You will probably recall that I tested a Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian in the back end of last year. I rather liked it, but was left with one niggle; the automatic gearbox. Whilst it makes for an easy drive, it causes two problems. One: the economy suffers. Two: because it’s still a 5-speed the revs are too high on the motorway. The car you see on this page was still a Barbarian, but it came with a manual gearbox. Would it solve my niggling doubts? Or would I miss the effortless jump-in-and-go driving style the automatic brings? I set about finding out.
Looks – 10/10
This new L200 was always rather curvy, and to me this put it at a disadvantage to the likes of the VW Amarok and Ford Ranger; both of which opt for a tougher, boxier appearance. Happily Mitsubishi also realised this, so the new model gets bolder, angular lines. At the front the chrome grille is prominent, and new LED daytime running lights bring a more modern edge to the styling. The Barbarian gets 17-inch, two-tone alloy wheels. My favourite change on the L200 is the rear line, which stretches from the rear door to the tail-light. At the back there’s a new bumper and tail-lights with chrome surrounds. This test car also came with an adventurer top. This completes the exterior image, and boxing in the rear end gives a tough look.
The interior is also much nicer than the previous model. The plush leather seats (which were always the stand-out feature in the previous model) are now matched with nicer-look plastics and a combination of silver and gloss black finishers. There’s a new steering wheel, and the oldschool trip computer is long gone. The integrated multimedia system sits as a centre-piece to the dashboard, and the drive-selector is now a rotating switch as opposed to an additional gear lever. The new dual-zone climate control system is much easier on the eye than the oversized dials of old, and completes a cabin that feels a lot less agricultural.
Handling/Performance – 9/10
The engine in the L200 is a 2.4-litre turbocharged diesel engine, producing 178PS and 430Nm of torque. This time around I had a 6-speed manual gearbox, which allows you to fully utilise that torquey engine. The 0-62mph of 10.4 seconds is 1.4 seconds quicker than the automatic, although in truth this isn’t a drag racing vehicle. It’s much more appropriate to say that it pulls well in every gear, and on the motorway you can overtake in 6th gear with ease. Top speed is 111mph, and at 70mph the manual keeps the revs lower, which makes for a much better cruiser.
Despite leaf-sprung rear suspension the L200 handles well; the wallowing associated with pickups just doesn’t happen. And once you get on a country road that matters. The new L200 has updated steering too, with 3.8-turns lock to lock (vs. 4.3 in the old model). It doesn’t sound like a lot, but feels a lot better from the driver’s seat, with less frantic turning to make corners at speed. As you would expect with a vehicle of this size and stature there is a little bit of body roll, but thanks to stiffer front springs and greater torsional rigidity it’s significantly less than before. The lack of wallowing over country roads prevents the cabin from being full of vomit, and that’s always a good thing.
Economy – 9/10
The new 2.4-litre engine seeks to improve efficiency whilst delivering the same performance, and it looks to have worked. Combined fuel consumption for the manual I tested is 42.8mpg and CO2 emissions are 173g/km. The L200 still falls within the Light Goods Vehicle (LGV) tax band, and the rate is currently fixed at £225 a year. The real world difference is much greater than on paper too. From the automatic I was getting around the 30mpg mark through town, and admittedly only around 33/34 on a longer run. In the manual I saw 42.1mpg on a motorway run, which means that you should save on your annual fuel bill.
Practicality – 10/10
The L200 is not the best-selling pickup for no reason; it is an immensely practical vehicle. For towing the L200 is ideal; with braked towing capacity of 3,100kg. The double cab is spacious, and thanks to the re-design now feels high-end and welcoming. The range-topping Barbarian gets keyless entry and start, dual-zone air climate control and a digital 4WD selector as standard. I also really likes the optional adventurer top on this test car. It means you can put dogs in the rear bed, and gave our two miniature schnauzers plenty of room. It also locks, which means that local toe rags can’t pinch your shopping at the traffic lights either. Bonus.
Fun – 8/10
Mitsubishi has removed the commercial feel to the cabin, and in doing so have given the L200 a fresh fun factor. And with improved handling characteristics and the excellent new engine you really do enjoy driving it. There’s something good about the high driving position, and catching the striking new bodywork in a shop window feels good. Add on the adventurer top and it means you can load up and head out on a day trip. It brings the whole family together- dogs and all- and that’s where those fun times in life come from. What’s more, you can even put the Barbarian in 4WD and head off road to find the best picnic spots.
So that just about concludes my week behind the wheel of the L200 Barbarian. The new model is better than the old in just about every conceivable way; a much-improved ride, more refined engine and a more luxurious cabin. I also think that the manual gearbox is better than the automatic in every conceivable way. It’s more economical, more civilised at motorway speeds and is more involving for the driver. And priced at £23,799 plus VAT it represents good value for money too! If you want more information, then why not pop into a dealer or visit the Mitsubishi website. The L200 has been the king of pickups for a while, and it doesn’t look like getting off the podium just yet.
Total Score – 46/50