(Note : This article first appeared in the December 2020 issue of Autocar Philippines Magazine)

Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Has An Ace Up Its Sleeve.

The latest iteration of the Mitsubishi pickup is definitely a step up. While the lower variants of the Strada are formidable in their own right, you just have to one-up the competition and offer a version of the super truck, if you will.

The Mitsubishi Strada Athlete is such a truck. While the mechanicals perform flawlessly, it just makes sense to add more eye candy and features that will make adventure rides more exhilarating.

If It Aint Broke..

The Strada Athlete is still powered by the bulletproof 2.4-liter MIVEC turbodiesel with 181 PS and 430 Nm of torque. This particular model comes with a six-speed automatic transmission. Although the 8-speed variant used in the Montero is enviable, the 6-speed ‘matic does gear churning in the Athlete just fine. The engineers at MMC must have some tweaking done, because the Athlete is a little peppier than standard Stradas; it looks the same on paper but the feels are different.

Interior

This is where the improvements are evident. The interior design is more akin to the Montero than a regular workhorse. The seats are now brighter, with orange leatherette dominating the surface, which is mixed with black inserts. This alone makes the inside sportier and a bit luxurious. The dash has aluminum accents, while the center console also has the orange cushion grip. The whole dashboard is still Strada, after all It still is a pickup.

The rear seat space is limited, as expected from a pickup; with a higher floor clearance, makes it a little awkward for tall people. The saving grace here is the backrest of the Strada; it is more inclined than the competitors, giving a more relaxed ride, even for long trips. This is evident by the curvature of the rear of the cab, which extends to the pickup bed.

Other worthwhile accoutrements are the rear AC vents and charger ports, which today is a must for every new vehicle.

Bold Exterior

To differentiate the Strada Athlete from lesser variants, certain design cues were employed. All chrome trims were changed to gloss black, even the grille, bumpers, garnish and the side mirror covers. Aggressive side graphics adorn the bed portion, exuding some sort of statement. While others may see this as tacky, the graphics actually work to give the Strada Athlete an adventurous identity.

The black fascia also makes the skidplate and the aluminum intercooler standout, much to the enjoyment of performance enthusiasts.

The bed isn’t left out of the upgrades. A bedliner is now standard, making ingress/egress of cargo a cinch, as well as protecting the steel bed from scratches and damage. A cargo extender adorns the top of the bed, giving a sportier look, although this limits the cargo to less bulkier ones. The Strada Athlete still has 950 kg worth of load capacity.

Performance

As mentioned earlier, it seems the Strada Athlete has more extra juice. The engine is more responsive and torque is very evident when accelerating. On a recent highway jaunt, the Strada Athlete gave out a 14km/L fuel consumption at 100kph, this at a measly 1700rpm. But it seems that the cruising speed of this version is at 110kph at 1900rpm. City driving yielded a 11km/L output, still respectable considering the heavy midday traffic.

With its higher road clearance, the stepboards are very appreciated. Ingress is easier now even with wobbly knees! Cleaning the roof is also a cinch now. Big 18in wheels also add some spunk to the athlete, but adding knobby all-terrain tires will complete the look. Still, the radial tires perform well.

Headlight washer

One feature that was much appreciated was the headlight washer. After running through rain soaked dirt roads, the headlights were drenched with mud, diminishing the illumination. The washers cleaned out the headlights in no-time., without disembarking and manually cleaning the mud.

Conclusion

The Mitsubishi Strada Athlete 4×4 is a worthy addition to the so-called “ultimate pickup wars” waged by local manufacturers. While the Strada doesn’t boast of dual turbochargers or extreme suspension components, it can still hold out on its own. With a strong reliable powertrain and aggressive looks, it can compete with the best of them.

Price as tested: Php 1,760,000

For more information visit: www.mitsubishi-motors.com.ph/

Text/Images: Earl Manalansan

GALLERY

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