Mitsubishi ASX VS Kia Sportage
- Looks much more 2020 than before
- AEB now standard across the board
- Still a very handy size and shape
- Feels like a 2010 car
- Questionably old ANCAP rating
- Could do with the Eclipse Cross engine
- Great ride
- Good standard safety
- Great standard features
- Rivals offer AWD cheaper
- Full safety suite on GT-Line only
- Petrol engine thirsty
I could be the first person to compare the Mitsubishi ASX with a Porsche 911, but bear with me. You may know the story that the Porsche 928 was designed to replace the 911, but the popularity of the 911 kept it selling alongside the 928 and eventually outliving it.
The ASX seems to be emulating this tale, to a lesser degree at least. The Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross that was introduced in 2018 is widely understood to have been intended as the ASX's replacement, but as it soldiers through its tenth year on the Australian market well and truly outselling the Eclipse Cross and every other small SUV on the market, the triple-diamond brand has just given the ASX its biggest birthday yet.
The 2020 model may look like an all-new car from the front, but from the rear it’s clearly more of a significant update if you look past the fresh details.
Read More: Find Mitsubishi ASXs for sale here
Given previous versions of the ASX have trailed behind most of its rivals in terms of design, refinement and dynamics for some time, have they done enough to warrant your choice over the numerous much fresher small SUVs out there?
We were among the first to experience the new ASX at its Australian media launch last week to find out.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
If you take a snapshot of the Australian mid-size SUV market, it becomes apparent that the Kia Sportage is an oft-overlooked option in a sea of storied Japanese nameplates.
Perhaps it’s because the Sportage is a bit more controversially styled than its Tucson cousin, or perhaps it’s a victim of its own success, having been an attractive option for populating car-share fleets like GoGet.
But I’d argue that the Sportage is special in more ways than it gets credit for, and shouldn’t be overlooked by Australians on the hunt for a new mid-sizer, even this far into its lifecycle.
Read on to find out why, and which variant in the Sportage’s just updated 2020 lineup is our pick of the bunch.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
The ASX success story is one of automotive’s true enigmas. It has done an amazing job of ticking the boxes to stay current, and the 2020 update will probably help it stay at the front of the sales race for some time to come.
But a quick test drive of any of its main rivals will show what difference almost a decade of fundamental improvements can make, so as always, it’s important to try a few options before making your choice.
Despite its age, you could still do a lot worse than choosing the ASX though.
The sweet spot of the updated range is arguably the LS, given it can be had for just over $30k on the road, with handy equipment levels and all safety gear included. The 2.0-litre engine also does the job just fine in my opinion.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
The Sportage continues to age gracefully, now offering an increasingly finely tuned range of variants to suit most price brackets.
While its engine and transmission choices leave a little to be desired, it continues to offer impressive ride, handing, and technology when compared to many (but not all) Japanese segment rivals.
Our pick of the range is the SX in either engine, as it offers the lion’s share of Sportage spec items at the right price.
The 2020 ASX’s look is all new from the windscreen forward, with LED headlights and the latest iteration of Mitsubishi’s dynamic shield nose to bring the brand’s second best-selling model in line with other more recent designs in the line-up.
All other sheet metal is unchanged, so no change to overall dimensions, but the rear end has been treated to new lights and a reshaped bumper.
The colour options have also been refreshed, and now include white, Starlight pearl white, Sterling silver metallic, Black pearl, Lightning blue pearl, Titanium metallic, Red diamond, and Sunshine orange on GSR and Exceed only.
Read More: Compare models with the ASX here
The Sportage isn’t as conservatively styled as its sensible spec would suggest. Clearly influenced by the likes of the Porsche Cayenne, with the bonnet-mounted light fittings, curvaceous edges and strip-light across the tailgate, the overall look aims to put the “sport” in “Sportage”.
It has enough of its almost insectoid personality to be criticised as a straight rip-off though, for better or worse, and its most recent facelift in 2018 accentuated its best features. At least one criticism that can’t be leveled at the Sportage is that it looks boring.
