The Mitsubishi ASX is the compact crossover that you probably left off your shortlist. Does the latest improved version deserve your attention? Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
The Mitsubishi ASX has been refreshed, but the changes made to this family-sized Qashqai-class crossover aren't too far-reaching. Still, the pricing is very competitive and there's a lot to like about this versatile and reliable contender. It deserves better than the reception it gets, in the UK at least.
Market economics being what they are, it's often a very fine line between a product being a winner and an also-ran. Take Mitsubishi's ASX for example. In the hotly-contested crossover market for family-sized Qashqai-class cars, it was always one of the better cars available, yet never returned decent sales, in the UK at least. Why? Simply because you could buy better contenders for less, so people did. The ASX didn't actually need very much doing to lever it back into contention - the margins are so fine in this division - and remains a really smart used car pick, so Mitsubishi has regrouped, taken a look at the car and improved it, primarily through adding in a smarter front end and extra equipment. Is it enough to punt it back into contention? That's a tough one. Mitsubishi will never have the promotional budget of a Ford or Vauxhall. Instead, it relies on industry plaudits and word of mouth to do a lot of its reputational legwork for it. Is the ASX good enough to generate this groundswell of opinion? Let's have a closer look at Mitsubishi's proposition.
If you haven't tried an ASX for some time but were familiar with the original version, the main thing you'll notice about the current range is the fact that mainstream diesel versions now use an efficient 1.6-litre DI-D powerplant in place of the original 1.8-litre unit. It puts out 114bhp, so the power output's similar to before, and is offered with either two or four wheel drive. As a budget alternative, the 1.6-litre MIVEC petrol unit continues on, offering 117bhp and front-driven only. Or there's a 150bhp 2.2-litre diesel mated to automatic transmission and four wheel drive at the top of the range. And on the move? Well what people like about Crossover models is what they'll like about this one. The raised SUV-style driving position and butch looks, combined with an accessible family hatchback-style driving experience. The ASX, like all Crossovers, requires its owners to leave the Serengeti to Ranulph Fiennes, but for those needing to negotiate muddy carparks or snowy driveways, that optional 4WD set-up will be useful. In true Mitsubishi style, it's a properly developed system offering full-time front wheel drive for normal tarmac use or, if conditions are rainy or icy, an automatic four-wheel drive option that can send anything up to 50% of the torque to the rear axle if sensors detect wheel slip. Should you venture onto the mucky stuff and be unwise enough to take your ASX somewhere you shouldn't be, the third option - permanent four-wheel drive - would give you a fighting chance of extricating yourself.
Design and Build
The main change to this updated ASX is its smarter front end, this featuring what Mitsubishi calls a 'Dynamic Shield' visual identity that brings it in line with other models in the company's range like the Outlander. This look is supposed to symbolise functionality and reassuring safety with bold chromed streaks sitting either side of the grille, shielding the three diamond brand logo. Otherwise, not too much has changed. The ASX was always a fairly handsome thing and the styling updates added to this car in recent times preserve that basic feel while sharpening up some of the detailing. The interior has also been slightly updated, with revised seat cushions and smarter upholstery. The dash layout remains fairly unadventurous in its design, with a proliferation of dark plastics lightly peppered with metallic detailing, but the bright LCD display between the two main dials is useful, the soft-touch finish of the fascia is nice, the controls are refreshingly simple and you certainly aren't overwhelmed by too many buttons. Rear passengers have a good amount of legroom and headroom but there are no individual sliding seats, as found in some rivals. Fold the 60/40 split bench and you free up to 1193-litres of boot space. A capacity of 442-litres with the seats in place isn't the best in class but will probably be sufficient for most owners. Plus there are plenty of storage areas around the cabin, including a tray under the boot floor that can hold an extra 30-litres.
Market and Model
ASX buyers choose between four levels of trim - '2','3','4' and '5'. Pricing starts at around £16,000 but even for that, you get quite a lot, including 16-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth phone compatibility, front foglamps, air conditioning and rear privacy glass. Other inclusions run to a USB port, privacy glass, a chrome exhaust finisher and a high-contrast LCD display.Bear in mind that for a diesel version, you have to buy in at least at '3' level, which means an asking price from around £20,500. If you want 4WD, you'll need to buy in at '4' level, which means you'll be paying close to £24,500 for a 1.6 DI-D 4WD variant. Across the range, there's plenty of safety stuff too. The ASX incorporates Mitsubishi's RISE safety technology which dissipates energy from an impact away from the passenger compartment. The car also has ABS anti-lock braking, Active Stability Control, Traction Control, Electronic Brake Distribution, a Brake Assist and Emergency Stop Signal System, Hill Start Assist, ISOFIX child seat anchorage and seven airbags as standard. The result is a reduced likelihood of an accident, but should a collision be unavoidable, the ASX not only provides outstanding levels of occupant protection - with a 5 Star Euro NCAP rating - but also excellent impact protection.
Cost of Ownership
The main reason that in 2015, Mitsubishi switched from 1.8 to 1.6-litre Di-D diesel power for the mainstream verson of this ASX was of course to improve efficiency. The old 1.8 struggled to return more than 50mpg on the combined ccle, even in 2WD form. In contrast, today's front-driven ASX 1.6 DI-D manages 61.4mpg and 119g/km of CO2, which is very class-competitive. Bear in mind though, that if you opt for it with 4WD, those figures fall to 56.5mpg and 132g/km. Lower mileage drivers might prefer to stick to the affordable 1.6-litre petrol engine and this will also return decent economy as long as you're not heaving some serious weight about with it. Here you're looking at 135g/km, which is barely any worse than the diesels, and a combined economy figure of 48.7mpg. For around £16,000, this suddenly seems quite the bargain. The 2.2-litre diesel auto is pricier to run of course, managing 48.7mpg and 152g/km.
With over 750,000 units sold across the globe, Mitsubishi's ASX has been very successful for the Japanese brand and these updates keep it reasonably competitive against the latest wave of family-sized Crossovers, models like the second generation Nissan Qashqai and Renault's Kadjar. This car needed a bit of a refresh, both to deal with rivals as good as these and draw attention to its efficient 1.6-litre Di-D diesel engine. Overall, if you get yourself the right deal on this car, it'll still make quite a sensible choice if you're thinking of a car of this kind. Overall of course on a global level, Mitsubishi won't care even if this car does stay a bit-part player in Britain in its chosen market segment. The ASX does good business for them worldwide and will continue to do so. But it deserves wider recognition here.