Mitsubishi gives ASX a fresh face

Mitsubishi Motors New Zealand has been busy over the last 12 months.

A raft of facelifted models has landed, a new Outlander, Mirage and ASX are now on dealers’ showroom floors. Each has a significantly different appearance, and I’ve covered the changes in recent evaluations.

The last in my schedule to drive was the ASX, an acronym for active smart crossover, and while the changes aren’t major they certainly provide a fresher exterior look, giving it more of a Mitsubishi family appearance.

The interior has enhanced specification features and a bit of tidy up to make it more comfortable, it also gets extra technical gadgets to make it more functional and user-friendly.

That along with a revised line-up – now there are only four models – the ASX is destined to be a strong competitor in the mid-size sport utility vehicle crossover market, landing from just $36,690.

The test car was the VRX, two-wheel-drive, 2-litre at $40,590. Petrol-power will get you into front-wheel drive only; if you want four-wheel-drive you are locked into the 2.3-litre diesel variants listing at $41,990 and $45,990 (VRX).

The ASX follows in the wheel tracks of the SUV Outlander and takes on board many of the elements which have made it so successful, albeit in a smaller size.

In VRX specification the level of fitment sits towards high. For that money it comes well equipped with full leather trim and heated front seats, dash-mounted display screen with rear view reversing camera, keyless entry and ignition, cruise control, comprehensive trip computer, and all the safety kit to earn it a five-star Australasian New Car Assessment Program safety rating.

Under the bonnet lies a 1998cc, 16-valve, twin-camshaft engine. It is much the same unit which powers Lancer and stands out for its relatively high power output (112kW) and strength low down, courtesy of a 200Nm torque figure. Together the power and torque outputs combine to provide strong mid-range performance, easily cutting out a 120km/h from 80km/h overtaking time in 6sec. For the record, it will also launch from a standstill to 100km/h in 9.9sec.

Just like the Lancer, the ASX drives out of a six-step continuously variable transmission. That’s no surprise, Mitsubishi have embraced CVT transmission and it has worked well with Outlander and Lancer. In the ASX it is equally as efficient, taking the load off the engine and helping promote respectable fuel usage results.

In the VRX variant, steering wheel-mounted paddles provide the driver with a manual sequential function. They will lock the transmission into six pre-set gearing steps to provide optimum performance and engine braking on hill descent.

Interaction between the engine and gearbox is constantly reactive, engine response is crisp, yet it is docile and ambles along at city speeds working the lower part of the rev band to meet fuel efficiency expectation.

According to Mitsubishi, the ASX in two-wheel-drive form will return a combined cycle average of 7.4-litres per 100km (38mpg). My time with the test car constantly listed around 10l/100km (28mpg) with a 7l/100km (35mpg) figure available at a constant 100km/h in the tallest part of the gearing (engine speed 1800rpm). They are satisfactory figures and don’t come at the cost of engine performance. The ASX feels lively beneath the throttle and will respond to accelerator request instantly as the power is gathered up by the CVT belt.

I took the test car inland between the two gorge bridges. The piece of road in-between provides a good mix of corners, the ASX isn’t bothered when placed quickly into a bend, the suspension soaks up uneven road surfaces and gravitational movement is arrested smoothly.

When the ASX is presented with a bit of a handling challenge not only does it cope capably, it imparts a comfortable in-cabin sensation for the occupants. The seats are well formed, especially the rears which have had a bit of an upgrade, also the entire construction technique doesn’t jeopardise the SUV concept.

Space on board isn’t overwhelming but it is adequate, for three in the rear it’s no squeeze, each has just the right amount of leg and shoulder room. There’s also adequate luggage space, easily enough for a family holiday away, or those golf bags and trundlers.

I’m expecting Mitsubishi will soon give the Lancer a revamp. When I was picking up the ASX I couldn’t help but notice the $26,990 price tag on a new Lancer, which would have to be one of the 2-litre bargains in the small sedan market.

That aside, the ASX is there for those who want to be part of the SUV experience, and it will fulfil that role well.

Price – Mitsubishi ASX VRX, $40,590

Dimensions – Length, 4355mm; width, 1810mm; height, 1640mm

Configuration –  Four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive, 1998cc, 112kW, 200Nm, continuously variable automatic

Performance –
0-100km/h, 9.9sec

Fuel usage – 7.4l/100km