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The new Mitsubishi Strada is more than just a pretty face

It is more than capable of competing with the best pickups

Yes, it looks stylish, but it doesn’t mean it’s soft. PHOTO BY VERNON B. SARNE

The pickup wars haven’t relented over the past few years, as the once-humble workhorse is now a fashion icon—a lifestyle vehicle that announces one’s outdoorsy, adventurous spirit. Nissan has the Navara, Ford has the Ranger, and Toyota has the Hilux. Facing stiff competition, Mitsubishi felt it best to unveil a revised Strada to take the fight to its popular rivals.

The new Strada features, among other things, the brand’s handsome Dynamic Shield front fascia, a truly good-looking design theme as it retires polarizing styling elements previously found on the Japanese truck. Also noteworthy are the new 18-inch wheels shod with 265/60 tires.

The new Strada sports the now-familiar Dynamic Shield face. Just like its other siblings. PHOTOS BY VERNON B. SARNE

The new Strada features a new six-speed automatic transmission, coupled with Super Select shift-on-the-fly 4WD alongside a terrain management software that has specific driving modes for mud, sand, grass and tarmac. The software preps the various driving aids for optimized traction and handling depending on the surface, sparing inexperienced trail drivers from doing guesswork.

The MIVEC-equipped 4N15 2.4-liter CRDI turbodiesel engine first seen on the Montero Sport and on the previous iteration of the Strada makes a comeback with its smooth, quiet and refined operation, making it a perfect match for the slick-shifting six-speed automatic gearbox, which is complemented by INVECS-II paddle shifters for more control.

No specifics were mentioned, but Mitsubishi Motors Philippines president and CEO Mutsuhiro Oshikiri promised our media group that engineers had gone to great lengths to give the new Strada a smoother, more stable and more composed ride, improving its NVH levels in particular so you can haul and tow in comfort over long distances behind the wheel.

If the front is fashionable, the rear looks brawny. PHOTOS BY VERNON B. SARNE

To put the Strada through its paces, Mitsubishi organized a drive to Palawan—from Puerto Princesa, the capital of the island province, to San Vicente, which is slowly gaining fame as the country’s next top destination thanks to its pristine 14km virgin beach.

Our drive saw us traverse 170km of Palawan’s massive highway project, a twisting and turning two-lane  adventure through breathtaking vistas. At around the 120km point, the winding paths were replaced by even tighter hairpins and switchbacks of mountain passes as we headed toward the shores of San Vicente.

This would have been utterly fun if we hadn’t woken up at 2am to catch our 5am flight. To make things even more interesting, Oshikiri-san decided to ride with me, my EIC Vernon B. Sarne and our colleague Ira Panganiban. Shortly after we had left the Mitsubishi Palawan dealership, Ira and Vernon fell asleep. Instead of taking offense, the Japanese boss was so happy because he said it was proof of how refined the new Strada was. Not bad for a pickup truck with an unladen cargo bed!

On winding roads, the new Strada showed its true potential. It’s now arguably the most tarmac-biased pickup in the market

On winding roads, the Strada showed its true potential. It’s now arguably the most tarmac-biased pickup, feeling the most car-like and handling all the sweepers, curves and hairpins with uncanny sharpness that’s missing in other pickups. The brakes were powerful and provided fade-free performance; the engine was silent and surprisingly rev-happy for a diesel; and the six-speed shifter offered CVT-like seamlessness when left in automatic mode.

As we approached the steep winding section of the mountain pass, the Strada’s brakes, steering, stability and acceleration were really put to the test as we tried our best to keep up with the veteran drivers leading our pack. Occasionally, the tires howled as we cornered as quickly as possible, but there was only safe and predictable mild understeer to warn us not to push further.

In Palawan, the author tried both 4WD and 2WD versions of the new, face-lifted Strada. PHOTO BY VERNON B. SARNE

Later on the beach, we slotted the drivetrain into 4-High, selected sand mode on the terrain response management system, and drove like experts to reach the mangrove plantation—a nod to Mitsubishi’s claim of ‘clean’ diesel performance. Even on fluffy, wet or even submerged sand, the Strada easily conquered the surface with ease and confidence. We had been looking forward to the usual off-road trail—one covered with mud and littered with rocks—to test the new Strada, but due to time constraints and the strong rains, we didn’t get that chance. Nevertheless, the fresh-faced truck had impressed us so far.

Mitsubishi has an ace here. With the facelift and the improvements it received—not to mention the very competitive pricing across its six-variant range—the new Strada ensures that the pickup wars will be fought even more fiercely. And the winner? You, the consumer.

Botchi Santos

Botchi is your friendly, walking car encyclopedia. He loves helping people choose the right vehicle for themselves as much as he enjoys picking the right one for himself. Expect him to write about car culture, test drives and car-shopping advice. His regular column is called ‘Car Life’.