The more aggressive look certainly sets it apart from the conservatively styled Hyundai Tucson with which it shares a chassis, and that’s even more evident on the inside where there’s a sportier asymmetrical dash with a raised centre-console and slick, three-spoke steering wheel.
While everything is ergonomic in here – with an added bonus of dials and shortcut buttons for the climate controls - the screen-in-dash look is getting a bit dated. The same could be said for the interior plastics, which are finished largely in the same drab grey colour, no matter which grade you pick. The design of them is nice, but anything under the soft dash-topper is hard to the touch.
Thankfully, everything is superbly put together with not a squeak or rattle to be heard on any of the test cars I sampled, and the pared-back application of silver highlights in the dash is tasteful. The quad-dial instrument cluster is a classic layout. There’s no option for a digital dash in the Sportage range.
The two-tone alloys look great, no matter which grade you pick, and aside from the flared bits and LED light fittings on the GT-Line, it’s genuinely hard to tell the grades apart from each other, which is good for low-spec buyers.
Overall, the Sportage presents a design which has aged well, thanks to a more risqué approach being taken when this generation first launched in 2016.
Mitsubishi got the size and shape of the ASX so right in the very early days of the small SUV body type, which has certainly helped its ongoing popularity. Mitsubishi points out that its hip point has resonated particularly well with buyers, which makes for easy ingress and egress compared with traditional small cars.
There’s nothing new for 2020 in terms of practicality, but there continues to be heaps of room on the back seat behind my front seating position for my 172cm height.
It’s still got the standard twin cupholders in the centre console and in the rear armrest, plus bottle holders in the front doors but still none in the rear.
Parents will appreciate that such an old design manages to have ISOFIX child seat mounts in the outboard positions, but the only rear air vents you get are still under the front seats and non adjustable.
The boot is still a decent size that should easily cover four passengers, but it’s worth noting that the ASX spec sheet says the Exceed’s subwoofer eats up 50 litres of storage space. Mitsubishi’s press material quotes 393 litres VDA, but the 1193-litre VDA figure with the back seat folded drops to 1143 litres VDA for the Exceed.
A space saver spare still sees duty under the boot floor, and there’s a smattering of small storage compartments under there as well.
Like most Korean SUVs, the Sportage has the idea of practicality cooked-in throughout its cabin. It starts in the front row, where the driver and passenger have access to some large cupholders in the doors and centre console (suitable for 500ml containers), a decently sized top-box and glovebox, as well as a very large trench in front of the shift-lever, which also hosts the USB and aux inputs, as well as dual 12V power outlets.
In the back seat, there are plenty of amenities, with decently sized cupholders in each door, pockets on the back of the seats, air-conditioning vents on the back of the console as well as dual power outlets. Another neat trick is that the Sportage has reclining rear seats, allowing extra comfort for rear-seat passengers, or extra boot space where required.
To its credit, the boot space is easy to use and comes with an adjustable rolling cover. Part of the reduction in sheer capacity is due to a full-size alloy spare living under the boot floor – a big bonus for regional buyers, who may need one as a matter of safety.
Leg and headroom are simply great, no matter which seat you’re sitting in, and the big rear doors on the Sportage open nice and wide – good for low-mobility passengers or those needing to fit a child-seat.
Price and features
Before we drill into the nitty gritty of the new ASX’s price and specs, the headline changes have been the addition of two sports-flavoured new trim levels and ongoing drive-away pricing has been added across the range. The latter helps to disguise the fact that list pricing has gone up across the board.
The new MR and GSR trim levels arrive next month, and sit among the existing variants to represent a new ES, MR, LS, GSR, Exceed model walk from bottom to top. The new trim levels are aimed at attracting buyers who would have otherwise chosen the Lancer small sedan, which was retired from the Mitsubishi range earlier this year.
Read More: Find used Mitsubishi ASXs for sale here
The top two models have upgraded to the familiar 2.4-litre petrol engine from the Outlander and numerous other Mitsubishis over the years, while all other ASXs continue with the 2.0-litre petrol it’s used since it first arrived.
There’s new seat trim for every variant beneath the Exceed, and all versions finally come standard with AEB that works at speeds up to 80km/h.
