Mitsubishi’s new ASX is huge, not in size but in importance for the Japanese brand. The recession has been tough on Mitsubishi but now its time to fight back and the ASX is being wheeled out as the weapon to turn the tables. The ASX name stands for Active Smart Crossover and the vehicle slots into the fast growing family compact crossover segment currently occupied by the Nissan Qashqai, Skoda Yeti and Hyundai ix35. Although it’s a niche market segment, it is one with broad appeal to buyers who want SUV styling and practicality but don’t need a rugged off-road battler or seven-seater capability. So the ASX is targeted at the right spot but does it have enough firepower to hit its mark? Car and SUV got locked and loaded into a new Mitsubishi ASX Sport to get the answers.
Mechanically, the ASX has borrowed heavily from the Outlander and Lancer models but the styling is all its own¦ well almost. Up front, the ASX receives the jet fighter front grille keeping it aligned with most of Mitsubishi’s current product. From the A-pillars back the ASX has a razor-cut modern character and while it uses the same platform as the Outlander it’s new-model charm will turn heads in this new segment. Puffed-out fenders and an upswept shoulder line give the ASX an athletic profile and fine detailing like chrome ringed fog lamps and 16-inch alloys add a feeling of quality. The ASX also comes with an in-built party trick in the form of durable front guards that pop back out without damage if knocked or pushed in. It’s exactly this sort of progressive detailing that makes the ASX stand out.
Inside our tested Sport model it’s all about black plastics and dark fabrics. Eye-catching silver and chrome highlights are tastefully used and the dashboard has an upmarket soft touch feel. Although there’s no major effort to be ‘fun’ or ‘funky’, the ASX switchgear is thoughtfully laid out and very user-friendly. The instrumentation is also well displayed and has a screen between the dials providing trip and vehicle information. Other standard equipment includes reversing sensors, keyless entry, Bluetooth, rain sensing wipers, steering wheel audio controls and headlamp washers.
The ASX sport seats are finished in a hard-wearing dimpled cloth, are supportive and offer the elevated driving position crossover buyers desire. In terms of space, front occupants get a good serve of headroom, shoulder space and small storage options. The back seat will take three adults at a squeeze and has an adjustable backrest to keep them comfortable. Cargo capacity is fair at 384-litres but with a full-size spare wheel residing the loading floor is quite high.
The ASX is available in NZ with both petrol and diesel powered engines. Under the stub nosed bonnet on our tested vehicle was Mitsubishi’s 4B11 2.0-litre 4-cylinder petrol unit. It’s a well-proven mill from the Japanese automaker and is currently in use in the Lancer. Using the MIVEC electronic valve timing system the engine puts out a healthy 112kW of power and 200Nm of torque. It’s a capable motor with good all round characteristics and does admirable work of shifting the 1,450 kg ASX around.
Power is transferred to either the front or all four wheels through a CVT transmission. During spirited driving the CVT has to stay very busy which can mean some mechanical whine audible in the cabin but on regular duty it’s a smooth operator. If you want to change gears yourself there are steering wheel paddles that access six virtual ratios allowing gears to be held longer. Fuel economy is adequate but not frugal at 8.1L/100km combined.
Shifting between 2WD and 4WD on the ASX is done easily through a dial mounted by the gearstick. For really tough or slippery off-road conditions there is also a 4WD ‘Lock’ mode that transfers significant amounts of torque to the rear wheels to improve traction. The ASX gets its four-wheel drive system from the Outlander making its off-road ability a true strength when compared to other small crossovers. That said, with a relatively low clearance and no low range gearing it’s still best suited to lighter off-road work.
On-road the ASX moves fairly well, it’s a comfortable cruiser with long-travel suspension making for a nicely compliant ride. It’s also very quiet with little in the way of road or wind noise disturbing the cabin. Dynamically, the ASX can’t quite match the Qashqai for car-like feel and has a tendency to lean into corners when pushed. Grip, however is good and if the wheels do slip at the front, it can be put into 4WD which is one trick the Qashqai can’t do.
When it comes to safety the ASX checks all the boxes with an active stability control system, ISOFIX points, hill start assist and 7 airbags with a drivers’ knee bag included as standard. Braking is also very strong with 16-inch discs providing stopping power and ABS ready to help out in emergency situations.
So what’s the bottom line on the ASX? It’s a capable machine and definitely one of the more exciting products to come from Mitsubishi recently. The exterior styling is intriguing and crisp and the cabin is pleasant and practical. The equipment list on the Sport model is also very good for the price. Mechanically, the powertrain doesn’t offer high performance but for most drivers it should be strong enough. When it comes to handling the ASX is adequate on road and more competent than most when off-road so it may suit those who’ll occasionally tackle slippery fields or steep gravel driveways. All things considered the ASX is a strong entry into the small crossover market and for new car buyers, definitely deserves consideration.
Price: From $38, 890 as tested $42,990
What we like:
- Adventurous and distinctive exterior styling
- On-demand 4WD system and general off-road ability
- Comfortable cruiser
What we don’t like:
- Smallish luggage area
- Some body roll when cornering
- CVT transmission struggles at times
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo