Rugged and workmanlike, can this dual cab also be a family car?
The dual cab ute has become the vehicle of choice for families who need one vehicle that can be used as a work horse and the main family car. It is also very popular among those looking for a recreational vehicle or something suitable for towing large caravans or boats.
For the last 12 months Australia’s two top selling vehicles have been dual cab utes so we wanted to see just how suitable these versatile vehicles were when it came to the needs of young families.
We have spent the past couple of weeks living with Australia’s third best-selling dual cab, Mitsubishi’s top grade Triton Exceed. While it has a 945kg payload rating and 3100kg tow capacity, it is smaller than most of its main rivals.
It is also a lot cheaper – something we are sure has helped attract around 14 per cent of dual cab buyers in the country.
Strap ’em in
The design of the dual cab ute, with the rear seatback hard up against the back of the cabin, means there will be some degree of compromise when it comes to fitting baby seats.
The Triton has two top tether anchor points, on the outer seats, and two sets of ISOFIX fittings. To access the anchor points for the top tether you need to tilt the back of the seat forward and reach behind.
When fitting a single seat this is not overly difficult to do, it’s certainly not as easy as it is in a sedan or wagon and the degree of difficulty increases if you need to fit a second seat (this is because the seat back is not split so you need to tilt the entire thing forward).
I also found I had to climb into the car to be able to reach the anchor point. While the top strap on the rear facing seat does reach the anchor point I would consider adding an extension to make life a little easier, especially if you need to remove it regularly – and let’s face it, not many people are going to buy this style of vehicle and be able to leave the baby seat in the car permanently.
Front-seat space was a bit tight with a rear facing baby seat set up in the back. The front passenger seat needed to be moved a long way forward so when I sat in the front passenger seat my knees were hard up against the glove box. I have tested small SUVs with more space.
At 180cm tall, driving with a rear facing baby seat set up behind would not be possible.
The top-of-the-range Exceed is reasonably well equipped and well put together but it has a more rugged, workmanlike feel than luxurious. The leather upholstery, which is easy to keep clean, does provide a level of sophistication and comfort.
The front seats are comfortable and provide reasonable support. They also are heated which was a nice feature. There is also a reasonable amount of storage in the front and a couple of USB ports and a HDMI port for any electronics.
It is a very different story in the back with no USB or 12 volt power points and only minimal storage. There aren’t any air conditioning vents either.
Rear seat access is good, as you would expect, despite the rear doors being smaller than the front doors and the high ground clearance means not many people will need to lean down to get the bub in or out of the seat.
On the road, there is no mistaking there is a diesel engine under the bonnet and the large side mirrors create noticeable wind noise, especially at highway speeds.
This is one area you are not going to have any problems. It is designed to carry a tonne of equipment so fitting in a pram, or two or three, along with anything else your heart desires is not going to be an issue.
Where the challenge comes when using this style of vehicle as a family car, especially for young families, is preventing everything from sliding around during the journey. The test car came without a tub liner or any type of cover.
You will definitely need both to help protect things like the pram, which cost about double what I paid for my first car. You may also need to secure the pram to stop it moving around and ensure it is easily accessible when you need it.
If you don’t you just know it will always be in the most difficult corner to reach leaving you with the unwanted extra task of unclipping a large portion of the tonneau cover or climbing up and crawling under the hard top.
The premium grade Exceed comes standard with a multi-connectivity six-speaker audio system with a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The screen provides a nice clear picture and is easy to use. It also means that satellite navigation is available through smartphone-mirroring.
It is the same audio system that was in the Eclipse Cross SUV we have previously tested. It also has keyless entry and start, something that all vehicles will have eventually, and features like automatic headlights and windscreen wipers.
ANCAP Safety Rating: 5 Stars
The Triton was crash tested by ANCAP in 2015 and received a solid five-star rating with an overall score of 36.22 out of 37.
The area it lost points was in the frontal offset crash where it scored 15.22 out of 16. It was given 100 per cent in all other tests.
It comes standard with electronic brake distribution as well as dual front and curtain airbags and a driver knee airbag. The top-of-the range Exceed also has a reversing camera.