As before, the automatic ES can be had with an advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) pack for another $2500, which is detailed below under Safety.
The MR adds a number of blacked-out exterior components such as 18-inch wheels, grille and door mirrors, as well as rear parking sensors, privacy glass and push-button start for $28,240 drive away.
The next rung up the ASX ladder is the $30,240 (drive away) LS that gains privacy glass, push-button start and chrome interior door handles.
The GSR pairs the MR’s blacked-out accessories with a six-speaker sound system, rear spoiler and micro-suede interior with red-stitching for $32,240 drive away.
Finally, the top-spec Exceed is now $35,740 drive away, but aside from upgrading to the 2.4-litre engine it gains a panoramic sunroof, leather-appointed seats with front seat heaters and in-built satellite navigation.
Mitsubishi is also offering a number of factory accessories within option packages, with the Adventure kit, Protection pack and Style set all offering discounted pricing over individual options.
The Adventure kit costs $1699 and includes roof rack cross bars, bonnet protector, headlight protectors, nudge bar, cargo liner, and boot flap scuff guard, with a net saving of $280.
The Protection pack costs $999 and includes, outer scuff plates, bonnet protector, headlight protectors, weather shields, cargo liner, and carpet mats, with a net saving of $231.
The Style set costs $2199 and includes an alloy fuel lid, front skid plate, rear skid plate, tailgate protector, chrome door handles and silver mirror caps, with a net saving of $442.
You did read that right, the Sportage range – despite looking exactly the same as last year’s iteration – has received a mild nip and tuck, which includes new variants and pricing. As before, the Sportage range is offered with a choice of three engines, two petrols and a diesel, with either front- or all-wheel drive across four trim levels. All prices on the Sportage range are drive-away.
Kicking off the range is the S, which is available as a 2.0-litre petrol front-wheel drive in either a re-introduced six-speed manual ($28,990), six-speed auto ($29,990) or as an eight-speed auto diesel AWD ($36,990).
Standard spec, even on the entry-level car, is impressive. Included are 17-inch alloy wheels (no steelies here), LED DRLs (but halogen headlights), leather-trimmed wheel and shift-lever, hard-wearing cloth seat trim, a 3.5-inch dot-matrix info screen in the dash, a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android auto support, dual-zone climate control, as well as rear parking sensors and camera. Another nice touch is that the base S model also scores auto rain-sensing wipers as standard.
Considering the standard active-safety suite explored in the safety section of this review, the S could easily be the pick of the range of any other SUV lineup, but our pick is still the mid-grade SX (previously known as the Si).
Available in the same three drivetrain choices at a $2500 premium, the SX adds larger 18-inch alloy wheels, front-facing parking sensors, a more impressive-looking 8.0-inch touchscreen with DAB+ digital radio and built-in sat-nav, backed by an eight-speaker JBL audio system. We’d say the extra spice is well worth it, making the SX our pick.
Jumping up to the SX Plus (previously the SLi) adds leather seat trim (which is hard-wearing, but isn’t the most luxurious-feeling fake leather on the market), an upgrade to the visual treatment with chrome and gloss black highlights, a larger colour TFT screen embedded in the dash, and, for the first time in a mid-grade Sportage, a powered tailgate. The SX Plus is well equipped, but if you can do without leather seat trim, it's not really worth the $7000 like-for-like switch up from the SX…
Available as an all-wheel-drive only, the penultimate Sportage is the GT-Line. Finally gaining a full suite of LED front lights and, frustratingly, the only way to specify a Sportage with blind-spot monitoring, active cruise control and rear cross traffic alert, the GT-Line is relatively expensive, even for the segment, at $46,490 for the 2.4-litre six-speed auto petrol or $49,490 for the eight-speed auto turbo diesel.
Other fruit for the extra money includes a sports bodykit, aggressive 19-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, flat-bottomed sports steering wheel, a wireless phone-charging bay, and an automatic-parking suite.
Engine & trans
Aside from the new styling, the 2020 ASX’s biggest change is the 2.4-litre petrol engine from the Outlander and a bunch of other Mitsubishis that is now fitted to the GSR and Exceed top two tiers.
