Pickup trucks have sure come a long way. From work horses with back breaking rides, these vehicles now even feature equipment previously reserved for high-end luxury sedans. They have also become quite the sales hit nationwide. While the pickup has always been popular in the country, it's even more so these days.
One of the longest-running pickup names in the country is the Mitsubishi Strada. The current generation has been around since 2015 and, late last year, it got a pretty significant update; particularly under the hood. With its new 2.4-liter MIVEC diesel engine, will the updated Strada in GLS form impress even in this rather basic trim level?
You won't be getting visual cues to differentiate the non-MIVEC diesel powered models from the newer ones. In fact, it's largely carried over from the pickup we've been seeing for the past three years, right down to the familiar multi-spoke wheels. As for its looks, it's a bit of a love-hate affair, much like the Montero Sport. Some say the grill is to wide while other say it gives it a bold, brash look. Personally, I like it but not a lot will agree. The rounded hood and front end treatment is refreshing compared to the hard-edged, chiseled look of its competitors.
Inside, pretty much the only noticable change is the new steering wheel. Gone is its Mirage-like design, replaced by one that looks straight from a Montero Sport. The rest of the cabin on the other hand is the same as the pre-update model, right down to the infotainment screen. There's a lot hard plastic trim in here, but that's expected from something design to haul goods. As for space, it's not bad. The rear seats are angled in a what that isn't too upright and legroom is good. However, it feels like it can do with a bit more hip room at the back.
So it's not plush inside but it is pretty well equipped. Automatic climate control, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, and the aforementioned touchscreen brings the Strada bang up to date. The fabric-trimmed seats are reasonably comfortable although it lacks a true height adjuster. It is however compensated by a tilt and, perhaps more importantly, telescopic steering wheel adjusters. This gives drivers with shorter arms (ie. me) an easier time getting the right driving position.
As mentioned, even the lower-spec Stradas get the new MIVEC diesel derived from the Montero Sport. To recap, the 2.4-liter engine makes 181 PS and 430 Nm of torque, which is impressive for a lower-spec pickup. However, unlike the Montero Sport, the Strada has to make do with a five-speed automatic instead of the eight-speed unit in its SUV counterpart.
Before we get to performance, a word about its ride first. For a pickup truck at least, it is surprisingly supple when you're seated in front. From my experience at least, it rides almost as well, better even, than some PPVs. Rutted roads are dealt with ease and the padding on the seats are sufficient enough not to give you backache. On the other hand, sitting in the back is still a bit truck-like, but not as harsh as one would expect. Perhaps its the less upright angle of the back seats, but sitting isn't so punishing. Overall, it's rather comfortable...for a pickup.
Now, for its performance, the MIVEC diesel is a good, torque-rich unit, delivering its power somewhere between the 1,500 to 2,500 rpm mark. It pulls with confidence if you leave it within the power band and offers more than enough confidence should you choose to overtake. The five-speed automatic, however, doesn't quite maximize the revs. Granted, turbo-diesels aren't exactly made for higher rpms but the long gearing does pronounce the lag, more so than the Montero Sport. As a result, it delivers its power in one big lump, rather than in a linear fashion. That's not to say it's bad but it would have been nice if it had more cogs.
Despite being handicapped by three less gears than the Montero Sport, it still managed to deliver good fuel economy. Unfortunately, the information display on the Strada does not show average speed but in heavy traffic, the on-board computer showed 8.6 kilometers per liter. Out on the highway, the screen displayed 14.7 kilometers per liter with cruise control on most of the time. While the figures are good, you do have to wonder if the three extra gears might have made the fuel consumption figures even better.
Handling is, in some ways, what you expect from a pickup. The steering, while it offers feel, needs a lot of input to get it turned. Brakes on the other hand are strong although it might be spongy for some tastes.
Where the Strada does excel is in maneuverability. The narrow body makes it relatively easy navigating through tight streets and tricky parking spots. Light steering also makes the Strada less ponderous to drive too. Really, the only thing you have to be wary of is its length. Fortunately, the reverse camera is standard even in GLS form. From my experience so far, the Strada is one of the more easy to drive pickups out there.
On the subject of pricing, this particular variant starts at Php 1,325,000. Some may notice that the retail has gone up, even as MMPC has announced their official pricing last month. Why is this so? MMPC explains that the inventory arrived before the tax reform took effect. Don't worry though, they will release new, presumably lower, pricing at a later date. For now however, the value proposition is pretty much on par with the competition.
As a whole, the Strada was an impressive pickup. It is reasonably comfortable, offers competitive equipment levels, and the strong engine should satisfy most. No, it isn't 'car-like' in any way, shape or form but it does get close to offering PPV-like levels of refinement. I reckon the Strada is great for those who want or need a pickup truck but don't want to compromise too much for a hauler.