BEFORE the latest incarnation of the Mitsubishi L200 was launched, back in 2005, you could draw any pick-up truck you liked with a ruler – just by etching out three boxes, side by side.

The L200 changed that by introducing a curved body shape with a slanting nose and that distinctive swept-up arc separating the cab from the rear section. It  was and still is, arguably, the best looking pick-up on the market.

But although there’s been something of a growth in the UK market for this sort of vehicle over the last decade, the L200’s buyers could often be pigeon-holed into a category of drivers who care less how their car looks, and more about the size of tree stump it could heave out of the ground.

Max Earey

Nobody really said a pick-up should be attractive, but Mitsubishi went and made a pretty one anyway and, guess what… It’s sold brilliantly.

And that’s not just all about those looks. Its curves help its aerodynamics which, along with a frame that’s lighter than most of its rivals, significantly helps fuel economy. So it’s prettier and more efficient.

It’s also got a decent turning circle compared to some of the competitors and, good looks aside, it’s every bit as tough. So why pick anything else?

Well, truth be told, the L200 is getting a bit long in the tooth now. It’s had some revisions recently, which has given it more equipment, a quieter cabin, better handling and ride and a more efficient diesel engine. But everyone’s getting in on the act now.

With more manufacturers wanting a piece of the pick-up pie, and some making valiant efforts at swaying buyers, the Mitsubishi will need more than a pretty face to stay ahead.

Thankfully, besides its turning circle and its huge load-lugging capacity, it’s also got another trump card – and that’s in the way it drives. Sure, it’s no Golf GTI, but for a big truck capable of carrying five people, several sheep and a trailer full of pigs, it’s remarkably good on the road.

The rear springs are old-fashioned and a bit firm but that’s forgivable in this class, especially when you drive the L200 alongside some of its closest rivals, which feel gigantic and cumbersome by comparison. It’s always offered the closest you’ll get to car-like handling in a pick-up but, with its latest tweaks, it’s that bit closer.

However, before you go chopping in your Mercedes estate, you should be under no illusion that it’s still a workhorse, designed for people with biceps the size of the logs they’ve heaved into the boot.

The gear-change is heavy, the doors are heavy, the bottom-hinged rear door weighs as much as a small car and you’ll need strong hands just to slide open the load area cover.

However, it does have some creature comforts. In the top trim levels you’ll get comfy leather heated seats, a fairly decent infotainment system with a good stereo and remarkably light steering.

It’s also now got an electronic control for switching it between two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive and the same rotary nob turns on the differential lock. The only lever is the gear lever.

There is, of course, an array of options to choose from when you order an L200. Most people pick the Double Cab four-door version with its extra row of seats and trim levels range from 4Life, through Titan to Warrior and then the top-spec Barbarian.

All models get air-conditioning, Bi-xenon headlamps, that switchable 4×4 system and bags of safety kit and a well-specced Warrior with plenty of trimmings can be yours for around £25,000. So it’s good value for money, too.

There’s a choice of six-speed manual or five-speed paddle shift auto gearboxes and these are all hooked up to Mitsubishi’s excellent 2.4-litre MIVEC diesel engine.

So Mitsubishi might appear to be close to losing its edge among rivals but, at the end of the day, they’ve still got a fair way to go.

Its market might be getting a bit crowded but the L200 still stands out and still impresses. It’s still one of the best of the bunch.