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February 25, 2010

Review: 2010 Mitsubishi Strada GLS Sport

Let’s face it: it’s hard to fall in love with a pick-up truck, let alone imagine using one every single day. It’s designed to be first and foremost a workhorse—it’s the thing utility companies use to install your cable television or fix your broken internet connection. You didn’t care how it looked or how it went over ruts; what’s important is that it can haul your stuff. Well, not anymore. The arrival of the luxury pick-up trucks in the late 1990’s; particularly the gigantic American ones transformed the lowly pick-up into a status symbol. And now, the Japanese brands are in on the act.

One by one, they’ve retired their old fleet of invisible but dependable workhorses and introduced models which are just as attention grabbing as a tricked out compact sedans. What’s more, they’re actually more attuned to our roads, especially in the provinces; where the beefed up suspension and increased ride height actually help it against moon crater-sized potholes and unpaved roads.  Mitsubishi Motors Philippines was one of the last to upgrade their pick-up, but it certainly arrived in style. In 2006, it introduced the all-new Strada—a pick-up that had it all: good locks, powerful engine and a robust chassis. Buyers and critics alike loved it and it instantly became the country’s best-selling pick-up truck. Now, Mitsubishi recently refreshed their Strada, and that’s the subject of this test drive.

Being a mere mid-cycle facelift, Mitsubishi Motors Philippines stuck to cosmetic changes for the Strada. Some may argue that a facelift isn’t needed given that the original Strada was a handsome beast altogether, why settle on their laurels? Why not go the distance? For 2010, the Strada gets tidied up even further and in the process looks twice as good as it was before.

Upfront, the infamous triangular Boulay grille is no more; replaced by a horizontally slatted grille with chrome inserts. The front bumper’s been modified to differentiate it further from the Montero Sport SUV by gaining pseudo-front ducts that house the fog lamps. Over at the back, the Strada’s rear reflectors have been reshaped to better integrate with the rear fenders while gaining a set of rear fog lamps. And in each wheel well, the GLS Sport is now equipped with standard 245/65 R 17 tires with fancy Y-spoked alloy wheels.

All in all, there’s absolutely no criticism you can throw about the Strada’s good looks. It hits all the right notes: it’s sporty, it’s macho, it’s downright modern—it sets a very high bar for pick-up truck design and one of the major reasons why it still can’t be beat.

Thankfully, the Strada isn’t just about good looks. Mitsubishi seems to understand that buyers nowadays are just as picky about the details as they are with the overall looks. And what’s good about the Strada is that it delivers on this front as well with the use of quality materials combined with peerless build quality wrapped in a stylish cockpit design.

Stepping inside the Strada doesn’t feel like going inside a pick-up truck at all. It feels more like an upscale sedan with its use of sweeping and nicely integrated shapes all throughout. Though hard plastics are the order of the day, they feel sturdy and at least Mitsubishi was decent enough to texture them. The placement of aluminum accents gives a sporty flair as well. In addition, there are almost no exposed screw heads—they’ve all been hidden, giving the Strada a refined look and feel. For 2010, Mitsubishi dropped the two-tone blue-gray cabin in favor of something much more classic (and upscale): classic black-gray. The seats have also been given a new stitch pattern and the pixel-starved center display (it shows fuel economy, range, a barometer and compass) has been replaced by one that looks better integrated. The instrumentation now lights up in red numerals and even the audio system’s been spruced up: it now features a USB port for your Apple iPod as well steering wheel mounted controls.

Everything’s well and good with the Strada except its overly sensitive car alarm system. Though factory installed, it’s made by a third-party developer: Code Alarm. This Audiovox designed system is irritating most of the time and blares off at just about anything. Of course, it can be reprogrammed, but according to some Strada owners, some functions can only be programmed through an inconvenient trip to the dealer. Word of advice to buyers: have the dealer first program the alarm to your liking before driving your Strada home or else suffer the (sleepless) consequences.

Like other pick-ups, the Strada doesn’t have height adjustment on its driver’s seat, but it doesn’t deter from the otherwise car-like driving feel. Despite the expansive cabin, all the controls fall properly into place. The steering wheel is nicely sized and the shifter’s tall stick makes it fall easily into your right hand. Even minor controls like the central display buttons are easily fiddled with only a slight reach. Perhaps the only thing you can complain about is the audio system’s poor placement. Not only does it fall smack where the shifter moves about, the microscopic buttons make it difficult to operate especially when on the move. The steering wheel controls sort of makes up for it, but passengers who like to operate the stereo will surely complain about it.

