Car reviews - Mitsubishi - ASX - Range
Value, space, ease, practicality, improved safety, slightly better refinement, long warranty, wide variant choices, proven design
Room for improvement
Dated cabin, stiff ride, noisy powertrain, AEB not available range-wide
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4 Oct 2017
IT’S almost unbelievable that the oldest small SUV on sale in Australia is in a neck-and-neck battle with the Mazda CX-3 in the sales race.
Yet the Mitsubishi ASX’s appeal is obvious – low on price, big on space and long on warranty. Never mind that it’s all a little rough and ready.
The simple and successful formula must drive makers of newer compact crossovers spare. So why change the recipe?For its eighth year in the market, the ASX receives a series of updates that are meant to be easier on the ears as well as on the eye. Are they enough?
Why does the Mitsubishi ASX vie with the Mazda CX-3 for small SUV class honours?Is it the neat, wheel-at-each-corner design? The longer and wider than usual footprint as a result of being based on a ‘C’ rather than ‘B’ segment small-car, bringing obvious benefits in passenger space and practicality? A five-year warranty when most others offer three? The fact that there is choice of a diesel and all-wheel drive? Residual affection for a brand that once manufactured reliable and often world-class vehicles in Australia? Or the fact that the Mitsubishi was one of the first of its type to market back in 2010?Soon to celebrate eight years in production, the crossover also known as the RVR and Outlander Sport in other regions has received a glitzier headlight treatment, a rear-end nip-and-tuck thanks to a different tailgate and back bumper, and an updated multimedia system bringing Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity as well as a DAB+ digital radio, in a pretty touchscreen that’s bound to please punters on the dealership forecourts.
The availability of as a $1500 Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS) option on the base LS petrol 2WD auto is a far more important milestone in the ASX’s long and quietly illustrious career, and for that we applaud Mitsubishi – although why it’s unavailable even as an extra on the $25,000 manual or LS diesel auto is a mystery.
To sample the MY18 upgrades, the company flew a bunch of journalists to Darwin, then put us in several examples of the ASX, Outlander, Pajero Sport and Pajero and told us to head down to Kakadu.
Our ASX was the top-line XLS Di-D turbo-diesel, which means the so-called noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) improvements that sees “…new acoustic absorption materials introduced throughout the body” were probably at their most effective, since the oil-burning version doesn’t have the at-times noisy and whiney 110kW/197Nm 2.0-litre petrol/continuously variable transmission (CVT) powertrain ruining the peace and quiet.
Instead, the 110kW/360Nm 2.2-litre four-pot turbo-diesel/six-speed torque-converter auto combo proved remarkably quiet, quick-shifting and generally unobtrusive. There was less road rumble than we remember, too.
Every other upgrade served as gentle sweeteners to a likeable, robust small SUV package – set amongst the dated dashboard and its hard-wearing but bargain-basement looking trim is a thoroughly modern touchscreen system that’s intuitive to operate the additional padded material, larger centre console box and extra USB ports would eventually be appreciated by users of the car and how can anybody not enjoy the variety that DAB+ digital radio brings?The fact is, however, that the ASX on 225/55R18 rubber rides a bit stiff, lacking the suppleness and pliancy of some rival products the steering – though eager and light – isn’t engaging in any shape or form (again, like some competitor systems are) and the overall ‘feel’ of the Mitsubishi is from another, earlier era. Remember, the XLS Di-D AWD we drove wears a sticker price of $37,500. That’s serious dosh for a medium SUV, let alone a small one.
The latter’s AWD set-up, by the way, fared well over the ruts and sandy hills of Kakadu, never really threatening to strand the car or us in the 37-degree heat. But, boy, the suspension’s lack of travel was truly felt through gritted teeth, so we don’t recommend trying this at home.
That was highlighted by the stupendous ease, comfort and refinement that the 18-year-old Pajero traversed the same route, which goes to show that age isn’t necessarily a barrier to how good or not a car or SUV is.
Ultimately, then, the ASX in its MY18 livery is like an ageing stage performer with a bit more botox, a more streetwise vocabulary and a few more manners. Not the latest and certainly not the greatest, but with enough appeal for the easily pleased.
For everybody else, there is the Toyota C-HR, Mazda CX-3, Peugeot 2008, Honda HR-V and Suzuki Vitara to contemplate, as well as the promising Hyundai Kona.
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