Reflecting on my school days, a few rather grating individuals stick in my mind, irritatingly successful at seemingly everything, from mind-boggling science and algebra and the subtleties of history, to wielding a lump of willow and kicking a pig’s bladder around in an enviably masterly manner. Still, some such bigheads conducted themselves more modestly than others, unable to help being genuinely excellent at everything, and hence feature in my memory more endearingly. Mitsubishi’s L200 pickup truck is of this ilk, the Series 4 version outselling all the other increasingly ubiquitous pickup trucks here in Blighty, and the firm’s all-new Series 5 L200 touted as the class leader in SUV-esque refinement, dynamics and handling, 4WD ability and carrying capacity. The list doesn’t stop there, the Series 5 also purportedly at the forefront in manoeuvrability, CO2 emissions, fuel efficiency and performance. Blimey.

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Nowadays, pickup trucks are no longer perfunctory, utilitarian vehicles, primarily the preserve of construction site managers, utilities engineers and farmers. Whilst very much remaining vehicles immensely suitable for lugging around cables and piping, toolboxes, generators and infirm members of the animal kingdom, they, along with school run SUVs, are now unarguably en vogue, indefatigably desired by suburban families, Ray Mears wannabees and scores of others. After all, many perceive these imposing, rugged vehicles as decidedly stylish and can’t get enough of the elevated driving position they offer, along with limitlessly practical cargo beds great for transporting everything from chest freezers to mountain bikes and jet skis, trips to the local council tip, and carting young ladies and gents’ worldly possessions to their university digs. Hands up, I’m one of those people who get goosebumps from pickup trucks.

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The pickup scene is brimming with models to choose from, most folk initially citing Toyota’s seemingly indestructible Hilux and Nissan’s ubiquitous Navara, before perhaps recalling Ford’s somewhat blingy Ranger, Isuzu’s slightly bland D-Max, the bargain that is the Great Wall Steed from China, Volkswagen’s gargantuan and coveted Amarok and, naturally, Mitsubishi’s aforementioned and rather legendary L200, which has dominated UK pickup sales over the years. Despite a plethora of choice, they are still designed as working vehicles first and foremost, practicality requirements ruling out any attempts at novel, flamboyant styling.

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With tasteful curves, muscular and dynamic lines, plentiful splashes of chrome and contemporary LED daytime running lights, the new Series 5 L200 Warrior has visually evolved in an attractive way. I’ve always perceived the L200’s iconic, curved ‘J’ line separation between the cabin and cargo bed as a touch awkward-looking, preferring a perpendicular line. It’s there for a reason, though, maximising cabin space and contributing towards an efficient turning circle, and has actually been accentuated as part of the Series 5’s styling. Chrome isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but the reworked headlights, enlarged grille and wraparound rear light clusters look smart on the whole and in my book, the all-new L200 certainly holds more road presence than the D-Max, Steed and Hilux, and its styling is less American and ‘high rise’ than the Ranger. I still feel that the latest NP300 Navara and particularly the Amarok have a slightly more desirable image overall, but Mitsubishi has done a splendid job and in Amazon Green Metallic, one of the more discrete colours available, the L200 looks the part whether it’s parked on a building site, in an office car park, on a beach or outside a country pub.

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Upmarket intentions are clearly apparent on the inside of the all-new Series 5 L200 Warrior, too, Mitsubishi successfully balancing tough, durable materials and controls easy to use if wearing gloves, with an elevated perception of comfort and sophistication, hopeful that the pickup will appeal to would-be SUV buyers. The heated leather front seats in the new L200 Warrior are very comfortable, the sat nav system functions pleasantly logically, the audio system is surprisingly pleasing to the ear, and it comes with a host of mod cons from DAB and keyless entry/start, to dual zone air con’. The privacy glass adds a layer of security if storing tools in the back and the reversing camera is most welcome, considering the vehicle’s hefty proportions.

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The steering wheel can be adjusted for both rake and reach, extra effort shows in the form of nicely damped components such as the glovebox, the piano black trim adds an aura of sophistication, and Mitsubishi has clearly made concerted strides at practicality, integrating handy, additional storage areas, hooks, hidden compartments and sensibly-sized bottle holders. It would be safer and ergonomically more logical if the trip computer could be accessed via the steering wheel as opposed to a little stalk nestled by the odometer, though. Roomier than in the Series 4, the cabin is light, airy and unarguably quieter and more relaxing, thanks to enhanced soundproofing, and although rear bench passengers still feel somewhat perched as opposed to seated snugly, it’s a vast improvement, making it a decent interior for long journeys by families and workmates alike.

