Mitsubishi Motors New Zealand has initiated a solid marketing campaign for its new sport utility vehicle, the Eclipse Cross.
That doesn’t surprise me, the newcomer is a smart piece of kit and it deserves to command a big slice of the mid-size SUV market.
However, it must be remembered that Mitsubishi here has another mid-size SUV contender – the ASX – and it has been heavily facelifted for 2018.
Meaning active smart crossover, the ASX was introduced to New Zealand in 2011 and has also been a popular seller, its concept appeals to family buyers at a value-based entry point as well, the new series tempts from just under $30k.
There are four models in the ASX line-up, two petrol and two diesel, the latter in four-wheel-drive. This evaluation focuses on the entry-level two-wheel-drive XLS at $29,990; an extra $10,600 will get you into a high-spec VRX, while the two 2.3-litre diesel models list at $41,990 and $45,990 respectively.
While I’d far prefer the diesel, the carryover 2-litre petrol engine is still a fine unit, it is the same engine which has powered Lancer through the years.
The 1998cc unit develops 112kW and 200Nm, and is paired to a six-step continuously variable automatic transmission and drives through to the front wheels. These power and torque outputs are traditional, they arrive tall in the rev band at 6000rpm and 4200rpm respectively; nevertheless, when you have the benefit of CVT there is a constant point of gearing which instantly meets throttle request.
The ASX feels lively and will cut out a standstill to 100km/h time in 9.9sec, it’s also quite smart on a highway overtake, 6sec to make 120km/h from 80km/h is about the norm for a vehicle such as this.
I took the test car inland to Hororata and back to my home through Dunsandel and Coes Ford. It cruises quietly at highway speed and affords a smooth ride. Sprung on a fully independent front strut/rear multiple link system, the suspension’s mechanical elements have been developed without compromising the ASX’s function.
Body movement is controlled without the firming needed to arrest gravitational force. Instead, the ASX has spring and damper rates engineered so that the occupants reap a comfortable ride without being presented with a lurch mid-corner.
The ASX is fitted with tall 18in wheels, and shod with quality Bridgestone Dueler rubber (225/55), there is strong steering
feel and plenty of grip on offer.
I pointed the test car at some tricky corners along my test route, it turns nicely and feeds to the steering wheel positive information as to how the tyres react under pressure.
Even without four-wheel-drive there is still the feel that grip levels are elevated, while balance and control are fully retained. I like the way the ASX drives, it’s no sports car but it does have performance and handling ability which is far in excess of its purpose.
Although the XLS misses out on leather trim and a few other niceties, it still gets a healthy level of specification, and fabric trim is by far my preference. Mitsubishi has upped the specification level in the ASX; although most of those additions are hidden, they are electronic inclusions for safety and infotainment.
In terms of fuel use, Mitsubishi has done well to lean out the engine. As I remarked previously, it has been around for some time, but it is a fuel miser and carries a 7.6-litre per 100km (37mpg) combined cycle claim.
This is much the same figure as the previous generation model and although I didn’t replicate it, I did get close. The fuel usage readout was constantly listing around 8.1l/100km (35mpg) during my time with the test car, and I can report a 5l/100km (56mpg) instantaneous figure sitting at a steady 100km/h. At that speed the engine is working over at a lazy 1700rpm in the tallest part of the gearing.
Mitsubishi Motors New Zealand is the only new car company operating here which offers a 10-year/160,000km powertrain warranty across its entire range.
To me that says a lot about the quality of the product, and if you look at how long the Lancer, Outlander and ASX have been available in our market, that suggests they have not only been well received but have been built to last the distance.
Price – Mitsubishi ASX XLS, $29,990
Dimensions – Length, 4365mm; width, 1810mm; height, 1640mm
Configuration – Four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive, 1998cc, 112kW, 200Nm, continuously variable automatic
Fuel usage – 7.6l/100km