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Mitsubishi’s popular and practical L200 pick-up has now reached its fifth generation. Its predecessor, the Series 4, was launched in 2006 and is claimed to have outsold all of its rivals, including the fabled Toyota Hilux.

Consequently, it's understandable that the company hasn't decided to try and reinvent the wheel for this, the latest version. It's easily recognised as an L200, despite there being a total of some 330 changes. But it needs to be good as, unlike ever before, the L200 is facing stiff competition from the new kids on the block in the shape of the Ford Ranger, Toyota Hilux and Nissan Navara, while the Volkswagen Amarok got a much needed refresh. 

On top of that Renault and Fiat have now joined the pickup party, and Mercedes-Benz is set firmly on the high-end with its X-Class.

What's changed for the fifth-gen L22?

As for the L200, you'll find refreshed styling outside, while the cabin boasts improved sound insulation, more equipment and better seats. Underneath, the L200's chassis has been stiffened with new bracing and the use of more high-strength steels, while longer rear leaf springs and retuned front suspension work to improve the handling and ride.

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There are significant changes under the bonnet, too. Mitsubishi foresees a future where emissions-based taxation comes into effect for pick-ups, so the company has worked hard to ensure the new all-aluminium 2.4-litre turbodiesel in the L200 is as clean as possible.

Features include variable valve timing and a variable-geometry turbocharger, and the net result is 173g/km of CO2 in this specification; the next-best rival, the Nissan Navara, emits a far higher 183g/km of CO2.

Consumption has also dropped to an impressive average of 42.8mpg - 4.1mpg better than the Isuzu D-Max - while power and torque has climbed slightly compared to the engine found in the Series 4.

How does the L200 perform on the road?

To drive, the L200 is as entertaining as all pick-ups are, at least initially. A hefty slug of low-down torque, the light back axle leading to easy wheelspin in rear-drive mode, and the high-riding, mud-pluggin’ feel are all present and correct.

What’ll come as very good news to anyone looking to actually drive it somewhere, however, is that the Mitsubishi’s talents extend far beyond it simply being a bit of rough, rugged short-lived fun.

Head out onto the road and what you’ll immediately notice is a comparative absence of body roll. This is a far more composed affair than before, and all the better for it.

The steering has a suitable heft and precision, making it easy to plot and hold your desired course, and the rack is quick enough to prevent you from having to wildly flail away at the wheel every time you want to execute a sharp turn. Like commandeering a rogue oil tanker this is not.

There’s a decent amount of front-end grip, too, so cross-country driving with a bit of pace isn’t the fear-inducing, hedge-flattening experience you might expect.

Neatly wrapping up the Mitsubishi’s on-road manners are sensibly configured controls, including a long-travel clutch pedal with a predictable biting point, an easily moderated accelerator and smooth, powerful brakes, all making the L200 simple to drive, particularly in rougher conditions.

In two-wheel drive mode, in wet conditions, it’s predictably easy to light up the rear tyres – there’s a lot of low-end torque, after all – but switching to four-wheel drive negates that issue at the twist of a dial. The 'Super Select 4WD' system features a Torsen centre differential which, in road-going mode, splits the power 40/60 front to rear.

The rear-biased power distribution helps quell some understeer, further helping the Mitsubishi drive in a more positive fashion. If it’s dry we’d suggest sticking it in two-wheel drive mode, though, as besides being more efficient, it also feels a little smoother.

What is stereotypically pick-up-like is the ride. With a solid chassis, a live rear axle and leaf springs, plus a suspension set-up that’s designed to deal with a hefty payload, it’s bouncy to say the least. Drive down a rough country road and it can feel akin to a pogo-stick.

On smoother roads and at lower speeds it’s perfectly tolerable, though, and you have to temper the unladen complaints with the fact that this is a working vehicle at heart and it is set up as such.

If you’ve driven any relatively recent diesel hatchback recently, then the L200’s gruff engine may come as a surprise. It's more audible nature is no doubt a side effect of its all-aluminium construction. That said, the noise does settle down in steady-state cruising conditions.

