Mitsubishi 's ASX is a good example of how cosmopolitan and market-driven our new cars have become. It's a family wagon built in Japan, shared with two French brands, and aimed at trendy Australian urbanites and young families who want to blend city with country.
The ASX badge on this soft-roader stands for Active Smart Crossover yet another one of those meaningless car terms coined by the advertising and marketing departments. There is a plethora of soft-roaders already on our roads and the ASX has been around for a while but this time Mitsubishi has finally married a slightly bigger diesel engine and a good one at that with a six-speed automatic transmission. Auto diesel are two key words in this market as buyers steadily shift away (pun intended) from manual transmissions.
PRICE / FEATURES
Ten bucks less than $25,000 (plus on-road costs and a premium for metallic paint) will get you into the base 2.0-litre petrol two-wheel-drive version. We have been road testing the other end of the range, the smart looking flagship 2.2-litre turbo diesel Aspire automatic, with a price tag of $36,490.
At face value that may not be cheap but it comes well packaged for the money. Plus it has the benefit of Mitsubishi's generous warranty package and the brand enjoys good resale values. And don't forget, this time of year most of the brands are running end-of-year deals, so check out what Mitsubishi is offering.
The base ASX comes with climate control air-conditioning, cruise control, parking sensors and rear camera, a small touch screen system to operate the audio system (with voice control and USB and iPod inputs) and Bluetooth for hands-free phone calls. There's a smart key with push-button starting, automatic wipers and headlamps, powered driver's seat, a panoramic roof and 16-inch alloy wheels.
The Aspire adds a larger and more comprehensive touch control system with satellite navigation, 17-inch alloy wheels, heated seats, door mirrors that fold flat when the wagon is parked and a 60/40 split fold rear seat that also reclines.
ENGINE / TRANSMISSION
The 2.2-litre diesel (110kW, 360Nm) is a surprise package thanks to its strong mid-range performance, although like most oil burners it runs out of puff as the revs build. The Aspire comes with an excellent six-speed auto with switchable two-wheel to all-wheel drive when road or track conditions get slippery. It can be locked in AWD if required. Doing so increases the ratio of torque to the rear wheels.
Fuel consumption is a claimed 5.8l/100km; we managed 7.4l/100km to (briefly) a thirsty 11.1/km for largely city driving. Which proves the point the smoother you are the cheaper the car is to run.
DESIGN / STYLE
With its squared-off snout, oversized grille, short front and rear overhangs and chunky styling, you can't miss the ASX on the road. It shares the same platform as Mitsubishi's Outlander but the ASX is shorter, narrower and sits lower than its bigger brother.
It's a design that largely works and is attractive. The French must think that also because both Peugeot and Citroen have borrowed the ASX and used it as a platform for their own models. The ASX's cabin, which seats four in comfort and five at a squeeze, scores well on appeal thanks to quality to the fit and finish and the use of soft plastics around the dashboard. Car designers are finally getting the message that buyers don't want acres of hard, grey plastic.
The boot space is, however, compromised by a temporary spare wheel that lifts the cargo floor to an uncomfortable height. The backs of the rear seats (but not the bases) fold nearly flat to increase load carrying ability when needed.
Kids and kids at heart will love the full-length fixed glass roof (which can be hidden away by a power-operated sliding cover), especially in a car wash or driving through forests. Actually, looking skywards (while stopped of course) as an out-of-season thunder storm, which pelted the glass roof with large drops of wet stuff, was spectacular.
Five-star rating. Mitsubishi has never been one to scrimp in the safety stakes so the ASX gets seven airbags, stability and traction control and smart brakes and a useful hillholder to stop you running backwards when stopped on a slope. Child seats can be mounted to two Isofix points on the outer rear seats.
Short overhangs and the bonus of a rear camera mean parking the ASX is a simple task. Like most diesels, there is some lag when starting off but it makes up for that with strong delivery of torque between 1500 and 2750rpm. The diesel, however, is not the quietest in the SUV pack.
Like the Outlander and Challenger, the ASX auto offers behind-the-steering-wheel paddle shifting if you remember to use them or the transmission lever can be moved into manual mode. The marriage between turbo diesel and auto transmission shows little signs of disagreement, although the transmission can be too quick to upshift. It's good for fuel economy but takes the ASX off the boil until it catches up.
The ride is good both on sealed and dirt roads although when pushed the little Mitsubishi likes to lean into corners, reflecting its high-riding stance. Braked tow capacity is rated at 1400kg.
The ASX doesn't raise the bar in the small SUV class, but nevertheless it's more than adequate and drives well. The diesel is the pick of the model line-up.
Mitsubishi ASX Aspire
Price: from $36,490
Warranty: 5 years/130,000km, 12-mth roadside
Crash rating: 5-star
Engine: 2.2-litre, 4-cylinder turbo-diesel, 110kW/360Nm
Transmission: 6-speed auto, 4WD
Thirst: 5.8L/100km, 153g/km CO2
Dimensions: 4.3m (L), 1.8m (W), 1.6m (H)
Spare: space saver
Price: from $35,990
Engine: 2.0L four-cylinder diesel, 135kW/392Nm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic, 4WD
Thirst: 7.2L/100km, CO2 189g/km
Price: from $30,290
Engine: 1.6L four-cylinder diesel, 96kW/320Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual, FWD
Thirst: 4.5L/100km, CO2 119g/km
Price: from $38,490
Engine: 2.0L four-cylinder diesel, 103kW/320Nm
Transmission: 7-speed DSG, 4WD
Thirst: 6.2L/100km, CO2 164g/km
NON DIESEL OPTION:
Price: from $28,490
Engine: 2.0L four-cylinder petrol, 110kW/196Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual or CVT, 4WD
Thirst: 7.3L/100km, CO2 168g/km