting my workshop floor. With storage fast running out, the pick-up spent a week or so with dozens of waxes and cleaners stowed in the bed.

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Its spell as mobile storage typified its time with us: it was the perfect match for my work and weekends spent rallying and at race circuits around the UK. It has taken it all in its stride. An added bonus of the time with a loaded bed was a more comfortable drive, because the extra weight calms the otherwise fidgety ride.

I’ve used many tow cars in 30-odd years of motorsport, but the L200 is easily the best. Long-distance trips are relaxing even in high winds and on twisting roads, and the torquey 2.4-litre diesel and smooth auto box play a big role in that easy towing. The rear-view camera makes that a breeze as you can line the tow ball directly under the trailer hitch.

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While I prefer the looks of the tonneau on this truck, I think the hardtop on our previous L200 has the edge. The former allows easier access to the rear of the bed, but you do lose some space there to the roller shutter mechanism. I also found the height restriction meant you had to pack larger items more carefully.

The sliding shutter isn’t part of the central locking system, so you need the key to operate the lock. Plus, towards the end of our time the shutter got harder to lock as a result of a loose catch on the tailgate. One addition that I would go for again is the bed mat, which did a great job in stopping items sliding around.

But there have been a few niggles. The infotainment was new for 2017, but lacks Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and the USB socket needs a power upgrade because it charges slowly.

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Plus, while the auto-locking doors were good for security, passengers found the system irritating because it has to be unlocked before using the door pull.

Car parks need a little more planning when finding a spot for the wide and long L200, but the front and rear parking sensors we specified helped. Yet some way of turning off the front ones would be good, because they can be set off when in traffic and stay on until you move off. The super-sensitive lane departure warning system that needs disabling every time the engine is started is another feature I could have done without.

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Our fuel consumption in the L200 was compromised by towing a trailer, so our 25.4mpg figure could be pessimistic for many buyers. When we weren’t towing we topped 27mpg; not great, but the L200 is a working vehicle and with more careful driving and less towing I’m sure we’d be able to improve that figure.

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I’ll miss the Mitsubishi more than many of the other cars I’ve run on our fleet, because it transformed my work and weekend driving. I’ve even started looking at second-hand prices…

Mitsubishi L200: fourth report

We’ve swapped our top-spec Mitsubishi L200 for a more modest model. So how does the Warrior shape up against the Barbarian?

Mileage: 1,017Economy: 22.3mpg

Mitsubishi’s L200 pick-up has been a hard-working addition to our fleet – but with us doing so many miles in the truck, we had a few ideas for improving the specification of our example.

So we organised a swap and took the opportunity to change the trim level and extras based on my experience so far. Duxford Motor Group sales executive Paul Dray then handed us the keys to our new motor.

• Best pick-up trucks on sale right now

I’ve gone for the eye-catching metallic Electric Blue and dropped a trim level to Warrior, which does away with much of the external chrome on the top-spec Barbarian we had before; a subtle but pleasing change.

I also prefer the new-for-2017 sidesteps which drop the chrome for a muted silver finish. Inside it is much the same, although there is a slightly different design to the range-topping Barbarian. Plus there’s a revised in-car entertainment system and steering wheel in this 2017 version.

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The built-in USB still doesn’t provide enough power to keep my iPhone 6 Plus charged when streaming and using a sat-nav app, but it is sufficient for less strenuous use. The ability to pick up incoming calls via Bluetooth has been restored, though. Previously I could only make outgoing calls through the head unit.

I’ve also gone for front parking sensors to help when manoeuvring, and seven-pin electrics on the tow bar to suit my trailer.

The biggest changes have been in the back, where I’ve opted for a retractable tonneau cover and a mat for the bed liner in a bid to stop shopping and other smaller loose items from sliding forward. So far it is working and is much easier on the knees if I have to get into the bed to retrieve things.

I’m beginning to think there’s no ideal cover for a pick-up, because the hard-top and the tonneau both have limitations. The tonneau makes it easier to use the full depth of the bed and is quite a bit cheaper. Not so good is the need to use the key to open the cover, because it is not part of the central locking system, like the hard-top’s tailgate is.

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Plus, there’s no light in the bed, so it’s not ideal for use at night. You also need to take a little more care with how you pack the bed to keep the load under the tonneau. We’re also not convinced the cover would put up much resistance if someone unsavoury decided the bed is full of tools they want.

