The Mitsubishi Strada has been the Japanese brand’s entry into the crowded pickup market since time immemorial. Over the years, as the Toyota Hilux became more and more workman-like, the Strada slowly shed its work boots for something more suave. Suede instead of steel toe...leather instead of rubber--you get the picture. In other words, if you erred on the metro side, the stylish Strada was the pickup for you.
Challenging the convention that a pickup can't be both a workhorse and a fashion statement, the new Strada attempts to combine these two contrasting traits into one stylish yet utilitarian package. Can the Strada have its cake and eat it, too?
The Strada is a handsome pickup--that much is certain. Getting rid of the curvy lines flanking the sides of the previous generation, the new Strada has a more traditional, straight cut in its sheet metal, providing for an angular look when viewed from the side. Face the front, however, and your sight is immediately dominated by a chrome grille that serves as the maw, feeding air into the 2.5-liter turbodiesel engine.
Chrome accents on the side mirrors match that found on the grille, complementing the overall look of the truck. A chrome running board, 17-inch alloy wheels, and a bed-liner made from your typical black plastic balance the sheet metal out.
With a curvy face and a no-nonsense side profile, the Strada is definitely a looker. However, in some ways, the soft face and the hard sides tend to clash aesthetically, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
The interior of the Strada is all business. Monochromatic black plastic dominates the dash, while silver accents lend an air of sophistication to the arrangement. The manual-transmission shifter is appropriately tall with the old-school easy-select 4WD shifter sitting below the transmission stalk.
The leather-wrapped steering wheel is surprisingly small and easy to grip; its size and heft are reminiscent of Mitsubishi’s sedan offerings.
The fabric seats are more than adequate, and the driving position is ideal for both comfort and visibility. Rear-seat room leaves much to be desired, though it might just be the fact that I am well over 6ft tall. There was no space for me to fit behind the driver, as my knees would run up against the seatback.
The Strada comes equipped with a 2.5-liter variable-geometry direct-injection turbodiesel engine mated to a five-speed manual transmission. This combination puts out a respectable 176hp at 4,000rpm. But more than that, it also produces a massive 400Nm at a very low 2,000rpm. There is a surge of torque once the turbo spools up to around 2,700rpm, and as long as you shift to keep it in the power band, the power is more than adequate for any overtaking maneuver you might find yourself attempting on the highway.
RIDE AND HANDLING
For a pickup, the Strada is quite composed on normal roads. The double-wishbone front suspension is balanced by a rigid elliptical leaf spring at the rear. Despite this, it lacks the telltale signs of an unladen pickup bed, riding smooth and stable over slight imperfections and during cornering.
Off-road (i.e. Ortigas Extension in Rizal), the Strada easily rolls over potholes and bumps, only succumbing to some truly deep excavations that would upset any vehicle short of a monster truck.
The brakes have a tendency to be quite grabby. It took me a day or two to get used to them, but after acclimatizing to my feet, they stopped the pickup consistently and powerfully each time we called upon them.
The Strada has an interesting assortment of gadgets. There is a smart key system for hassle-free entry, as well as a push-to-start button. Buttons for the cruise control and the audio settings are within easy reach on the sides of the steering wheel, and the center view is dominated by a 6.75-inch touchscreen that hosts the radio, the backing-up camera, the tire pressure monitoring system (a Mitsubishi staple!), and the DVD player.
The spec sheet lists that the Strada has both USB and auxiliary ports, but for the life of us, we could not find these to plug our gadgets into (it could have just been bad eyesight). In contrast, the Bluetooth audio was easy to set up and worked like a charm, seamlessly letting us stream our music and answer incoming calls.
The head unit also features a Wi-Fi display that supposedly allows you to connect your gadget to the car's Wi-Fi network. We say supposedly because we could not get it to work with our iPhone 6S Plus, but again, that may have just been down to our hardware settings or a magic button that we forgot to press.
The Strada straddles the line between being a stylish city explorer and a brutish workhorse, and for the most part, it succeeds. It has good power and it drives and handles well. But it is somewhat let down by a feature-rich but hard-to-use multimedia system. If Mitsubishi could work out the kinks in the head unit, we are sure the Strada would be ready to take its place in the hotly contested pickup segment.
SPECS: MITSUBISHI STRADA 2.5 GLS V 4x4 MT
Engine: 2.5-liter DOHC I4 turbodiesel
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Power: 176hp @ 4,000rpm
Torque: 400Nm @ 2,000rpm
Drive layout: 4WD
Photos by Carlo Chungunco