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Cars > Driven

Mitsubishi Strada Athlete 4WD: The weird cab design still works

Offering car-like space and comfort in a pickup truck

The Strada Athlete looks macho in black. PHOTO BY MIGGI SOLIDUM

When the previous iteration of the Mitsubishi Strada debuted in 2005, people let out a collective gasp. With its design consisting of rounded edges and curved body panels, this thing looked unlike any of its slab-sided rivals. Even the bed was shaped irregularly, thanks to that swooping curved line where it meets the cab.

While the look had its own distinct charm as far as appearances were concerned, the automaker claims that the cab’s shape is functional. Instead of an uncomfortably upright back seat, the Strada’s unique J-line gave rear passengers a slightly reclined bench. In theory, it would allow the vehicle to function as a rugged utility truck and a cozy family hauler at the same time.

This is proof that Mitsubishi can still make capable off-roaders. PHOTO BY MANSKEE NASCIMENTO

The current-generation Strada still has that J-line integrated into its design. But instead of looking like a fishbowl, the truck’s cab now has a handsomely chiseled profile. The front fascia now gets the Dynamic Shield treatment with its split headlight and foglight assemblies. The squared-off fender flares appear big enough to accommodate wheels and tires larger than the standard black 18-inch wheels. At the back, the cargo bed has large taillight clusters with an LED strip that gives the Strada a distinct look at night.

The author and his wife clearly had a blast with this truck. PHOTO BY MANSKEE NASCIMENTO

But then, we get to the Athlete variant. This is Mitsubishi’s answer to the lifestyle-oriented trucks that other manufacturers have. But instead of erring on the side of subtlety, the Strada has a large decal on the side that screams its variant name. It’s honestly a little too much for my taste, and a simple “Athlete” sticker on the side would’ve been better to complete the murdered-out look.

The infotainment system has plenty of room for improvement. PHOTO BY MANSKEE NASCIMENTO

Like with any other pickup truck, the Strada’s bed is nothing to write home about. It’s a square box that can accommodate anything from several sacks of cement to a solid base for a machine gun. But Mitsubishi wanted its truck to be just as comfortable for humans as it is capable when transporting cargo. And I think that’s what most pickup manufacturers tend to forget. People have feelings. They laugh, cry, and endlessly complain about how they were unceremoniously thrown around in the back seat of a rough-riding truck.

I’m not going to make any excuses for it: The Strada’s ride is still quite rough when the bed is unladen. But Mitsubishi has at least made the cab as pleasant as possible in order to make up for the suspension. The rear bench seat is a nice place to be. That J-line profile is once again working its magic to give passengers a sedan-like recline. Legroom is decent even for large guys like me, and the ceiling-mounted vents are a welcome touch especially on very hot days.

The J-line profile allows rear passengers to lean back for comfort. PHOTO BY MANSKEE NASCIMENTO

Part of the cabin’s inviting nature is that it’s inspired by the Montero Sport. It’s not similar, but it’s patterned after it. The Strada is first and foremost a utility vehicle, so the interior still has that workman vibe to it and that’s fine. There is an attempt to spruce it up with orange (or tan) accents. Once again, I personally prefer a subtler theme, and contrasting stitching would’ve been enough to inject a little color and spice.

The ceiling-mounted blowers are strong enough to cool sweaty passengers. PHOTO BY MIGGI SOLIDUM

While the Strada has advanced driver aids like automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitoring, Mitsubishi could have upgraded its infotainment system. It sounds fine, but rivals already have device integration included in the package. Heck, even the humble Mirage G4 has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The four-wheel-drive system can lock the center differential. PHOTO BY MANSKEE NASCIMENTO

The powertrain is almost similar to the Montero Sport’s. The 2.4-liter 4N15 turbodiesel is MIVEC-equipped, and it maxes out at 179hp and 430Nm. But instead of the SUV’s eight speeds, the Strada has six. Initially, this may seem like a downgrade, but in practice it isn’t. The ratios are spaced close enough to keep the engine within striking distance of its torque band, and the less complicated nature of the gearbox suits the truck’s utilitarian purpose.

Worth mentioning is the Super Select four-wheel-drive system that comes with a locking center differential and selectable terrain modes. I’m not too sure how that would compare to some trucks with locking rear differentials, but the Strada had no problems tackling the rocky off-road course we drove it to.

You can have a lot of fun with the 4N15 engine's power reserves. PHOTO BY MANSKEE NASCIMENTO

The Strada is no Montero Sport, but the combination of the inviting cabin and the competent engine makes it just as pleasant to drive. The thing doesn’t behave like a bucking bronco, and the ergonomics are quite car-like. And then it all comes together with the cab’s controversial yet functional design.

This J-line combined with Mitsubishi’s Dynamic Shield face makes the Strada’s styling somewhat polarizing. I don’t think the latter would survive the test of time just as the previous-generation Strada’s fishbowl look did not. But the unusual cab works, and it works very well. If you need to live with a pickup as both a work and family vehicle, you won’t be sacrificing too much in terms of ride comfort with this truck.

MITSUBISHI STRADA ATHLETE 4WD

Engine2.4-liter four-cylinder turbo diesel
Transmission6-speed automatic
Power179hp @ 3,500rpm
Torque430Nm @ 2,500rpm
Dimensions5,305mm x 1,815mm x 1,795mm
Drive layout4WD
Seating5
PriceP1,764,000
UpsideThe cab’s J-line profile makes it spacious and comfortable.
DownsideThe side decals are too big, and the infotainment system is outdated.


Miggi Solidum

Miggi is an editor-at-large at VISOR. Professionally speaking, he is a software engineering dude who happens to like cars a lot. And as an automotive enthusiast, he wants a platform from which he can share his motoring thoughts with fellow petrolheads. He writes the 'G-Force' column.



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