Ergonomics aside, the available passenger space of the Strada is actually very surprising. The comfortable front seats are already a given, but what’s incredible is how the rear accommodations are actually generous. For starters, the rear bench doesn’t have the same awkward 90-degree pitch seen on other pick-ups. On the Strada, they’re in a much more comfortable angle. Next, Mitsubishi cleverly sacrificed some of the pick-up bed’s length to give more knee space for those at the back. And to cap it all off, the outboard rear passengers get their own headrests. All in all, three adults will fit comfortably, and you can even squeeze in four (if one of them is sexy enough). Bottom line: if you ever have a family and still want a pick-up—for the sake of protecting your kids’ lumbar, opt for the Strada.

While the Strada does give a car-like first impression, don’t get it wrong: it is 100 percent pick-up. From stem to stern, the Strada’s built like a tank with a sturdy body shell and a robust chassis that’s typical of a workhorse: Independent Double Wishbones upfront and Semi-Elliptic Leaf Springs at the back. Still, you have to give the Mitsubishi folks some credit for carefully tuning the Strada’s ride for utmost on-road comfort and stability. Purists will cry foul about the Strada’s compromised suspension tuning, but since 99 percent of users will use the Strada on pavement 99 percent of the time, it’s a worthwhile decision.

There’s still some of that pick-up jiggle on slightly uneven surfaces like broken pavement, but the Strada easily rides better than any of its rivals. Even if this is a pick-up, your passengers won’t get carsick half the time. What’s more, when it comes to larger craters, it can easily absorb the worse of them. Despite the softer suspension tuning, the Strada manages to exhibit excellent road manners. Granted it’s no sports car as there’s hesitation in cornering or changing lanes (it’s a pick-up truck after all), it feels stable and planted even a higher speeds. The steering is vague and uncommunicative, but it steers the Strada where it’s supposed to go. The overall stability of the Strada is so good that it even passed the Scandinavian elk or moose avoidance test—something the Toyota Hilux failed miserably.

Pushing the Strada like a sports car will happen a lot of time because of its excellent 3.2-liter 4-cylinder diesel engine. Again, diesels don’t exactly connote the image of sporty driving, but the available 158 horsepower and 343 Nm of torque will certainly change your mind. Managing to drive the 2.5-liter engine in the GLS before, the 700-cc difference in the GLS Sport is immediately apparent the moment you step on the accelerator. Whereas the 2.5-liter engine requires the turbo to spool first, the 3.2-liter unit uses its sheer displacement even before its turbo even kicks in. This makes for surprisingly nimble acceleration. The accompanying 5-speed manual is easy to operate as well. Though somewhat notchy in feel, it engages positively through each gear. An interesting note is that the first-gear isn’t as low ratio as other pick-up trucks. This means that the Strada may have sacrificed pulling or towing power for a more comfortable driving experience. This also helps in fuel economy where the Strada returned 9.6 km/L.

The good looks and formidable dynamics aside, the real deal breaker for most Filipino buyers is value for money, and the Mitsubishi Strada also delivers on that end as it undercuts its entire competition: Ford Ranger – P 1,363,000; Isuzu D-MAX – P 1,335,000; Mazda BT-50 – P 1,329,000; Nissan Frontier Navara – P 1,394,000; Toyota Hilux – P 1,408,000); and yet, it has all of the features found in all of its competitors and then some! The Strada GLS Sport already comes with dual airbags, anti-lock brakes, a leather steering wheel, steering wheel mounted control and a multi-information trip computer. And to top it all off, it also has 17-inch alloys, front and rear fog lamps, a tire pressure monitoring system and a power retracting rear glass.

So who says you can’t have cake and eat it too? The Mitsubishi Strada manages to fulfill the basic requirements as a pick-up truck: it’s formidable and robust with highly capable chassis and a powerful engine. And yet, it has given the buyer much, much more: it’s comfortable and roomy with a car-like interior. It’s well-built and nicely finished. And it’s fully loaded and costs cheaper than any of its rivals. Mitsubishi certainly played its cards right with the Strada and now, it’s the undisputed king of the pick-up scene. And it’s crown looks unchallenged for some time to come.

1 comment:

  1. Saan po ba makikita ang usb port at saksakan ng sd card sa strada 2013?


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