Dark horse no more

Published December 9, 2022, 10:00 AM

by Eric R. Tipan

2022 Mitsubishi Strada Athlete 2WD AT Black Series

‘Very Peri,’ which looks like plain purple to me, is the color of 2022, but it seems that Mitsubishi PH didn’t get the memo. Very late last year, they released the ‘Black Series.’ It is a blacked-out version of popular models like the Xpander, Montero Sport, and the Strada.

If you fancy pickup trucks, you’re in luck because I tested the Strada Athlete Black Series for a week. This model came out in 2015, but the sharp design from the facelift in 2019 and its new dark, mysterious hue are enough to freshen up this seven-year-old model.

People say black slims you down, but it seems to have the exact opposite effect on this vehicle — it felt wider, taller, and more muscular. It somehow enhanced the angular design of the body, which made the fancy shapes of the façade more pronounced, the fenders look more defined, and even the lines on the hood more obvious.

As an Athlete variant, it gets the red decals at the rear, 18-inch black alloy wheels, the styling bar over the bed, and the black tailgate grip. Exclusives of this series include the black pieces like the rear spoiler, front bumper, grille trim, and side mirror.

The entire exterior package is excellent. Mitsubishi PH couldn’t have picked a better color to revitalize the Strada. If there is one thing I would change, it would be bigger wheels, maybe some 20s or 22s. But note that this will affect the comfort and noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) levels.

A small keyfob triggers the smart entry system, which lets drivers press a button on the handle to unlock the doors.

It is a shame the black treatment ends right at the door. The interior is typical of a regular Athlete. It gets silver highlights, a seven-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity, and a couple of USB ports (front and rear). One thing I wish it had is Apple CarPlay.

The cockpit does not have the same edgy styling seen outside. Instead of corners and angles, there are smooth lines over the flowing surface of the hard-top dashboard. It feels like a dated design because it technically is, but at least the equipment is up to date. The infotainment display shows large icons and fonts, and it already comes with a digital, dual-zone climate control system.

I’m still on the fence about the orange-black seat color combo. Don’t get me wrong. It looks perfect with the Sunflare Orange Pearl body color, but I’m not sure about the Jet Black Mica of this series. An all-black would probably be better. The leather is nice, taut but feels very new and doesn’t have that vintage feel that premium leather seats have. There is enough bolstering in front, but I can’t say the same about the rear seats. At least there are air vents above the second row, and there is a drop-down center armrest for rear passengers.

I like that the driver’s seat is electronically adjustable. It is much better now at getting into the proper driving position, and it helps a lot that the leather multi-function steering wheel has tilt and telescopic adjustments.

The common-rail diesel engine has a 2.4-liter displacement, puts out 181-PS and 430-Nm of torque, and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. While those numbers don’t really jump off the page, it is surprisingly punchy for its 2.7-ton body. Average fuel consumption is 9.2 km/l in mixed driving conditions.

Acceleration is brisk. It does not feel heavy, and steering feedback is deceivingly light for a pickup truck. The pull it has from a standstill is exhilarating, which makes the open road ahead always an enticing invitation.

Its massive size and tall ride height (ground clearance is 220 mm) stays stable on straightaways even at high speeds but careful around corners because there will be a certain amount of body roll.

Cabin comfort is excellent. Suspension stiffness is natural in this segment, but the cabin is quiet and cozy, even on bad roads.

This model is a little long in the tooth, yet it sold a little over 5,000 units last year. Mitsubishi PH needed to make it flashy again, and they pulled it off in spectacular fashion.

You can get this Black Series model for P1.447 million, which is the same price as the regular Strada Athlete 2WD AT. It gets the bells and whistles (Hill Start Assist, Trailer Stability Assist, Active Stability and Traction Control, Anti-lock Braking System with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, and reverse camera), including the trimmings, without the added cost.

One thing to take into consideration, black is beautiful, but any scratch it gets is clearly visible because it will come off as white. That is the trade-off you will have to live with. If you’re ok with that, the 2022 Mitsubishi Strada Athlete 2WD AT Black Series is for you.