From the Desk of Mike (The Hammer) Garvin

And now for something completely different

In the United States, Mitsubishi sells the Raider pickup truck, which is nothing more than a clone of the Dodge Dakota. However, this model is not available north of the border. Yet, it would be in the interest of Mitsubishi Motors Sales of Canada to exploit this market segment.

But the thing is, we already have a host of big, gas-guzzling pickups. So why not offer a more distinctive model? The European L200 might very well be the answer.

Unfortunately, the Mitsubishi L200 is not available in Canada.

Ford Ranger size
The L200's dimensions are quite similar to those of the Ford Ranger Double Cab, whether it's length (5,000 mm vs 5,123), width (1,750 mm vs 1,763), height (1,775 mm vs 1,722) or wheelbase (3,000 mm vs 3,192).

However, the resemblance stops here. The L200 is really strange-looking, kind of like a Tonka truck that melted on the stove. Yet, it manages to turn heads and grow on you. The cargo box seems to wrap the rear doors and is all but boxy. What's more, the rear overhang is extremely long. As for the rounded cabin, it really embodies the Japanese brand's corporate image.

You would easily be forgiven for thinking that the L200 is a sort of spaceship, especially when stepping inside. The dashboard displays an unorthodox yet well-executed combination of colors and textures. My tester came in Instyle trim, which includes heated leather seats, automatic climate control and a power-sliding rear window.

The seats are fairly comfortable, but the cushions are extremely low, so your legs extend horizontally. Surprisingly, the rear passenger compartment is roomy enough to sit adults. Overall, the cabin feels very spacious for a compact pickup truck. The radio, on the other hand, is average at best.

Fuel-efficient engine
It's been a long time since we've last seen a diesel-powered compact pickup. The L200's 2.5L 4-cylinder turbocharged mill generates only 136 horsepower but more than makes up for it by adding 232 lb-ft of torque at only 2,000 rpm. Even by diesel standards, though, I found this engine to be a bit noisy.

This diesel poweplant is great for light duties.

According to Mitsubishi, the L200 with 4-speed automatic transmission (optional) accelerates from 0 to 100 kph in 17.8 seconds. Did you say slow? What's more, 80-120 kph sprints are completed in 11.5 seconds, meaning that the truck struggles to reach the higher speeds. On the plus side, takeoffs are decent, especially with such generous low-end torque. The engine simply runs out of steam beyond 3,000 rpm.

With regards to fuel consumption, European ratings are 11.8 L/100 km in the city and 8.8 L/100 km on the highway, which is fairly commendable for a pickup truck. Equipped with the 5-speed manual transmission, these figures drop to 10.7 and 7.4, respectively. In addition, when the trailer comes with its own set of brakes, the L200 can tow up to 2,700 kilos (6,000 lbs) -- very impressive. Without trailer brakes, the limit is set at 750 kilos (1,650 lbs).

The box offers limited cargo capacity.

Decent driving dynamics
When I first saw the ground clearance offered by the L200, I expected a jolty ride, much like with the Ford Ranger and Mazda B-Series. Fortunately, I was wrong. This Mitsubishi is relatively nimble thanks to a precise steering.

It also benefits from a 4WD system called Super Select, featuring a stick-controlled transfer case (as seen on the Jeep Wrangler and Toyota FJ Cruiser). This system includes low- and high-range gearing as well as a locking differential which distributes power between the front and rear wheels.

What about Canada?
Would Canadians buy a truck like the L200? It all depends on pricing and customer needs. With a fairly shallow cargo box, its work load proves limited. Still, cities that purchase base Ranger XLs to carry lawnmowers, park benches, etc. or pick up stuff on the side of the road, the diesel-powered L200 appears as an interestingly fuel-efficient alternative.

However, a gasoline engine would be needed to attract a larger customer pool, which isn't the case in Europe. If not anything else, the L200 could make a successful transition to our shores despite its Martian looks. But Mitsubishi Motors Sales of Canada has more important models on its mind, like the Colt and Grandis, so we should not expect to see the L200 in Canadian showrooms before a long time.