We have gone for the locking tailgate this time, but the drop in trim level means we’ve lost the damper that takes the weight when opening it. Like many things, you don’t truly miss it until it is gone; or in our case, if you’ve got in the way of a falling tailgate.

I may be only a thousand or so miles into my time with the new L200, but it has been earning its keep as a tow car, because I recently bought a Lotus Elise for track days.

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Not surprisingly the lightweight Lotus barely troubled the L200, which continues to impress with the ease with which it tows. The Elise’s arrival meant a couple of other cars had to go, and the L200 was pressed into service transporting parts and wheels. That lengthy trip towing and a tight new engine did the fuel consumption no favours, as in this model I’m managing 22.3mpg. Hopefully the winter break and no towing will see that improve.

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So far, so good then; we’re really looking forward to seeing how the Warrior shapes up over the next three or four months.

Mitsubishi L200: third report

A spell in a courtesy car reveals we made right spec choices on our Mitsubishi L200 long-termer

Mileage: 7,326Economy: 25.9mpg

It’s not often you get the opportunity to properly check that you specified the right options when you ordered your new car, but I have with my Mitsubishi L200.

I briefly ran a manual L200 with a roller shutter tonneau cover as a courtesy vehicle while helpful local dealer Duxford Motors, near Cambridge, took the truck on our fleet in for repairs and replacement parts. (It turned out the lump of metal I reported running over a few months ago had caused damage to the driver’s sidestep and chassis mounts.) This gave me a chance to compare. So did we spec our L200 correctly?

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The smooth auto transmission in our pick-up was absolutely the right option. The manual is hard work by comparison and reveals the Mitsubishi’s commercial vehicle roots, although it did allow us to appreciate the impressive torque of the turbodiesel.

The loan car also lacked the soft-open tailgate of our car. The damper makes accessing the load bed so much easier because the tailgate is pretty hefty.

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But the jury is still out on the hardtop-versus-tonneau argument. Although the hardtop allows bigger, bulkier items to be carried, I’m struggling to recall when the contents have topped the bed sides.

Where it isn’t quite as good is when shopping or bags slide to the front up against the bulkhead because you have to crawl over the tailgate to retrieve them.

The rear view is restricted, too. The loan car’s tonneau allows easier access to the front of the pick-up bed, but it is still compromised by the high sides.

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Back in the familiar surroundings of the car on our fleet, it’s easy to see why the L200 won the Best Pick-up crown for the third year running at our recent 2017 New Car Awards. Getting the car in the studio for the big photo shoot needed care. But manoeuvring into place was at least made easier by the car’s decent steering lock, plus the standard reversing camera on this Barbarian model and the big mirrors.

Part of the reason for the L200’s victory was that it also excels as a tow car, and the camera and mirrors have come into their own when I’ve been hitching up to a trailer. There’s never been a journey when I’ve wished I was in something smaller, either.

A minor niggle that has arisen is the low fuel warning. It’s just a small flashing square on the dash and more than once I’ve nearly missed it. An audible alert would be good.

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The infotainment system also has its limitations, because I can’t take hands-free calls on my iPhone 6 – although oddly I can make outgoing ones. The USB socket isn’t up to keeping the phone charged when playing music and using a sat-nav app.

Yet our biggest gripe with the L200 has been fuel economy. Our average figure of 25.9mpg includes several lengthy journeys towing, but a long, mainly motorway trip saw a more encouraging real-world 31mpg.

Mitsubishi L200: second report

Giant Mitsubishi L200 pick-up means big practicality, big style – and big bills

Mileage: 2,450Economy: 25.9mpg

As a large lump of metal and further debris appeared from under the car in front during a recent journey, I knew it wasn’t going to end well. There was a hefty clang as the metal bounced off the underside of the Mitsubishi L200’s chassis, and, sure enough, it was immediately followed by a strong vibration from the rear.

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I pulled over in the nearest lay-by to inspect the damage. The nearside rear puncture was no surprise, but the size of the hole was. There would be no repairing this tyre, due to the massive gash in the sidewall.

This meant a replacement for the Mitsubishi needed to be sourced, and as Auto Express’s resident tyre tester, I thought I’d have no problem finding a Dunlop Grandtrek AT20. After a tougher search than I predicted, my local dealer, Duxford Motor Group near Cambridge, found one ready to fit the next day from a Mitsubishi wholesaler.

But that wasn’t to be the final blow from the blowout. On closer inspection, the wheel rim was also damaged and needed replacing. Even with a discount, the bill came to a hefty £807.24, with the wheel costing just over £600. As Mitsubishi has made the L200 more like an SUV than ever, it seems you also get SUV-sized bills.