What the Triton does not offer is any driver assist technology like autonomous emergency braking, blind spot assist or lane keeping technology.
The Exceed is powered by Mitsubishi’s dependable 2.4-litre MIVEC turbo diesel engine that produces 133kW and maximum torque of 430 Newton metres.
While it is on the small side, when compared to its main competitors, it pushes the Exceed along nicely with good acceleration and good mid-range response when needed.
It is only available with a five-speed automatic transmission. While most other manufacturers have shifted to six-speed transmissions the five-speed works well with this engine.
It is also equipped with Mitsubishi’s Super Select II 4×4 system featuring a centre differential that provides full lock-up for high or low range off-road driving.
When unlocked there is the option of full-time 4×4 for road use, providing extra security in wet, slippery conditions (its default setting is 2WD with power going to the rear wheels).
It also is a fuel-efficient combination with the Exceed’s official fuel consumption an economic 7.6L/100km. Used exclusively in an urban environment we used 9.2L/100km.
The steering has a light but responsive feel making driving in the city environment easy, even if you needed one extra manoeuvre to get in and out of some of the smaller suburban shopping centre carparks. The ride was comfortable, though it does tend to “bounce” over speed bumps.
The wife’s take
I have to start by saying this is not my kind of car and not something I would usually consider for a family vehicle. It looks and sounds like a truck. Even with my partially flu-deafened ears, the fact that it was a diesel engine was very obvious.
Not surprisingly, the interior also has quite a masculine feel.
I also am a bit obsessive about good rear visibility and this was a problem for me in this car. If I was driving it all the time I would have to remove the rear headrests because they obstructed my vision. I also found the aluminium sports bar on the back tray distracting.
I kept thinking there was a car on my left side and with no blind spot technology I seemed to be forever re-checking my mirrors looking for a “phantom” car impeding my personal space.
The driving experience was a pleasant surprise, I liked being up high, the acceleration was better than I expected and the ride was quite comfortable. Sitting in the driver’s seat the interior also felt spacious.
“It looks and sounds like a truck … the fact that it was a diesel engine was very obvious.”
If you are looking for a vehicle that can fill several roles, the Mitsubishi Triton is certainly worth putting on the shopping list.
It is a well-built, refined vehicle that will match most of its competitors in terms of equipment.
Looking at it as a family vehicle, there are only two issues you need to consider:
- Cabin space is a little on the tight side if you need to fit a rear facing baby seat
- The top tether anchor points are a little difficult to access
It will be hard to match for value and it is also right up the top of the class when it comes to safety.
Ford Ranger XLT
Price: $55,990 RRP
Engine/Transmission: 3.2-litre, five-cylinder turbo diesel (147kW/470Nm) with six-speed automatic transmission.
The interior of the Ford is bigger than the Exceed and, more importantly from a family perspective, it is available with an optional technology pack that includes adaptive cruise control, lane keeping aid and blind spot technology. The other big difference is the price.
Toyota HiLux SR5
Price: $56,440 RRP
Engine/Transmission: 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel (130kW/450Nm) with six-speed automatic transmission.
The biggest asset Toyota possesses is its bullet-proof build and performance and strong re-sale value. It is also the best off-road performer. From a practical point of view it offers the same features as the Triton, except Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and adds satellite navigation.
Nissan Navara ST-X
Price: $54,490 RRP
Engine/Transmission: 2.3-litre four cylinder turbo diesel (140kW/450Nm) with six-speed automatic transmission.
The Navara offers a good range of features but some of them, like leather upholstery with electrically adjustable heated front seats (all standard on the Triton), are options. It does not offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto either. Cabin space is bigger than the Triton and performance is also slightly stronger.
• Price: $48,990 RRP
• Warranty: Five-year 100,000km
• Servicing: 12 month/15,000km, capped price for three years
• Fuel Consumption: 7.6L/100km (official) 9.2L/100km (during test)
• Engine: 2.4-litre Intercooled turbo diesel
• Power: 133kW/430Nm
• Transmission: Five-speed auto
• Visit HBF for a tailored insurance quote
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