Mitsubishi's ASX 1.6 Di-D 2WD ASX Crossover model brings a large dose of credibility to the Crossover party. Jonathan Crouch checks out the cleaner, more fuel-efficient version
Ten Second Review
Cars of the Crossover-kind - family hatchbacks with a dose of SUV-style - are deservedly popular but they tend to be sold by brands with very little 4x4 credibility. Not in this case. Mitsubishi's ASX is a properly developed and very credible alternative to the Nissan Qashqais and Peugeot 3008s you might otherwise picture when considering a car in this segment. Here, we check it out in more efficient 1.6-litre Di-D diesel-engined form.
The kind of big, butch 4x4s Mitsubishi is best known for - models like the Shogun and the L200 pick-up - aren't really in vogue at the moment. What's currently setting the automotive world alight are SUVs of a smaller, softer bent. Models that may look like they could rough it up on a mountain track but would really rather take the family to the supermarket. The ASX is Mitsubishi's contribution to this more urbane face of 4x4 motoring, a Crossover model designed around everyday use in the urban rather than the Amazon jungle. 'ASX' stands for 'Active Sporting Crossover', Crossovers being probably the trendiest thing in motoring at the moment - at least if you believe the people who sell them. Nissan's Qashqai started the whole trend for family hatchbacks with added versatility and SUV attitude back in 2007 and it's since been joined by a host of rivals. Peugeot's 3008, Skoda's Yeti and Hyundai's ix35 have all pitched in to a growing market but none of these brands have Mitsubishi's 4x4 credibility - or indeed the clever variable valve diesel technology that aims to set this ASX apart.
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. All right, there are Crossovers that handle a little more tautly but the ASX's manners are tidy, plus the ride's impressive and there's plenty of grip. And in this 112bhp 1.6-litre DiD diesel variant, 'swift' is the operative word. The slick-shifting six-speed manual gearbox helps the ASX sprint to sixty from rest in 11.2s on the way to 114mph and though this certainly isn't the most refined diesel out there, it is one of the most responsive, thanks to a meaty slug of torque that cuts down on gearchanges and makes this a relaxing car to drive. Owners happy to leave the Serengeti to Ranulph Fiennes will be happy with a front-drive ASX, but for those needing to negotiate muddy carparks or snowy driveways, there is the option of a 4WD set-up and in true Mitsubishi style, it's a properly developed one. The system offers 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 permanent four-wheel drive option would give you a fighting chance of extricating yourself.
Design and Build
Exterior design changes see two-tone 18" alloy wheels and more dynamic looking wheel arches added to the mid and high specification ASX models which give the exterior a fresh new look. Otherwise, not too much has changed. The ASX was always a fairly handsome thing with its Mitsubishi Evo-look front end 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 updated, the main change being the addition of an ergonomically-enhanced three-spoke steering wheel. 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
Mitsubishi know that its pricing here will have to be tight. Expect to pay somewhere around £19,500 for this 1.6 Di-D model, around £4,000 less than the (admittedly better specified) 4WD version. Either way, you're looking at a comparable model-for-model saving of quite a lot over a Nissan Qashqai or comparable Peugeot 3008. As for other Crossover sector rivals, well, cars like Skoda's Yeti and Hyundai's Tucson look good value but offer you less performance: you'll have to decide on your priorities. All models come decently equipped, with alloy wheels, air conditioning, a CD stereo with MP3 compatibility and stop-start technology. Safetywise, this car achieved a five-star Euro NCAP crash-test rating thanks to the provision of seven airbags, anti-whiplash front head restraints, Brake Assist, plus traction and stability control.
Cost of Ownership
The main reason for switching from 1.8 to 1.6-litre Di-D diesel power for the mainstream verson of this ASX is of course to improve efficiency. Sure enough, the previous model's figures (55.4mpg on the combined cycle and 134g/km in 2WD form) now improve to 61.4mpg and 119g/km of CO2 in this latest 1.6-litre diesel model. 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 £15,500, this suddenly seems quite the bargain. Whichever engine you choose, a shift indicator on the dash should help you get somewhere near to those figures in regular day-to-day motoring. Servicing costs aren't quite so impressive, as this car needs workshop visits every 9,000 miles or 12 months.
Mitsubishi sells SUV-style vehicles designed to make life easier, whether the need is for a Shogun to plough through the sand of the Serengetti or, as in this case, a more affordable ASX to deal with the aggravation of a trip to Asda. In these cash-strapped times, there'll be no prizes for guessing which of the two approaches is likely to prove most popular. Vehicles like this one really do offer a tempting alternative to the ordinary family hatchbacks and superminis that everyone else drives. The question though, is whether in buying a 4x4-style Crossover car of this kind, you really need to buy into a brand that actually knows something about 4x4 motoring. Mitsubishi of course, will argue that you do but this ASX can offer those who agree more than just vague associations of SUV brand equity. It does, after all, boast the most innovative and efficient diesel engine in its class and arguably delivers the best value proposition too. It is then, a car that like the opposition, buyers in this sector will need to take very seriously indeed.