Matt Hubbard reviews the Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian twin-cab pick-up
The Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian is essentially a work-horse. Underneath the stylish bodywork is a ladder chassis with leaf-spring suspension at the rear, in order to accommodate a 1,100kg payload in the load-bay.
But step into the cabin and you're in a leather clad, gizmo laden car with heated seats, cruise control, infotainment system, automatic lights and wipers and electric windows.
It's this trade-off between utilitarianism and luxury that has seen the L200, and other pick-ups, move from the building site to the school car park.
And it's easy to see why. In my week with the L200 Barbarian I used it to move several items around that most cars wouldn't have accommodated - a ton of junk to the tip prior to a house move, a bed, a lawnmower. When you have the capacity to move these things you do. Instead of wondering how you're going to get that old sofa to the tip you just chuck it in the back of the L200 and take it yourself.
And this with a car that has an interior that's as good as any other SUV.
There are down sides though.
Whilst the interior is on the surface as good as it is in, say, a Toyota RAV4 it's less well thought out and has several flaws. The seats look nice but they're hard and not very supportive. The driving position is odd. The floor is quite high and the chairs quite low but the pedals aren't deep as they are in a sports car. Add in that the steering wheel doesn't adjust for reach and you need short legs and long arms to get really comfortable.
The infotainment unit is an aftermarket Kenwood affair. It covers all the bases (USB, Bluetooth, DAB, satnav etc) but is fiddly to use and the sound quality from the speakers is terrible.
The heated seats and rear window button are hidden away under the dash so you have to lean down to see them.
The ride and handling are poor, as a result of the L200's height and leaf spring suspension. It's bouncy and leans in corners.
The engine and gearbox are pretty good. Only one engine is offered in the L200. In the Barbarian it has 175bhp (in lesser models it has 134bhp) and 258lb ft of torque. The gearbox in the test car was a 5-speed automatic. 5 speeds may be considered too few nowadays but the combination of engine and gearbox works fine and makes for surprisingly spritely performance.
Economy is not as good in mid-size SUVs. The official figure is 32.1mpg but I saw 24mpg over the course of a week, although that was based mainly on shorter trips on local roads rather than long motorway miles.
The car's off-road capabilities are good. It can run in rear wheel drive or four wheel drive with or without locking differentials. That and the massive suspension travel and grippy tyres make it capable of going as far off road as even the most capable SUVs. The fact it is lighter, at 1,865kg, than bigger SUVs helps too.
On paper and on the road the Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian doesn't really stack up against similarly priced SUVs. Having said that I liked it enormously. It has a character that can only be experienced by spending time with it.
The more I drove it the more I forgave its flaws and the more I appreciated its abilities.
Bear in mind the L200 range starts at £17,400 (after tax, it's 20% cheaper for businesses), and the Barbarian is almost at the top of the range, it's not unreasonably priced.
If you're not a builder but fancy running a twin cab pick-up in lieu of an SUV for its load-lugging and off-roading capabilities and the fact it looks good and stands out from the crowd then you won't be dissapointed in the Barbarian.
Just don't forget that underneath it is quite agricultural.