Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian - get a life

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I’ll be honest, the L200 wouldn’t be my first choice of commuter car. Bimbling into central Edinburgh every day in a bright red, chrome-embellished pick-up does make one feel a bit conspicuous. And while the raised ride height makes for great visibility over the nose-to-tail traffic the truck’s size makes squeezing through said traffic a bit tricky.

No, the Barbarian is far more at home in the countryside. While I don’t think I’ve seen a single other one during my daily slog around Edinburgh, the rural spot I call home is positively crawling with them.

Many are low-spec models used as pick-ups always have been, as tough workhorses doing heavy farmyard tasks day in and day out. But there are also those that, like our top-of-the-range long-termer, are packed with kit and turn up hauling high-end mountain bikes to the nearby trails. Such sights add credence to manufacturer’s claims that the latest generation of pick-up trucks can be a do-it-all vehicle for families with an active lifestyle.

I’ll confess that my grand plans to put the Barbarian through some rigorous “lifestyle” type use didn’t quite go according to plan. With two young kids and a full-time job I’ve barely got a life, let alone a lifestyle. Nonetheless, I did manage a couple of forays into the great green wilderness with my mountain bike slung in the back.

And, like everything else I’ve asked of it so far, it coped admirably. The bike slotted nicely into the load bed and was never going to trouble the Barbarian’s hefty payload capacity so it was off into the hills we went. The leaf-sprung rear suspension, despite Mitsubishi’s claims of an SUV-like ride, means it bounced and wobbled around on the forestry roads to the trails but it managed far better than any of the lowered VW vans which many mountain bikers favour. Had the weather been worse I’m sure it would also have gone many places those other vehicles couldn’t reach – handy for the truly intrepid cyclist.

We do have some more heavy-duty testing of the L200’s abilities planned but for now it’s mostly been confined to more runs to the tip, nursery, Tesco and work. As such, I’m still seeing an average economy in the mid-30s, which given the truck’s size and weight, isn’t too bad.

Last month I promised to expand on a few niggles with the L200. Prime among these is the media system. While the sat nav element works well – easy to programme, accurate and quick– the actual audio part doesn’t. I could spend the rest of this article listing the ways in which it winds me up but I’ll simply state that it’s the worst such system I’ve tested. When you can find out which Gracenotes database your iPod uses more easily than you can locate a podcast there is something very wrong.

I’m also having trouble with the seats. The side bolsters have been thickened over the Series 4 but this means they’re now just too narrow, leaving me feeing like I’m being pushed forward rather than sinking back into the seat. If it can’t accommodate me then I’m not sure how it’ll cope with the hairy-bummed builders the more basic versions are aimed at.

These two problems aside, there’s a lot to praise about the Barbarian’s cab. Mitsubishi say it’s like being in a high-end passenger car. High-end is pushing it but it’s definitely car-like. The heated leather seats have been a God-send during recent cold weather, the fit and finish is excellent and the switchgear and equipment are just as you’d expect in a regular saloon or hatchback. Features such as cruise control, lane departure warning and auto lights and wipers also add to the car-like ambience.

The refinement is also very car-like. Once the engine has warmed up it’s as quiet as many diesel cars I’ve driven recently and the 178bhp and 317lb/ft of torque mean it makes progress like one as well. It’s only on poor surfaces or when travelling at higher speeds that the L200’s commercial vehicle nature starts to show through. That old-fashioned suspension means it bashes and crashes around on rough roads and it can’t corner like a car or even a large SUV. Even still, treat it sensibly and it’s well-mannered enough to use every day, maybe just not in Edinburgh city centre.

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