The turbocharged 2.4-litre diesel produces its peak of 178bhp at 3500rpm, and it’s at this point that you’re advised to change up as power fades away quickly thereafter. That said, the engine propels the L200 down the road with conviction, and while the motor might sound like it's got little in the way of an effective rev range, it pulls eagerly – even in taller gears – from as little as 800rpm.

This pulling power, in conjunction with sensibly spread gear ratios, helps cut down on excessive gear changes. The six-speed manual has quite long throws but the gate is snappy and precise and mis-shifts rare as a result.

Settle into sixth on the motorway and you’ll find the engine turns a placid 1800rpm at 70mph, too, boosting economy and cutting noise. During our test the L200 returned a decent 30.1mpg, granting it a range of just under 500 miles on a full tank. Mitsubishi's claimed 42.8mpg would result in a range of some 700 miles.

We tested an L200 fitted with off-road tyres in some pretty arduous conditions and it dealt with everything thrown at it with aplomb, as you’d hope. An anti-stall feature means it’ll ascend steep slopes without any throttle input from the driver, while decent engine braking and a short first gear means the lack of an electronic hill descent control isn’t a problem. The 4WD system offers up a locked centre differential mode, which is ideal for rougher terrain, as well as a low-range mode for heavy-duty conditions.

Where the L200 does better than its rivals off-road, however, is with regards to its turning circle. It’ll swing around in 5.9m, compared to a Hilux’s 6.2m, and that gives the little extra bit of clearance you need to tip-toe around obstacles. Visibility is good, too, and it’s easy to judge where the corners of the Mitsubishi are, in part thanks to large door mirrors.

Inside the L200's cabin

The cab is a pretty conventional affair. The seats are comfortable, there’s a decent enough range of adjustment – including rise and reach for the steering column – and plenty of room. The instruments are all clear, the switchgear easy to identify and there’s plenty of storage points.

There’s room enough in the back for six-footers, and space for three adults abreast, while grab handles and a central armrest mean there’s enough for passengers to brace themselves with should the going get rough. You can tip the rear bench forwards, too, exposing a storage area. It’s ideal for keeping valuables or tools out of sight. 

Kit levels are excellent, with three trims to choose from for those looking for a workhorse and leisure vehicle. The entry-level Titan models come equipped with dual-zone climate control, lane departure warning, keyless entry, 17in alloy wheels and DAB radio, while upgrading to the Warrior gets you a leather interior, sat nav, reversing camera and xenon headlights.

The range-topping Barbarian L200s get a premium leather interior, LED interior lights, a sportier bodykit, chrome detailings and a soft-opening tailgate.

More pertinently, those looking to use the L200 as a working vehicle should find the L200 more than capable of meeting their demands. The load bay will take a Euro pallet and withstand up to 1040kg, while the grooved cargo bed make it easier to unload or partition. This L200’s combined towing and load weight is a substantial 4.090 tonnes, a figure higher than the likes of the Volkswagen Amarok, Isuzu D-Max, Nissan Navara and Toyota Hilux.

Business and private buyers alike will benefit from a five-year/62,500-mile warranty, a 12-year anti-corrosion perforation warranty and a three-year pan-European roadside and home start assistance package. Service intervals are every 12,500 miles or 12 months, whichever is sooner, which should prove tolerable for most.

If you’re looking for a pick-up to use as a working vehicle then the L200 is a great candidate. It’s good value, practical, easy to drive, comparatively comfortable and better than its rivals in many areas. It's also a considerable improvement over its predecessor. Touches such as its long cruising range and tight turning circle only further the appeal.

Private buyers entertaining the idea of owning a pick-up instead of a more conventional SUV will need to remember, however, that this is still very much a rugged, functional working vehicle - in both design as well as nature.

Sure, you can chuck your bike in the back, go careering around off-road and have a riot while doing so, but when you return to the blacktop, the lively ride, unremarkable interior and more mechanical, audible powertrain could leave you wishing you’d gone for something like an Outlander instead.

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