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The trip to Duxford was the second I’ve made over the past few weeks, as the hard-top’s fixings needed retightening after just 1,000 miles. The protective strip along the Mitsubishi’s tailgate top was also trimmed and refitted as it had started to lift.

Puncture aside, my time with the L200 has been mostly without drama and the big truck has grown on me as the miles have passed. It does so much so well, not least towing a trailer loaded with my various rally and track cars; this barely seems to trouble the torquey engine or the smooth auto transmission. Whether fully loaded or not, the ride is also acceptable, although the ladder frame construction means it does shudder over bigger potholes.

I’ve got used to finding suitable spaces in car parks for the 5.29-metre-long body, while manoeuvres are made easier by the large mirrors and reversing camera. Slow steering means you have to twirl the wheel a lot, but the L200 has quite a tight turning circle given its size, which you appreciate on such a big four-wheel-drive vehicle.

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I do wish I’d specified the £225 front parking sensors, though, because the long bonnet is tricky to judge. Plus, a £200 locking tailgate would give peace of mind when leaving tools and tyres in the pick-up bed.

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However, the biggest downside I’ve experienced so far has to be fuel economy. A fair bit of towing might account for the mid-20s mpg figure, but even on long journeys and unladen, we rarely see much above an indicated 30mpg.

Mitsubishi L200: first report

We put award-winning Mitsubishi L200 pick-up through its paces as it joins fleet

Mileage: 355Economy: 24.8mpg 

The rise of the pick-up may be helped by the tax breaks for company car users, but when we collected the keys for the latest addition to our fleet, the last thing on our mind was the bottom line.

The Mitsubishi L200 is big, and its sheer size is exaggerated by the optional GST Plus Hardtop (£1,860 fitted). Sales executive Paul Dray at Mitsubishi dealer Duxford Motor Group, near Cambridge, is a pick-up fan – as are most of his colleagues – and was quick to show us its virtues as we took delivery.

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None of the things Paul talked us through was news to us, of course, as the Mitsubishi has been crowned Auto Express’s Best Pick-up for two years in a row. But it was good to hear that this top-spec Barbarian model has Trailer Stability Assist, which uses the ESC to prevent snaking, as towing will be a key part of its time on our fleet. The rear view camera is a big help, too; it means you can easily line up the L200’s tow ball and is a big help when you need to hitch up solo.

The impression of size diminishes once you climb up into the driver’s seat. Plus, the Mitsubishi is loaded with features you’d expect to see on a large SUV. DAB, Bluetooth and sat-nav are all standard, while our car also comes with heated electric seats.

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The comparison with large SUVs goes further, thanks to that GST Plus Hardtop. This not only tested the L200’s versatility, but still took advantage of the pick-up’s tax breaks, because all commercial vehicles attract a flat Benefit in Kind figure of £3,170.

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As the hardtop-covered load bay is separate to the passenger cab, you don’t feel as bad about cramming it with gear, and I’m happy to report that the L200 can swallow loads of kit for testing to help in my role as Auto Express products editor. Yet equally, at weekends, it can store spare wheels when I’m heading to an event with my rally car.

On the move, I’ve been impressed with the ride. I feared it might be a bit harsh due to the suspension set-up required for the Mitsubishi to achieve its tax-focused 1,000kg-plus payload. Yes, potholes can deliver a shudder, but generally, the truck soaks up bumps well and there’s none of the constant choppy bouncing we’ve felt in some rivals.

Maintaining the SUV similarities, we’ve also gone for the auto box. It’s only a five-speed, but it’s smooth and can be shifted manually with the steering paddles, which helps when towing. In practice, it rarely gets caught out and works well with the relatively refined 178bhp 2.4-litre turbodiesel.

My initial impressions of the L200 are positive, as you’d expect from an award winner. But I still have a few niggles. The optional load-bed liner is very slippery, so shopping ends up against the bulkhead. Retrieving it involves sitting on the tailgate and lying full-length to grab your bags.

The biggest irritation, though, is more tech related. The lane departure warning is overly sensitive and gives frequent alerts, particularly when driving along winding country roads. So firing up the truck has become a two-step process – hit the starter, then reach down to turn off the lane departure warning switch. Still, these are just minor gripes on what’s already shaping up to be one of the most popular models on our fleet.

*Insurance quote (below) provided by AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old living in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.

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