Mitsubishi and 4x4s go together like itchy and scratchy or cheese and crackers. But demand for heavy 4x4s has tailed off as buyers seek out lower running costs. As a result the compact crossover was born and every manufacturer wants a piece of the pie. Mitsubishi have enjoyed considerable success in the UK with the launch of their Outlander crossover but their ASX, or “Active Sports Crossover” is tasked with repeating its big brothers success.
Mitsubishi’s design team have done a sterling job in designing a crossover that blends the best of both worlds. What strikes you most is the aggressive front fascia which sports the company’s bold “Jet Fighter” grille and angry-looking projector headlights. The stubby rear continues the theme with smartly styled pointy rear lights that sit high up just below the rear window. Side on is probably the ASX’s weakest angle as it lacks the wow factor found elsewhere but the smart looking 17” alloy wheels help improve things. The ASX looks much bigger than it actually is; it’s noticeably shorter than a Ford Focus or Nissan Qashqai, this only increases its appeal.
Inside the ASX is a bit of a surprise, Mitsubishi are renowned for their solid, hard wearing interiors that feel capable of outliving their owners. This time round it’s all change, ASX has jumped on the soft and squishy plastics bandwagon and is all the better for it. Every surface at eye level feels classy and everything else is robust but still of great quality.
All of the major controls are perfectly situation and are breeze to use, the dials are a particular highlight with their chrome surrounds and cool red and white glow which Mitsubishi say were inspired by those on a motorbike. Furthermore there is a glitzy smartphone-like screen between the dials displaying a raft of driver information including the fuel and temperature gauges.
The steering wheel is generously smothered in quality leather- it’s the perfect size and feels great to hold, it’s lovely and chunky housing controls for the stereo and cruise control. However there is simply too much black in the cabin which can make it seem unnecessarily dark and drab.
Considering its relatively compact dimensions the ASX’s interior packaging is clearly the work of the wizards at Hogwarts. Room up front is more than generous and space in the rear isn’t far behind, at a squeeze 3 can sit abreast with plenty of room to nestle feet neatly under the raised front seats.
There’s no shortage of storage space either with big door bins and lots of little nooks for oddments, there is even a usable glove box which seems to be rare in today’s cars. Boot space is also plentiful at 442 litres with the rear seats in place swelling to a cavernous 1193 litres by flipping them down. If this wasn’t enough lift the boot floor to reveal more storage.
Safety / Features
All ASXs have an abundance of standard equipment to keep everyone happy, base models are adorned with alloy wheels, air conditioning, and keyless entry. The “4” model you see adds automatic headlights, rear parking camera that works in the same screen as the satellite navigation, iPod connection and two extra speakers for the stereo and leather upholstery. What more could you want?
Valuable safety items include Active Stability Control, Traction Control, ABS with EBD and Brake Assist, dual stage front side and curtain airbags including driver’s knee airbag earning the ASX the coveted 5 star Euro-NCAP crash rating. If you are planning on mowing down pedestrians the ASX is one of a small group of cars that have been designed to minimise pedestrian injuries should the worst happen with its plastic front wings, double bulge bonnet and energy absorbing bumper.
Powering this Qashqai-eater is a thoroughly modern 1.8 DiD turbo diesel with 114bhp and 221lb ft of torque arriving at a convenient 1,750 rpm. At idle the all too familiar diesel clatter is inaudible and not much changes on the move, only when really hammering the throttle does it become apparent that you are sat in an oil burner. Power delivery is ultra-smooth without any annoying flat spots and with a 0-60mph time of 10.2 seconds its not going to win any drag races but it does a grand job of pulling the 1400 kg body around.
Usually with any crossover there is always a compromise to be made when it comes to running costs. The ASX however is different. Mitsubishi’s Cleartec technology aids emissions and fuel consumption with the use of electric power steering, regenerative brakes, low rolling resistance tyres, low viscosity oil, LED lighting and weight reduction measures. Fuel economy is remarkable returning 54.3 mpg on a combined cycle, I managed a very honorable 46.9 mpg whilst with us. With emissions at 136 g/km the DiD falls into tax band E costing a wallet-friendly £120 in road tax.
It’s hard to know what to expect from the driving experience of a car with a high centre of gravity but the ASX is nothing short of incredible. When setting off the superb refinement of the engine lends itself to a soothing drive which is aided by a well-judged ride that feels compliant and able to deal with any road surface so is completely unflappable. The only minor niggle is its slightly springy nature over sleeping policeman.
Show the ASX a sweeping rural road and it really comes alive. The steering is pretty much perfect; it is beautifully feelsome sending a raft of information about what the tyres are doing instilling confidence in the driver when cornering. The gear change is equally well engineered. All too often these days gearboxes don’t actually feel like they are designed for swapping cogs, but the ASXs has a really nice smooth mechanical feeling action making gear changes a joy. The ratios are also particularly well-spaced to exploit the power on offer.
When approaching corners body movements are kept well in check with little body roll and plenty of grip. I liked the way the traction control system lets the driver have some fun before intervening. The overall feeling is a one of a car engineered to offer the driver genuine driving thrills that so many cars lack and you certainly don’t expect from this class of car.
Engine: 1.8 16v 114bhp
0-62 mph: 10.2 secs
Maximum Speed: 117 mph
Economy: 44.8mpg (urban)–62.8mpg (extra-urban), 54.3 (combined)
Emissions: 136 g/km (Band E) – VED (12 months): £120
Price as tested: £24,895
*data from Mitsubishi UK for more info visit www.mitsubishi-cars.co.uk
The ASX is a really well rounded car. It’s a very cut-throat sector of the market but the ASX deserves to make a real splash. In every area it exceeding my expectations and then some. The level of driver involvement on offer is simply not found in any of its rivals. If this wasn’t enough the ASX is spacious, comfortable, well-built, refined and economical. With the range kicking off at just over £16,000 it’s also a real bargain. There really isn’t much not to like about the ASX without nit-picking, the cabin may be a touch bland and the ride slightly bouncy over speed humps but this fails to detract from a superb all-round package.