The Mitsubishi L200 and Mazda BT50 test

Mitsubishi L200


Let’s be honest, Mitsubishi’s L200 is strikingly unattractive. But like so many ugly people, it’s once you dig under the skin that it begins to grow on you.


Curvy body panels are presumably supposed to have the same effect as the lumps and bumps of a page three lovely, but in






BREAKAGES


  • Over-zealous off-roading with the L200 saw us lose a tail-light and a wide-boy white-van-man took a dislike to the driver’s wing-mirror.
  • Replacement parts cost £82 and £140.
  • We have managed to keep the Mazda fairly damage free so far, but for comparisons’ sake a new mirror will set you back £75. And a tail-lamp, £55.
reality they don’t add anything in the looks department.


The back of the cab is spoiled because the bubble-car lines diagonally dissect the rear window, making visibility so poor that right turns at junctions are a bit like playing Russian roulette. They also chop off the bottom corner leaving no room for decent under-seat stowage.


But enough of the whingeing since the day it was delivered our “4Life Crew cab” has impressed the FW team in almost all areas, particularly when it comes down to power.


Those lovely people at the Mitsubishi press office trusted us enough to offer a power upgrade, taking the 2.5-litre motor to a rip-snorting 165bhp rather than its standard 134bhp.


That is a bit like feeding a cocktail of Lucozade, espresso coffee and high grade amphetamines to a sex-starved Limousin bull that has been locked up in its pen for the past three years.


It pulls and pulls and pulls But where it struggles is getting all that power to the ground, particularly with skinny 16in wheels.






LIKES AND GRIPES
Likes

  • Gutsy engine
  • Off-road handling
  • Locking rear diff
Gripes

  • Lousy visibility
  • Wallowy road-holding
  • Ugly-girl-in-the-corner looks
Putting pedal to the metal results in a high-pitched squeal, smoke and the truck ending up 90° to the desired direction of travel.


So far we have given both trucks a pretty good mix of driving – plenty of high-speed motorway work combined with some seriously heavy towing tasks and tricky off-road action.


On-road handling is not the L200’s forte and it still suffers from textbook 4×4 body-roll. But that weakness on tarmac becomes a strength off-road softish springing makes for comfortable travel over bumpy farm tracks and plenty of grip when required. A “true” locking rear diff helps in that department, too.


The load bay is no black hole, but will comfortably swallow up a couple of dozen bags of feed and our test truck was fitted with an Armadillo roller-shutter lid. It’s a great concept with one fundamental flaw – it locks, but the only means of keeping the tailgate shut are two unconvincing tie-down straps. If you want proper security, then you have to pay your local dealer £125 for a lock.


FW Verdict


Inside the Mitsubishi L200Do we like it? Rip the body shell off and it’s an awesome tool, but those ugly lines really do spoil its appeal.


Would we go for the Crew Cab? No is the simple answer. It’s too much of a compromise, especially as there is no suicide-door on offer.


The BT-50’s cabin has been really well thought out. There are no fewer than five cup-holders and even a slide-out coffee tray. In the back there is plenty of space – two 20-stone builders had no complaints when we took a trip to Bristol.


Mitsubishi L200 4life club cab pick up


Mazda’s soft springing makes the L200 a capable off-roader, but hit the tarmac and it wallows like a hippo in a mud-hole.


Mazda BT-50


Mazda BT-50 TS2 cab shotMazda’s BT-50 has to be one of the best pick-ups we’ve tested. But that’s not to say it’s startlingly brilliant – it just gets on with the job.


The BT-50 is the John Major of the 4×4 world bland and dull to look at, but underneath that grey skin there is an incredibly effective machine working away.


It is a steady, dependable performer, remaining unfazed and stable when facing some of the worst roads this country has to offer.


Take a trip to Surrey and it won’t be long before you find more potholes than downtown Delhi. Add to that an impressive number of adverse-cambers and you have the ultimate test track for a 4×4’s on-road abilities.


Most pick-ups deal with the potholes pretty well thanks to squidgy suspension designed for rough off-road romping. But this is where they let themselves down on the tarmac. Hit a wide-sweeping right-hander at anything more than hedgehog pace and you will know how those fishermen feel when the swell gets up 15 miles off the coast of Scarborough.


Not so the BT-50. It corners like a McLaren F1.


Perhaps that’s pushing it a little, but it really does handle like a road-going runabout. Body-roll is barely perceptible and, thanks to a limited slip-diff in the back axle, when you squeeze the throttle on the way out of the bend there is no squeeling of rubber.


That is partly down to the way its 2.5-litre engine delivers its 143hp. It’s pretty uninspiring in this department.


It’s all there when you are cruising on the motorway and you want that little bit of extra grunt to get past that annoying Nissan Micra.


But that is not where a farm truck needs to perform. The low end of the rev range lacks torque and that is a big no-no for towing.


This is compounded by the fact that first gear is too high. Pulling away with a heavily-laden trailer requires plenty of right foot and a feathering from the left – this has bad implications for clutch life.


But this could soon change. Its identical twin – the Ford Ranger – has just received a power upgrade in the form of a 3-litre lump. It promises more low-end grunt, but whether Mazda also brings it to the UK remains to be seen.


What it really needs is a six-speed box.


FW Verdict


The BT-50 really gives Nissan’s Navara a run for its money at the top of the pick-up league.


With its car-like road handling and well-planned cabin, it’s in the running for the best all-rounder if Mazda can get its act together to make it a decent towing tool.


Mazda BT-50 TS2 double cab Pick Up

The BT-50’s cabin has been really thought out. There are no fewer than five cup-holders and even a slide-out coffe tray. In the back there is plenty of space -two 20 stone builders had no complaints when we took a trip to Bristol.


 








LOAD LUGGERS?


  • Both the BT-50 and the L200 miss out on external tie-down points and ladder-racks (presumably because they spoil the clean lines and add cost). Anything taller or wider than you average picnic hamper consequently does its best to fall over or leaves dents in the roof. Mazda’s rails and rack are not available, while Mitsubishi asks £570 for the set.








LIKES AND GRIPES

Likes



  • Car-like road-handling
  • Well-thought-out cabin
  • Build quality

Gripes



  • High 1st gear – towing handicap
  • Umbrella-handle hand-brake