Previously, the Strada’s always been driven on the streets of Manila through an extensive review (link here), but this time, it’s tackling the roads of Palawan through this 300-kilometer ride and drive activity.
Palawan is considered by many as the last ecological frontier in the Philippines. Home to many unspoiled natural wonders, over the past few years it has gained significance as one of the country’s fastest growing provinces as well. The same could be said about pickup trucks: what was once a simple workhorse is now accepted by many as a bona fide status symbol; a weekday family vehicle that turns into a weekend adventure machine. Such is the market that faces the 2019 Strada, and it’s a role that it fulfills quite well.
Refreshed for duty this year, the Strada’s been significantly changed, especially outside. Subjectively, it’s the most futuristic looking pickup truck in the market today. Though the styling may be considered as a bit over-the-top, it does lend some gravitas to Mitsubishi’s new familial design language. The Dynamic Shield, with its slit-like headlights and angular bumper create a strong impression, further enhanced by the reworked fenders, taillights, and rear bumpers.
Inside, the changes aren’t as dramatic or obvious, but the little things, when added up make for worthwhile improvements. For starters, there are more padded sections, strategically placed where elbows or knees may come in contact with the dashboard—center console lid, door trims, edges of the transmission tunnel. Then, the steering wheel, shift knob, and handbrake are new as well. The steering wheel, nicked from the Montero Sport is far more luxurious with a thick rim and large, easy-to-understand controls.
Once before, Mitsubishi emphasized that the current-generation Strada’s designed to ferry rear occupants in far greater comfort than a standard pickup truck. The 2019 model ups the experience even more with additions that make any trip, short or long, much more comfortable. For one, there are the B-pillar grab handles that make for easy ingress. Second, there are the seats themselves which not only offer a comfortable pitch, but also offer the best hip support in its class. Finally, there’s also the subject of charging ports and a clever air re-circulator that cools the cabin faster than any other pickup truck in the market.
The newly-paved roads from Puerto Princesa to San Vicente would normally be better taken in a soft-riding SUV than in a pickup truck, but the Strada obliges with surprisingly good on-road manners. Off the line, the 2.4-liter MIVEC diesel engine doesn’t feel as punchy as some of the bigger-engined competitors, but as it gets going, it’s got a pretty strong shove. What’s more, the 6-speed automatic is responsive, downshifting quickly to keep the engine singing at its sweet spot; even so, the steering wheel column-mounted paddle shifters keep the driver always in control. Through the twisty coastal roads of eastern Palawan, going 140-160 km/h is fairly easy for this two-ton machine.
More than just its newfound straight-line grunt, the Strada also impresses with its road manners. The hydraulic power steering feels heftier at low speeds, but weighs nicely as the speeds come up. Even more impressive is how it feels through corners. Compared to other pickup trucks, it feels more obedient with better amounts of grip even the unladen cargo bed. The larger rear dampers and more leaves also do well to improve the overall ride quality, though corrugated surfaces still tend to make it through the cabin.
Drawing from 40 years of pickup truck heritage and expertise, the Strada easily exceeds anyone’s expectations. The latest model goes beyond the usual qualities of durability, reliability, and capability. While it’s managed to retain qualities sought-after by the typical pickup buyer, Mitsubishi has also stepped up with a convincing choice in the 2019 Strada. By blending capability with comfort, reliability with refinement, and durability with style it’s proven that pickup trucks can also be used for long road trips.