L200 is leader of the pick-up pack

BEFORE the L200 came along, pick-ups in the UK were simply functional workhorses that you happily put away when clocking off. But this all changed in the 1980s when Mitsubishi – makers of the Shogun – showed that trendy light trucks weren’t just the preserve of the American market.

And despite increasingly stiff competition, the L200 remains almost the perfect pick-up for professionals who need a dual role vehicle for work, rest and play.

The role of a pick-up changed dramatically at the turn of the last century thanks to a welcome tax break. Double or four-seater “king” cabs became hugely popular as a result, and Mitsubishi still dominates the pick-up market, with the L200 accounting for a quarter of the market share.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Mitsubishi sold 6,264 double cab L200s against only 324 single cabs in 2011. The club cab, which is essentially an extended single cab with two small rear seats, is even less popular (293 sales). This means that even if you don’t want, or need, a double cab, it’s prudent to opt for this model as the other versions may be exceedingly hard to resell for sensible money.

The L200 certainly looks the business, being stylish yet not overdone (although there are factory options which can achieve this…), and it’s well made both inside and out.

The term “car-like” is becoming a cliché with light commercials yet it really describes the classy cab environment and overall comfort and lightness of the controls. Trims are Trojan 4Work, 4Life, Warrior and Barbarian, in that order, with tailored options to suit a variety of trades. All L200s are four-wheel drive, Mitsubishi having stopped the 2WD model back in 2006.

There are two types of all-wheel drive: Easy Select and Super Select, the latter fitted to the more upmarket versions such as the Warrior, which has the advantage of automatically adjusting the front/rear engine torque split to suit conditions as well as traction control. On all models, AWD can be selected on the move, although in normal use 2WD (rear wheel drive) is recommended.

Apart from a firm, bouncy ride and notable coarseness in the rear, understandable given the L200’s 1,050kg payload capacity, operators will have few qualms about using the Mitsubishi outside of work. It cruises nicely and quietly enough, and the 2.5-litre diesel (with two engine tunes of 134bhp and 175bhp and up to 2,95lb/ft of torque) has more than enough grit and power.

It also works well in unison with the five-speed automatic option that’s available on the top models. This is responsive and smooth, but there’s a price to pay for an easier life because, apart from costing on average £1,400 extra, it hikes up the emissions to just under 250g/km, adding almost £200 to the annual VED charge.

With the double cab models hogging the majority of sales, Mitsubishi sensibly introduced a special long bed option recently – its extra 180mm length means the larger cab doesn’t steal cargo space, which is only class average against newer rivals anyway.

And that’s the rub. Despite the L200 being almost the default choice for many operators, a fair number of newer rivals now do the job as well as, and in some cases better than, the Mitsubishi can.

But they all lack the L200’s name, charisma and reliability record. A service plan is optional at £675 which covers the first three services. Mitsubishi has also recently launched a new Used Approved scheme if you can’t afford the £16,049 (ex VAT) it costs to buy brand new. Second-hand models start from less than £9,000 for a 2006 model, proving that the L200 holds its value well, making that buying decision as easy on the heart as it is in the head.

CAR: Mitsubishi L200 2.5Di DC 4Work

PRICE: £16,049

WARRANTY: 3 yrs/100,000 miles

LOAD LENGTH: 1325mm

LOAD WIDTH (MAX): 1470mm

PAYLOAD: 1,050kg

ECONOMY: 34 mpg

CO2: 218 g/km