As basic as it gets
The Mitsubishi L200 is marketed primarily as a working truck. As such, it’s admittedly sparse on luxuries. Aside from the lack of power amenities, it also lacks central locking, an alarm, or even a tachometer. At least there’s a generic 1DIN radio on the dashboard that sounds... generic. The seats may be cloth, but they’re supportive enough, though the passenger bench is too upright for long-distance comfort. The driver’s seat, on the other hand, is just as good as in any other Strada variant. It still slides back-and-forth, revealing enough stowage space behind it for a driver’s overnight bag and emergency kit.
The truck maintains the Strada’s basic good looks, made even more basic by the lack of painted bumpers, aerodynamic mirrors ,or alloy wheels. A simple rear leaf-spring u-bolt flip and shorter front coils lower the L200 to within inches of the ground. Thanks to this ground hugging height and the stiff cargo-biased suspension, flipping the truck itself will be the least of your concerns. Puncturing an oil pan or radiator over rocks won’t be much of a worry, either. Unlike its competitors, the L200 comes with a beefy front under-tray, stamped out of thick-gauge steel.
Less is more
Motivation comes via a detuned version of the tried-and-true 2.5L 4D56T, mated to a five-speed manual transmission. I’d say it’s a rip-roaring powerhouse of an engine, but I’d be lying. It’s a typically truck-ish, slow-revving, noisy turbo diesel.
But again, 1,525 kilograms. That’s heavy for a car, but light for a ladder-frame truck. With so little weight, the L200 scoots smartly off the line. Thanks to the lower ride height, it feels comfortable cruising at speeds in... excess... of the highway limit. That big open bed does take a toll on fuel economy at speed, but in daily use, we saw 11.2 to 11.7 km/l, which isn’t bad considering the fact that we weren’t exactly babying it.
This is because the L200 is smashing fun to drive. It has all the chassis rigidity of an open box (which it basically is) that means you’ll have the inner rear tire up in the air more often than an incontinent dog. And yet, driving it briskly down a winding road is pure, unadulterated bliss. The steering is slow, as in all Stradas, but with so little insulation between you and the tires, you can almost feel the road scraping against your feet.
The L200’s 126 hp may not be as impressive as the Strada’s 178 hp, but it’s a sight nippier than other single-cabs and has some nice low-end shove. The transmission is balky yet satisfyingly mechanical, like you’re changing gears with your bare fingers dripping in transmission fluid. The disc-and-drum brakes lack ABS, but the L200 tracks straight and true under braking, even with the tires locked up.
Of course, none of this matters to potential buyers, most of whom will care more about cargo capacity and utility. I’m happy to say Mitsubishi has that covered. The bed is long enough to carry an actual king-sized bed with the tailgate up, and the L200 is rated for a ton of cargo over the rear axle. There’s enough tie-down points for three motorcycles, or, if you’re brave enough, a small car. Not that the tailgate is low enough to ramp a car over, but the possibility is there.
As a family car, it’s hopeless. The cargo-rated suspension is jittery with two on board, though there are four-doors that ride much, much worse. There are only three seats, and the middle passenger has to straddle the gearshift, rodeo-style. There are no cup holders, just tiny door pockets barely big enough for a Coke Sakto. The passenger bench doesn’t slide or recline. The only way you’re fitting the in-laws in the back is if you put pillows in the bed and tie them down. The passengers, I mean, not the pillows.
But for work, and for occasional play, it’s pretty much the best-driving, best-looking single-cab on the market. Truckers fond of the “low-rider” look will be happy to know it looks absolutely fly on 18-inch wheels, no lowering needed. It’s not a “ute”, no... it’s not car-like enough, but I’m not complaining. And at just P750,000, it’s affordable enough to justify mixing work and play with this oddly funky delivery vehicle. Now where did I put those tofu delivery stickers...