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The all-new L200 is the only pickup truck in the world that has an all-aluminium engine with variable valve timing at its heart. The common-rail, 2.4-litre diesel unit is twenty percent more economical than the previous 2.5-litre effort and is also less polluting. Gruff when fired up, it settles down nicely once it gets into the swing of things and on fast-flowing B and A-roads along with motorways, refinement is comparatively high for a pickup and the Series 5 proves relaxing to pilot.

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After nearly 250 miles of driving my assigned manual transmission example over the course of a week, half in urban areas and twenty-five percent on motorways and off the beaten track respectively, I averaged 38mpg, coming tantalisingly close to the 42.8mpg (unladen) figure that Mitsubishi is so proud of, showing that the lightweight, efficient engine and leaner chassis work as intended. Apparently the Navara averages in the low 30s, highlighting the fuel savings availed by the latest Mitsi. The gearbox is pleasantly free of any major notches and really doesn’t feel agricultural at all, plus it’s forgiving rather than punitive, adding to the driving enjoyment.

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Belying its sizeable proportions at over 5.2m long and roughly 1.75m wide and tall, the new L200 is surprisingly well behaved when taking corners at moderate speeds, at least by pickup standards, with relatively little roll. The reversing camera, large wing mirrors and sensibly proportioned and positioned pillars make it comparatively easy to manoeuvre, and it’s refreshingly handy having lane departure warning fitted, especially on stretches of motorway with particularly narrow lanes. It’s just a shame the fairly hushed, refined ride and pleasantly affable handling go to pot somewhat, when deep potholes, drain covers and motorway expansion joints are encountered, heralding in a noticeable shudder. No doubt having several bags of top soil, cement, heavy machinery, a Newfoundland dog or a cow on the cargo bed would calm proceedings down for those taking to the road in a Series 5 L200 in solitude. Despite the interior, handling and refinement not desperately troubling bona fide SUVs in the cold light of day, they are all vastly improved and certainly ensure it stays one of the class leaders.

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Mitsubishi’s Super Select 4WD system unarguably lights a flame of confidence inside anyone piloting a new L200, with selectable 2WD, 4WD, high and low settings and a locking centre differential at one’s fingertips. Operated using a straightforward dial, 2WD and 4WD can be switched as desired, at speeds of upto 62mph, and the latest L200 is also fitted with Active Stability Control, Hill Start Assist, Traction Control, Anti-lock Braking, Trailer Stability Assist, seven airbags and a generally robust chassis, heightening the feeling of invincibility even further. It performs well on seriously rugged terrain, taking steep, loose inclines, axle-twisting ridges, rocks and mud in its stride. Without any weight in the back, it shakes a fair bit when reversing up loose or rocky slopes, but otherwise, everything it’s put through is dealt with capably, low range and diff’ lock playing a tangible role, once again reinforcing the L200’s revered 4WD ability.

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As capable a workhorse as ever, the Series 5 L200’s cargo bed has grown and now measures 1,470mm x 1,470mm x 475mm. Its combined towing and carrying capacity is now in excess of 4 tonnes, 205mm ground clearance bolsters its reassuring character further and its turning circle is class-leading. Those carrying more diminutive loads on the cargo bed have their lives made easier by the way the bed floor is grooved and can be partitioned in a variety of ways, and although drainage holes are absent, various covers are available, and it’s positioned at a sensible height for smooth load-in.

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Business drivers plumping for a new Series 5 Mitsubishi L200 will be comforted by its best in class CO2 emissions, Warrior guise emitting 173g/km, and pricing seems extremely reasonable at £23,049. The new Mitsubishi L200 has a heck of a lot going for it, for both wannabe adventurers and genuine business users alike. Solidly built and successfully blending rugged simplicity with added helpings of luxury and refined manners, it’s a great vehicle for families and even individuals, with a more respected and discrete image than some of its rivals. Like the more discrete omnipotents at my school, it’s an endearing vehicle. Now it’s gone, I greatly miss it, which is as good a compliment as any.

© Author: Oliver Hammond, published motoring journalist, blogger & freelance writer

Photography: Isabel Carter

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