By Mike Torpey on 2016-02-21 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
Barbarian Double Cab
THERE was a time when family motorists would have avoided a pick-up truck like the plague.
Rough, noisy and conjuring up images of builders' yards and construction sites, they made little appeal to people wanting practical, comfortable and economic everyday transport.
But times have changed, so too has choice - to the point that fierce competition among manufacturers has led to a wealth of models that boast refinement, upmarket technology, value for money and space for five.
Far from proving a challenge to pilot and manoevre, the latest generation of pick-ups boast excellent dynamics, reasonable fuel economy and four-wheel drive.
Sitting at the top of the UK tree for the best part of 34 years has been Japanese brand Mitsubishi and its L200 series, which has sold around 4.1 million pick-ups worldwide.
And the company has upped the ante with a new range that looks and performs like the class leader Mitsubishi proclaims it to be.
Improvements in no less than 330 different areas, says Mitsubishi, puts it a generation ahead of any other pick-up on the market.
Durable and rugged, it is the only vehicle of its type that can be driven permanently in 2WD or 4WD on Tarmac and off-road.
Up for grabs in four models - 4Life, Titan, Warrior and Barbarian - and all with four-wheel drive, the L200 Series 5 costs from £23,978 to £30,518 on the road.
I've driven several pick-ups in recent months and can appreciate why their popularity continues to rise, but the L200 lifts the bar another notch.
Stylish to look at with its Electric Blue paint job, the tested Barbarian model has all the creature comforts of an executive saloon - like powered soft leather seats, touchscreen entertainment set-up and reversing camera.
It's practical too, with space for three across the back and stowage like large bottle holders in each door, door bins, overhead sunglasses holder, glovebox and a deep central container.
Little touches that make a difference are there as well like blue ambient lighting in the cabin and on the door running strips plus Barbarian embossing on the front seats, door handle backing and fuel filler cap.
And the vast flat-bed load area comes with a lockable sliding cover called the Mountain Top Roll.
The driving position is good, steering adjustable for reach and rake and the reverse J curve between the cabin and cargo area is such that the rear seats can recline by 25 per cent.
A revised suspension, including six shock-absorbing body mounts, has helped make the Mitsubishi more comfortable and quiet as well.
Of course there's no escaping the fact that this is a big vehicle and doesn't handle like a go-kart. But it's smooth, rides really well and has a terrific engine in the shape of a 2.4-litre diesel producing a hefty 178bhp.
The upshot is lively performance with decent acceleration and the bonus of an official average fuel return of 42.8mpg, though you won't get close to that in urban conditions.
Fancy tackling the rough stuff and the L200's four-wheel drive transmission can be engaged with a twist of a rotary control while a low-range function allows for more serious mud-plugging.
Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian Double Cab
Mechanical: 178bhp, 2,442cc 4-cyl diesel engine driving four wheels via six-speed manual transmission
Max Speed: 111mph
Combined MPG: 10
Insurance Group: 173g/km
C02 emissions: 32%
Warranty: 5yrs/125,000 miles
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