When the revised excise tax structure came into effect, the costs of vehicles that were previously priced between PhP 1 to 2 million went up by quite a bit. But the law did have some notable excise exemptions which includes hybrids with a 50% discount on excise. Meanwhile, electric vehicles have a 100% discount on excise.
Of course hybrids and EVs are still rarities on our streets, but such is not the case for pick-up trucks. Like EVs, these light commercial vehicles are now fully exempt from excise taxes, which is why they became so attractively priced when the tax reform came in to effect. Everything else in the same price range went up, while pick-ups either stayed at the same price or even went down.
On that front, this version of the Mitsubishi Strada definitely has a unique edge. It's not the top of the line model; that would be the GT 4WD version which we drove a few months ago. The one we're driving is the GLS 4x2 with the automatic gearbox, and after spending a few days with it, we think this one is the best all around choice in the Strada line up.
This generation of Strada (AKA: Triton) has been around since 2015, though we were able to drive it as early as 2014 on a closed track outside of Tokyo. The first version of this generation Strada didn't really strike us as interesting in terms of looks; we found it to be a bit soft in terms of design overall. The new and updated model which we first drove in late 2018 is definitely more to our liking.
The body and architecture itself is still largely the same, but Mitsubishi's designers did quite a bit of work to spice up the look which we appreciate. The Dynamic Shield front end was inspired by the one that first debuted on the Montero Sport in 2016, but has been sharpened up for the updated Strada. It really does work on a truck like this; it looks like the truck went to the gym and toned out its muscles a bit with those definte edges and crisp lines, conveying a sense of strength.
The front is more profound, and is flanked by large foglamps and slim headlights. Some would think that the headlights were the ones that sit lower on the bumper (like what Mitsubishi did with the Xpander) but no; the headlights are still high up beside the chrome grille. The reason is that if you're crossing a river or a flood, the headlights won't be submerged quite so easily.
Other than the front end and the revisions to the sheetmetal for the fenders, everything else is fairly minor. The design of the wheels are new and so are the taillights; these appear to be inspired by the ones on the Montero Sport. Again, this is a mid-cycle update for the Strada, not a new generation model.
The bed itself is largely unchanged, and has a payload capacity of about 1,000 kilograms. The bedliner was already fitted to this model; that used to be an option for these mid-range models. There are better options out there when it comes to outright payload capacity, but this Strada strikes me as a truck that won't really put to full use in a commercial manner. It's more of a lifestyle truck really, but it can get the job done if need be. Thankfully, unlike the GT, this GLS version doesn't come with those non-structural vanity rollbars; that's just a waste, in my opinion.
The interior is what gives away that fact because it's hard to spot the differences. That's not to say that we're disappointed by the interior; far from it, in fact. The Strada has one of our favorite interiors in the pick-up class with its modernity and overall functionality. The steering is nice to hold, and it's tilt and telescopic so finding a comfortable position isn't difficult. The metal paddleshifters are still the best in the class, or even beyond it. The fabric is nice to the touch and doesn't get hot the way leather or leatherette would, the switches are of good quality as before, and the gauges are nice and bright.
There are some minor updates here and there, but I'd be overstretching this review if I wrote about each one (i.e. the pockets for smartphones front and back). What's glaringly obvious is the absence of the nicer features we tried out in the top-spec GT variant. This being a rear wheel drive model, gone is the 4WD system and the control knob; in its place is a recessed pocket that's too small for anything, really. The advanced safety features (beyond the stability control and ABS) are not fitted on this one like Forward Collision Mitigation, Blind Spot Warning, and the Ultrasonic Misacceleration Mitigation System which we can all agree is a silly name for a feature that's there to prevent SUA... if there are those who believe it exists.
But a personal pet peeve of mine was glaringly present in the Strada GLS: it's a panel on the center stack. full of blanks for the features that were never fitted. There are actually more of those blanks on the panel below the driver's A/C vent. Personally, these things are just wasted bits of space that, quite frankly, serve as a reminder that you're not driving the best model out there. Mitsubishi could have just put in a pocket or some kind of cubby hole big enough to put a wallet in, that way the space is actually useful.
Those sentiments aside, driving the Strada around is easy, even as a daily commuter in the city. Visibility is very good from the driver's vantage point, though this could do with one of those auxiliary convex mirrors on the passenger side so you can see a bit better. For a 5-meter long truck, the Strada can easily negotiate urban roads; this has one of the best turning radius ratings in its class, so 90 degree turns aren't as difficult as you would think. And if you do miscalculate the curb, don't worry about it too much as there's 220mm of minimum clearance anyway; just hope that your wheels don't get that signature curb rash if you do.
The familiar 2.4-liter 4N15 turbodiesel does have very respectable power for its size, and peak torque comes in at 2500 rpm. It's not as early as some of the other turbodiesels in the pick-up class, but the new 6-speed automatic gearbox (2015-2018 Strada automatic models had a 5-speed) does make up for it. You can feel the difference the most if you're cruising on the highway or gunning the throttle every chance you get. The most important upgrade is in the fuel economy; this 4x2 model gets 9.2 km/l in the city (18 km/h average) and easily achieves 124. km/l on the highway (90 km/h average) with a full cabin but no cargo.
What would be more significant to mention is the improvement in ride. That may sound strange since this isn't a new generation model, yet somehow Mitsubishi improved the ride for this upgrade. They did it by reworking the rear suspension, the most significant of which are the rear dampers. They're larger in diameter; in engineering terms, that means they can hold more oil. That reduced the bounciness of the rear if unloaded with cargo; the notorious aspect of pick-up trucks.
We've driven the Strada 4x2 on the highway before and on winding roads, and yes it really is surprising how this truck can manage its weight around the bends. Only really tight hairpins and a fast sequence of corners can make it a handful to drive (i.e. the road leading to San Vicente in Palawan), but I'd still say its better than most other similar models on those kinds of roads. They also upgraded the brakes with bigger discs and larger calipers for better braking performance, which is probably why it feels more capable to drive around a mountain road.
This Strada is priced at PhP 1.3 million, but Mitsubishi does have a history of offering really good deals for their models. So if you walk into a showroom looking for one, we won't be surprised if you get a really good discount on one.
The Mitsubishi Strada GLS 2WD isn't perfect. There are quite a few improvements we like, particularly with the design, but there are a lot of things they could have done to make it better or truly class leading. Mitsubishi doesn't want to claim a water wading depth that's more than 600mm; we suspect the real capability is higher, but they don't want to push it. The payload capacity isn't the best in the class. The power and torque figures aren't the highest either. Those blanks on the dashboard are really annoying, and the touchscreen audio unit isn't great either.
Yet for some reason, I really liked this Strada GLS more than most in its direct competitors. While class leading digits are great, I still like how Mitsubishi just goes and builds vehicles that nail down the fundamentals as a reliable everyday vehicle.
At the end of the day, that's really what we all want in the pick-up class: something we can truly rely on.