They’re too big for that space outside Tesco, they inflict posh-car costs on your pocket, and they look as subtle as the bricks theyíre designed to carry ñ yet it seems we canít get enough of the ever-growing double cab. According to statistics from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, British sales of pick-ups soared 17.6 per cent in 2016, so we thought it about time to welcome an ambassador for the most popular brand to our long-term fleet.
Mitsubishi updated the L200 in 2015 and has just retuned the engine to obey the latest Euro-6 emissions regulations (making it 75 per cent less NOx-ious), so this range-topping Barbarian option, complete with paddleshift selectors for its automatic gearing, represents the new summit of the modelís development. Over the next six months weíll be seeking to find out if the fashion for such models is a fad, and just how deserving this beast is of top-dog status.
But first, letís clear up what might seem trivial, yet cuts to the heart of this model: why on earth is the highest-spec option called a ìBarbarianî? The Japanese maker adopted the label back in 2006 and it denotes the top choice. Obviously the subliminal message is ìbuy me, Iím big and beautifulî but, as we all know, the ancient Mycenaeans coined the word to mean ìunruly, uneducated bruteî. Barbarian might be a posh word for yob, or even chav, but it begs questions I was quick to ask of our newcomer.
Letís check the paperwork first. It certainly doesnít suggest barbarity. In fact, think less workhorse for a schlep to Screwfix, and more mobile luxury suite with rear balcony, possibly from which you might spend the weekend watching the wee ones at the gymkhana, or surfboarding. Speaking of young ones, donít let them see this machine if youíre visiting the dealers. They will not let you leave without it, thanks to the fairground running boards, playzone rear loadbay and, best of all, blue LED downlighters in the cabin floors. Along with the welcoming light-up ìBarbarianî logos on the kickplates, this model is a real attraction for kids.
Of course, what your kids should be asking is whether it behaves like a credible car or a Massey Fergusson. Maybe they wonít notice the drive though, because itís incredibly good. Initial thoughts have me lining up an orderly line of boxes to tick: ride quality, lack of noise and vibration, smooth gear stepping from the automatic gearbox, sensitivity to steering input at speed, negotiation of corners without impersonating a wardrobe falling down a staircaseÖ the first month finds me in a very tick-happy world of motoring. I also sense a tangible feeling of improvement in terms of manoeuvrability: the latest model doesnít have a tighter turning circle than before, but Mitsubishiís ramped up the gearing to cut elbow work. Given the rear-view cameraís added help, itís shockingly easy to shunt around, despite the barge-like silhouette.
Several brands will be jostling in the L200ís rear mirror this year with new offerings, but the quality hike to version five suggests no need for panic. The formula for sales strength must surely lie in the accountancy argument: benefit-in-kind, VAT and capital allowance benefits still make opting for a double cab, in so many cases, a no-brainer. But that same brain can be somewhat shaken by the crude reality of running a commercial vehicle. Hence all the upgrades we see here, from the memory foam under your bottom to the soft-touch plastics, and the dual-zone climate control to the fingertip selection of four-wheel-drive modes, all conspiring to convince you this car is far more of a tuxedo than a high-vis jacket. Can this L200 deliver the goods for quality family motoring? So far, itís an argument I see no reason to reject.
Cool blue LED downlighters in the cabin floor. Pointless, really, but a nice touch.
The rear load area liner has no drain holes, so it could turn into a mobile pond.