Its 123kW and 222Nm are 13kW and 25Nm proud of the 2.0-litre engine’s numbers, which isn’t a big difference for almost half a litre more capacity.
The rest of range still comes with the 2.0 litre petrol, and all ASXs are fitted with a CVT auto, aside from the ES which can still be had with a five speed manual.
It would have been nice to see the 110kW/250Nm 1.5 turbo from the Eclipse Cross make an appearance, which is actually a pretty sweet unit thanks to its low-down turbo urge, but the cheaper non-turbo units clearly help the ASX’s price competitiveness.
The Sportage is offered with a choice of three engines, all of which are unremarkable.
These engines are also starting to show their age, but the fact that you can choose either petrol or diesel across the range will be a win for some consumers.
The 2.0-litre petrol offered as the front-wheel drive option on the S, SX, and SX Plus grades produces 114kW/192Nm and can be chosen with either a six-speed auto, or a six-speed manual on the bottom two grades.
The 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine offered across the range with only an eight-speed automatic in all-wheel drive produces a better-sounding 136kW/400Nm (hence the price hike).
The GT-Line is the only grade that can be had as a petrol in all-wheel drive, it benefits from a larger 2.4-litre petrol engine with outputs set at 135kW/237Nm, paired only to a six-speed automatic.
It would be nice to see higher tech turbocharged petrol engines make it to the Sportage range for the sake of both power and fuel efficiency, but these kinds of dated petrol powertrains are par-for-the course in the Australian mid-size SUV landscape.
A benefit to many drivers will be the torque-converter automatic transmissions, rather than their lacklustre CVT counterparts, which appear in most of this car’s Japanese rivals.
In terms of fuel consumption, the 2.4 officially only uses 0.3L/100km more than the 2.0-litre. But with official combined figures of 7.6L/100km and 7.9L/100km respectively, both are definitely at the thirstier end of the small SUV class.
Both ASX engines will happily run on 91 RON regular unleaded fuel type and all have a 63-litre fuel tank.
A downside to old engines with rigid transmission ratios pulling heavy SUV bodies is a notable cost in the fuel-consumption department.
The 2.0-litre front-drive variants carry claimed combined fuel-consumption figures of 7.9L/100km, but the figure most people will experience is in the rather more honest official “urban” figure of 10.9L/100km.
In my back-to-back tests of the 2.0-litre petrol versions of the SX and SX Plus I produced figures on either side of that number, scoring 10.5L/100km and 11L/100km in the real world, over about 350km of testing respectively.
Not great, then, and those figures are easily bested by CVT rivals – even the 2.5-litre all-wheel-drive Forester – according to real-world figures put on the board in recent CarsGuide reviews.
Mercifully, the Sportage is capable of drinking base-grade 91RON petrol to fill its 62-litre tank.
The ASX has been tweaked here and there over the years, but nothing mechanical aside from the 2.4-litre engine option this year. So it still feels much the same as it did about a decade ago.
Which will likely feel pretty nice to you if you’re upgrading from something older with plenty of kilometres on the clock, but compared to most of the ASX’s competition, it now feels pretty old.
Read More: Read all Mistubishi ASX Q&As here
Aside from the relatively unchanged interior design, the steering doesn’t feel as connected as we’ve come to expect, general refinement is a bit lacking and there really isn’t anything special about the mechanical package or the handling.
The 2.4-litre engine does offer some bigger numbers than the 2.0-litre, but you wouldn’t call it sporty, and while it has the same tow rating (1300kg braked towing) as the rest of the ASX lineup, it would probably stand up better to a heavy load.
We also had a steer of the 2.0-litre, and you have to be paying attention to notice the difference between it and the 2.4 with just two passengers aboard.
The biggest surprise of our drive experience was how ordinary the sound quality was when using the Bluetooth to make a phone call in the Exceed. Despite having the premium sound system, the fuzzy sound was noted at either end of the conversation and only seemed to be being transmitted through a left front speaker.
