Since I was a high school kid, I've been a fan of the Mitsubishi L200 Strada.
Yeah, I liked our ever reliable 1994 Toyota Corolla GLi at the time whenever I was dropped off at school, but I always had a thing for that green-ish, two-tone, boxy 1997 Strada that always arrived in our campus almost always at the same time as me. And it had that hood scoop for the 4M40 turbo intercooler diesel.
Over the decades, however, the Strada has gotten softer. The boxy Strada that I liked became more rounded over the years. Sure, it became more capable as technology got better and the ride definitely improved, but I still missed the rather old school tough looks of the Mitsu pick-up I admired as a boy.
Last year, Mitsubishi Motors released a new Strada, and I believe it harkens back to that Strada I liked. Strictly speaking, the pick up you see here isn't an all new model; it's the mid-cycle refresh of the fifth generation of the Strada name, otherwise known as L200 or Triton in other markets.
We can call it a facelift because, after all, the most obvious update is really the face. The first time we drove the fifth gen Strada was on a racing circuit Japan in November 2014. Back then, honestly we weren't big fans of the look; we thought Mitsubishi could have done better, especially in the wake of the relatively short (but influential) stint of Mercedes-Benz designer Olivier Boulay in Mitsu. That was the time when they had those triangular noses for the diamond star on the grill.
Despite being built on effectively the same frame and overall body, the new Strada is definitely more like it. They took the 2014 face off, and put in an entirely new one. We like the impression that the new face gives, particularly with that edgier form of the Dynamic Shield that we've been seeing in the company's bigger models like the Montero Sport (AKA: Pajero Sport), the Eclipse Cross (which we don't get), and the Xpander.
Apart from the big Dynamic Shield that follows the new “Rock Solid” design ethos that Mitsubishi has, the most unusual bit is the arrangement of the lights. In the Xpander, we saw Mitsubishi put the main driving lights (the headlights) on the bumper where the fogs should be, while the lights up top (where the headlights are normally located) are actually LED position lamps or DRLs.
We feel it takes a bit of inspiration from the Juke which is oddly fitting; Nissan does own the biggest stake amongst the shares of Mitsubishi now. But in the Strada, they reversed back into the normal order. We spoke to the designer, Tsunehiro Kunimoto, at length about it last year, and he says that was done for one simple reason: if you have to cross a flood, having the headlights up high will be much better. Logical, then.
The fenders look boxier than before, and the 18-inch wheels on this GT model do complement the new look very well. The rear gets little bit more attention with new taillights and other bits and pieces, but overall, the body and dimensions haven't changed too much since 2014.
The bed is still one of the longest in the class, and comes with a bedliner for good measure. The bed has a payload capacity of just under a metric tonne, which isn't bad, but not really class leading. Of course, for this top-sped GT version that doesn't matter as much, given that the customers won't be hauling heavy loads on a regular basis. What I did find strange was the rollbar; when you opened the tailgate, you'll notice that the “rollbar” is actually not functional in a structural way. The tube is actually cut off on the walls of the edge, and is really more for show than anything else.
Inside, the changes are far more minor, with a few updates just to enhance the overall usability of the truck as a lifestyle vehicle. The seats feel nice, the steering wheel has a nice leather wrap, and they added a new pad on the console for the driver's knee. Mitsubishi also updated the center console to have a tray that fits your smartphone nicely next to a 12-volt socket; there's also another one next to a USB on the center glove box for the rear passengers, which have good legroom. I think they could have done better by putting a wireless charging pad there though to avoid messy wires.
The upgrades are more significant in terms of features. For starters, in this GT, there is a rear air circulator on the ceiling to get some cool air from the front and send it to the back; a nice touch. Mitsubishi added a lot of safety features such as Blind Spot Warning, Lane Change Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Hill Descent Control. There's even that Forward Collision Mitigation system and the oddly named Ultrasonic Misacceleration Mitigation system that addresses fears about SUA. I do like the functionality of the new 2-DIN audio unit which has Bluetooth, USB, and a rear-view camera but I feel the graphics and resolution on this local unit seem a bit dated already.
In 2015, Mitsubishi launched the then all-new Strada with the 4D56. When the newer Euro-4 emissions standards came into effect, they launched the new 4N15 2.4-liter MIVEC turbodiesel into the market, and that's the same engine we get with the 2019 model. They didn't change much with the engine; it still makes 181 PS and 430 Nm of torque as before. What they did do was to swap out the 5-speed auto from the previous model and put in a better 6-speed auto.
Starting up the engine elicits a very mild judder compared to the older 4D56 we've become accustomed to with the Strada. It's smoother, quieter, and definitely has more power than the 4D engines. Acceleration is very smooth for a diesel, as the Strada can easily lunge forward in stoplight to stoplight traffic, if that's the way you like to drive.
On the highway, the Strada stretches its longer legs with the new 6-speed auto. It's quieter at around 100 km/h as the RPMs are kept lower, though I did notice a bit more wind noise than before. Perhaps what we've been impressed with is the fuel economy. In city driving, we were getting 8.8 kilometers per liter (19 km/h average) and on the highway that goes up to 11.5 km/l (88 km/h average). Good figures for a pick-up, though expect that to go down by quite a bit if you're carrying in a lot of cargo.
If you like to go off-road, you'll love it too. Mitsubishi is known for their off-road capabilities, and the Strada is proof of that. This one comes with an enhanced version of their four-wheel drive system. Not only is it capable of shift-on-the-fly (meaning going to four-wheel drive high range from rear-wheel drive without stopping), but it also comes with a set of settings depending on terrain.
A driver can choose from (a) gravel, (b) mud and snow, (c) sand, and (d) rock. Rock mode can only be activated in 4LLc, which is effectively 4WD low range. We drove it on an off-road track and yeah, it really can perform as advertised. And if you like to drive rally-style and kick out a 4WD drift (in a closed course like we did in Pradera) you can. The Strada feels light to toss around for its size.
But mainly, where we've found the 2019 Strada GT to be better is on a daily drive. Mitsubishi enhanced the overall ride by making some upgrades to the rear suspension (among others). These are things many won't see, but the rear dampers are actually bigger in diameter than before. That means they hold more fluid, and can deliver a better ride. Which they do.
In urban roads, it's very maneuverable for something that measures 5.3 meters long; it actually has a nice turning radius for taking on those pesky 90-degree corners. And if you misjudge it and clip the curb with your rear wheel, the 220mm ground clearance should offer plenty of reassurance. As for floods, well, Mitsubishi rates the Strada for 600mm of water; it seems low, but we think they're being conservative as they should be. You'd never want to push the true limit when it comes to wading through water.
Many may think that Mitsubishi would price the Strada GT 4WD very high, but they didn't. Actually, at PhP 1.67 million, the 2019 Strada GT is very good value for what it has to offer. I think they could have done better with some of the bits and pieces here and there (i.e. the rear seat cushions don't fold up like in other trucks) but it's not major in any way... well, apart from that fake rollbar.
Still, the Strada is still a solid and reliable performer, and they put in some fairly good enhancements to deliver what customers need and want in a daily drivable pick-up truck. And it goes far beyond the new and striking look.