The segment MVP
Text and photos by Eric Tipan
Stradas have always been good-looking, that’s kind of been their calling card. So it’s hard not to get awestruck by this pickup truck, but that facelift of the fifth generation in 2019 did wonders for this already handsome vehicle.
The Athlete 4WD A/T swathed in orange is absolutely striking and very hard to miss. It took two more years (after the Xpander launch) before it finally picked up that front fascia but what an implementation it turned out to be.
It gets the grille in black paired with the LED daytime running lamps on either side, large LED headlamps at the bottom, and a silver underbody garnish, all of which somehow perfectly complement the body’s orange hue.
Along the sides are pretty loud decals and the Strada badge striped near the tail. But if there’s one thing missing from this image, it’s larger black wheels because the 18’s currently on it leave a big gap in the wheel well.
For added contrast, it also gets the roof, handles, side mirrors, and styling bar (in the back) in black. The whole design and the elements in it were very smartly put together and the result is arguably one of the prettiest tough trucks in the market today.
Inside is a more familiar look for the Strada but in a more colorful interpretation that mimics the exterior. Seats are black with orange highlights (front and back). Like the Strada GT, there is silver trim on the multi-function steering wheel and on the borders of the air vents, but the Athlete gets more along the center stack and on the base of the gear shifter.
Compared to other pickup trucks, this cockpit has a much smoother façade with gentler curves like ones you’d find in a sedan or crossover. That helps up its level of style so you don’t feel like a farmer every time you’re in the cabin.
These seats feel snug — not racecar level — but there’s definitely more bolstering than the previous generation. Plus the driver’s seat is eight-way adjustable which allowed me to increase the height so I didn’t feel like I’ve sunk into it.
The head unit’s performance is much more seamless and intuitive. It comes with a large touchscreen, is easier to operate, and has USB and Bluetooth connectivity. It also doubles as the monitor for the camera when the vehicle is in reverse.
Its ceiling is low by design which causes headroom to feel limited but despite that, cabin space is still good. There is an ample amount of real estate for five people with some leg- and elbow-room to spare.
That audible grunt from under the hood comes from its 2.4L turbocharged diesel engine with variable geometry turbo and MIVEC (Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing Electronic Control system). While the entire range shares the same engine and gets the same amount of power, only the Athlete courses it through the Japanese automaker’s proprietary Super Select 4WD-II transmission.
Its 181 PS isn’t on the high end in its segment but it doesn’t feel wanting when you need power on the highway. It keeps pace with fast-moving traffic and even goes beyond it with ease when I put more pressure on the throttle. It also didn’t matter the load it carried. Even when laden, its 430 Nm of torque had more than enough pull to keep it feeling light and moving quickly. Which makes you think, do you really need that extra 30-35 PS and some 70 Nm if you’re just carrying the weight of a four-person family and aren’t hauling horses and tractors?
What it does need to improve on (to keep up with the competition) is comfort. The ride still very much feels truck-like at a time when some pickups have managed to soften the ride down to SUV levels.
Steering feedback is palpable as the hydraulic system doesn’t take away too much of what the road sends back so I felt the weight (and width) of the vehicle just enough to make the right decisions on the road without giving my arms a workout.
Like most pickup trucks, fuel efficiency is great. It picked up an average of 14 km/l in combined driving conditions.
Like top-of-the-line Montero Sport, setting it apart from some of its counterparts is a host of safety features. This trim comes with forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot warning, lane-change assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and even Mitsubishi’s Ultrasonic Misacceleration Mitigation System (for all you SUA worrywarts).
It may not be the Michael Jordan of pickup trucks, but this P1.760 million vehicle has (more than) enough to keep up with the work demands of the segment and even satisfy the whims of millennial techy buyers. It’s powerful and capable, without the unnecessary steroid pump, and it doesn’t hurt that it looks really good. If you need something that gets things done, go with the athlete, the Mitsubishi Strada Athlete.