The Sportage’s engine choices don’t offer the most modern drive experience on the mid-size SUV market, but its locally tuned suspension really makes it stand apart from the pack. This means it’s at its best in most driving scenarios you’ll experience in Australia. I’ve driven Sportage variants on long-distance freeway drives, across the worst, most potholed streets Sydney’s CBD has to offer, as well as rutted gravel tracks on the other side of NSW’s Blue Mountains, and all of them behaved admirably, everywhere.
On the axis of sport-to-comfort I’d say the Sportage’s ride sits slightly to the sportier end of the equation. It’s a stiffer ride than the Honda CR-V, Nissan X-Trail, or the new Toyota RAV4, for example. Yet it seems to strike a more comfortable balance than the sporty CX-5.
The handling is really nice for an SUV this size, as I’ve said in previous reviews – it’s nimble and feels almost like you’re piloting a giant hatchback. For reasons I can’t seem to pin down, I vastly prefer the Sportage’s ride and handling to that of the Tucson. It just feels more balanced all round than its Hyundai cousin.
The engines are a bit of a letdown, however. While all are adequate for city-commuting duty, on the open road and up hills the petrol drivetrains get thrashy and noisy quickly – and at higher revs the limitations of these engines' outputs become apparent.
That having been said, both automatic transmissions are slick and predictable. When power is needed they also lock into gear nicely, unlike their CVT competition. We are yet to sample the re-introduced manual variants.
All ASXs have had a maximum five star safety rating since 2016, but it’s worth noting that this rating is based on being tested all the way back in 2014. This five star rating carries across to the new model regardless.
As mentioned above, all versions of the ASX now come with AEB that works at speeds up to 80km/h. It will also detect pedestrians at speeds up to 65km/h.
With the base ES, you still have to pay $2500 extra for lane departure warning, auto high beam, reverse sensors, blind spot warning, lane change assist and rear cross traffic alert, and it’s worth noting that this isn’t available on the MR. The MR does come standard with reversing sensors, however.
Aside from the above, all ASXs come with dual front airbags, plus driver’s knee bag, front side airbags and full-length curtain airbags in addition to stability control.
Even just last year, the Sportage’s standard active-safety equipment would have been considered pretty good, even a whole point better than what I’ve given it here. The thing is, though, thanks largely to ANCAP and EuroNCAP’s far more stringent analysis of active technology in the last year, the game has been raised by many of the Sportage’s competitors.
It would be nice, for example, to see active cruise control and blind-spot monitoring available on the SX Plus grade, or, better still, available as an option pack across the range, a-la-Hyundai’s approach.
And now, with the introduction of high-tier active-safety suites on low-spec variants of the Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5 and Subaru Forester, it’s hard to give the Sportage flying colours in this department.
Still, the fact that auto emergency braking (AEB), lane-keep assist (LKAS) and driver-attention alert (DAA) ship on the base-model S is reasonably impressive.
Outside of that, all Sportage grades get six airbags, the expected stability and brake controls, as well as three top-tether and two ISOFIX child-seat mounting points.
The Sportage carries a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating as of this-generation’s launch in 2016.
Mitsubishi is offering a seven-year/150,000km warranty deal until the end of 2019, which builds on the brand's existing five-year/130,000km plan.
The current deal puts it towards the top of the market for warranty coverage, but the regular five year plan is now about the status quo for mainstream manufacturers, which often also have unlimited kilometre coverage.
The seven year warranty deal includes free scheduled servicing for the first two years, but the standard service plan includes generous 12 month/15,000km intervals.
Only the first three services are capped though, but are now now $41 cheaper each time at a very competitive $199 per service.
Mitsubishi includes roadside assist as part of the ownership plan at no cost.
Kia continues to lead the pack with a seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, which is two years more than the acceptable segment standard. That’s also backed by eight years of roadside assist if you service at an authorised dealer.
There’s also a comprehensive capped-price-servicing program for the life of the warranty, averaging out to a not-particularly-cheap $391.71 per year for the 2.0L petrol, $408.14 for the 2.4L petrol, or $511.43 for the diesel.
The Sportage will have a battle on its hands in the coming years, with fellow Korean competitor, Ssangyong, looking to launch its new-generation Korando with a highly competitive seven-year ownership program.