TEST DRIVE: Mitsubishi ASX

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Steve Sharpe drives Mitsubishi’s ASX crossover

Mitsubishi’s ASX has been around since 2010, when it was first introduced as the company’s entry in the growing compact crossover market.

The ASX – which is short for Active Sports Crossover (although someone should have pointed out that Crossover begins with a C) – rivals established crossovers like Skoda’s Yeti, Nissan’s Qashqai, Mazda’s CX-5 and Kia’s Sportage to name a few, but it was always considered a little expensive by comparison, and so enjoyed a limited degree of success.

But Mitsubishi in the UK is on a bit of a roll at the moment, with sales figures up and reports just this month of 400 new jobs and an expansion of its import operation to get more vehicles in. So it’s a good time to reintroduce an improved version of the ASX.

This year’s model has had its prices cut by around 10 per cent but has been fitted with more goodies in an effort to grab a bigger slice of the market.

The model line-up has also been simplified, with three engine sizes – a 1.6 petrol version and 1.8 and 2.2 diesels – while there are three trim levels, called simply ASX 2, 3 and 4.

This new version is a definite improvement in all areas and it makes for a viable alternative in the compact crossover class.

From the outside the ASX appears to be a composite of any number of crossovers but although it may appear a little generic it’s still a nicely proportioned car, with a higher window line and attractive grooves sliding down its flanks.

It actually bears the same blunt front end and big, bold grille as the slightly unhinged Evo X saloon.

It’s not unappealing, more unspectacular.

My test car was the new 2.2 automatic diesel flagship model in top-spec 4 trim, which uses the same acclaimed 2.2 engine found in the new Outlander, and which retails for just under the £25,000 mark.

Open the door and the ASX’s cabin is well put together and nicely laid out.

It’s pretty roomy inside, with plenty of headroom and legroom for front-seat and rear-seat occupants, and this sense of space is enhanced by its unfussy design.

The passenger side of the dash is dominated by a large expanse of console, with the controls being aimed at the driver.

The central section houses the three retro-style heating dials, with the satnav and media controls housed above it.

It’s an impressive sound system, a Kenwood, but the screen’s on the small side and I found it extremely difficult to read while on the move, due to its red colour scheme and the fact that the small text size.

Using the steering-wheel mounted control to switch modes between radio and CD is a case of pressing a few times and seeing what comes out of the speakers.

But that aside the controls are simple to use and the plastics are springy to the touch in the areas which get the most human contact, with lower down areas being harder plastics to withstand a the hammering of a family’s feet.

It’s not the most stylish interior but it looks durable and it’s well laid out and certainly improves upon some of the basic cabins of past years.

Out on the road the ASX provides a pleasing all-round performance.

Switch on the pushbutton ignition and the 2.2 diesel engine throbs into life. There’s an unmistakable diesel edge to the engine, which stays quite vocal at all times.

The ASX is, by definition, a compact crossover, so it’s not a big car, but the roominess of the cabin and big-car sound of the engine gives the impression that you’re driving a larger vehicle.

It comes as a pleasing surprise, then, to find that the ASX possesses an impressive turn of speed.

Because although it’s pretty sedate from a standing start, when the revs get higher and you rise through the gears you get an impressive surge of acceleration.

Keep the revs high and the Mitsubishi holds its own in all driving conditions.

The automatic gearbox in the model I drove slips up and down nicely and you’re rarely caught wanting.

The diesel auto is only available with four-wheel drive, with its default setting front-wheel drive. A button between the seats engages 4WD Auto mode, which sends up to 30 per cent of power to the back axle should the front wheels slip, while a second press sends equal power to front and rear wheels, and ensures the ASX is better equipped to negotiate tricky surfaces.

Those looking for comfort more than performance are well catered for, as the big wheels do a good job in soaking up the potholes and ridges which litter the roads of the North East.

It makes for a comfortable ride, and although there’s a degree of wind noise coming through the upright sides and road rumble coming through from the tarmac – and the diesel engine remains vocal at all speeds – it’s an accomplished motorway runner.

Despite the softer suspension, the ASX can handle country road cornering decently, although you get some body lean when pushing through tight bends.

The Mitsubishi deals with town driving decently too – the steering is light, allowing good manoeuvrability and there’s good visibility through the front and sides.

The view through the rear isn’t as great but the top-spec version does come with a reversing camera as standard.

Indeed, the extra kit on offer throughout the range is one of the things which could help to increase the popularity of this likeable and easy-to-drive crossover.

All models are well equipped, with even the entry-level ASX 2 coming with alloy wheels, air conditioning, Active Stability and Traction Control, remote keyless entry and seven airbags. This new 2014 version also gets a Bluetooth hands-free system as standard.

The ASX 3 adds 17-inch alloys, climate control, push-start button, parking sensors, privacy glass, front fog lamps, cruise control and features six speakers. KOS (Keyless Operation System) and auto light and rain sensors.

The top-spec adds reversing camera, leather upholstery, Kenwood satnav and CD/radio with MP3 compatibility, and a panoramic glass roof, with “mood lighting” when it’s dark.

Reducing the price of the ASX will make the crossover a more attractive proposition to those looking for something a little different.

It’s a practical car that drives well, has a good-sized and well-shaped boot and also returns not far short of 50mpg.

It’s a shame for Mitsubishi that key rivals like the Qashqai, CX-5 and Skoda Yeti are such good cars, which means that a car like the ASX will always a tough job in front of it.

But the crossover does have a lot going for it, not least Mitsubishi’s fine history of reliability and impressive extras like a three-year unlimited mileage warranty and 12-year anti-corrosion guarantee, not to mention a comprehensive three-year pan-European assistance package that even provides onwards transport and mis-fuelling cover.

Choose your particular model and spec and the ASX is a likeable alternative to the some of the bigger names out 
there.

FAct file

Mitsubishi ASX Diesel

Engine: 2.2litre diesel

Transmission: Six-speed auto.

0-62: 10.8 seconds.

Top Speed: 118mph.

Economy: Avg 48.7mpg

Price: £24,884