Mitsubishi ASX VS Kia Sportage
- Lots of space
- New nose looks better
- Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Buzzy pedals
- Lumpy ride in town
- Just about everything, actually
- Unique looks
- Great ride and handling
- Great safety tech
- Lower grades interior big step down from GT-Line
- No hybrid variant
- Service costs are on the pricey side
The world is chock-a-block with enduring mysteries. The Loch Ness Monster, people who consider Taylor Swift's anodyne pop 'classic' material and the eternal descent of global politics.
To that I will add (perhaps unkindly), the Mitsubishi ASX. It's old - very old - and competes in a market full of interesting, stylish and gadget-stacked offerings from other makers. Including, oddly enough, Mitsubishi's own Eclipse Cross.
Being the newest member of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, there's a massive toy box of stuff to pick from before hitting the go button on an ASX replacement. Or, as it turns out, another one.
Thing is, in Australia at least, the ASX doesn't need a replacement, it's walloping everything in its class. For 2020, the evergreen, ever-daggy ASX gets a(nother) facelift, a few spec tweaks and, one expects - nay, hopes - renewed vigour.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
You know how Daniel Radcliffe used to just be that awkward kid from Harry Potter and now he’s a ruggedly handsome, but quirky bloke that could easily play James Bond? Well, that’s what’s happened to the Kia Sportage.
This mid-sized SUV has gone from the bug-eyed little unit of 2016 to this bigger wilder-looking new generation model.
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After reading this review of the new Sportage range, you’ll know more than the car dealer. You’ll know how much it costs, which Sportage is the best value, all about its safety tech, how practical it is, what it costs to service and what it’s like to drive.
Ready? Let’s go.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
If I seem like I've been too hard on the manual ASX, you may well be right. It's really not my kind of car, but I know Mitsubishi can do better. What winds me up about it is that the company knows it doesn't have to, because the automatic ASX continues to fly off the forecourts.
Of course it doesn't in manual form and it's fairly easy to see why. It's not particularly cheap, doesn't have a lot of stuff (apart from a tonne of space) and I'd be surprised if dealers even mention its existence to shoppers.
If your heart is set on an ASX, skip the manual and use the saved energy to talk a dealer down the extra to get a CVT version. And there's a new mystery to add to the collection - I just recommended a CVT over a manual.
The old Sportage was popular but it was too small and lacked refinement and cabin-tech which the latest version of the RAV4 and Tucson had. This new generation leapfrogs those cars in all ways, from design, craftsmanship and tech to ride and handling.
The only area where the Sportage is lacking is not having a hybrid variant, which can be bought overseas, but not here.
The sweet spot in the range is the SX+ with the 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine. It’s the best value with the best engine.
The first ASX was a style-free zone. It had virtually no adornments. The styling was detectable only with a device with the sort of sensitivity that can detect an alien burping on a planet circling Alpha Centauri.
Did the job for a few years before another going-over made it look almost contemporary, but it stuck with the gawky profile.
This latest update puts a whole new, ill-fitting front end on the ASX but it looks a heck of a lot better. The 'Dynamic Shield' face from elsewhere in the range makes the car look fresh out of the box from the front, with Triton-esque slim headlights and a properly chunky look.
The new clamshell-style bonnet is nifty, or would be if the panel gaps weren't all over the place.
Then you see the side and rear and realise it's just the same old ASX with a bit of makeup on and new LED tail-lights that, to be completely fair, would look pretty good on any other car.
Amusingly, Mitsubishi has also slapped the Dynamic Shield on the Mirage - it really works on the ASX, it really doesn't on the tiddly hatch.
The cabin is the same old thing, with a natty new pattern on the seats that looks quite fetching, and a couple of new bits of trim here and there.
Ahead of the shifter is a piece of trim with an unexplained circular cut-out that is filled with the same patterned plastic. It really irrirates me and has been there for years, but at least the weird cupholder with a little sign that told you not to use as a cupholder is gone.
The new-generation Sportage is an angular, aggressive-looking thing of beauty… to my eyes anyway.
I love that it appears to be designed without caring if people are going to like the look of it or not and it’s this brave confidence in its uniqueness that I think will win people over and prevent it from dating too quickly.
It seems that we live in an age where our cars all wear extravagant masks and the Sportage’s is the most intriguing of the lot with its arrow-like LED running lights and big, low mesh grille.
It feels almost extra-terrestrial. And so does the tailgate with those superbly detailed tail-lights and tailgate lip spoiler.
Inside, the angular look is carried through the cabin and seen in the door handle and air vent design.
The Sportage’s cabin is stylish, modern and feels well crafted even in the entry grade S. But it’s the GT-Line where the curved enormous screens come in and leather upholstery.
Yes, the lower grades aren’t as fancy as the GT-Line. They don’t have all the textured surfaces, and the S and SX have many blank panels where the higher grades sprout actual buttons.
It’s a shame Kia seemed to focus all its energy into the top-of-the-range car’s interior design.
Still, I can’t believe this is a Kia. Well, I can actually. I’ve witnessed the standard in design, engineering and tech climb higher and higher over the past 10 years to a point where the quality feels almost indistinguishable from Audi and far more creative in design.
At 4660mm end-to-end the new Sportage is 175mm longer than the previous model but it’s about the same width at 1865mm wide and height at 1665mm tall (1680mm with the bigger roof rails).
The old Sportage was smaller than the latest Toyota RAV4. The new one is bigger.
The Kia Sportage comes in eight colours: 'Clear White', 'Steel Grey', 'Gravity Grey', 'Vesta Blue', 'Dawning Red', 'Fusion Black', 'Snow White Pearl' and 'Jungle Wood Green.'
The one thing right about the Mitsubishi is the space (cue reverb effect).
For a compact SUV, it's huge inside. Front and rear passengers luxuriate in reasonably comfortable seats with plenty of head and legroom. Front and rear rows each have a pair of cupholders but only the front doors will hold a bottle.
Boot space is very generous, starting at 393 litres and with the rear seats out of the way, 1193 litres. If you end up choosing another ASX, be aware that the Exceed's fully-hectic sub-woofer is so fully hectic it swallows up 50 litres to deliver sick beats.
A bigger Sportage means more room inside. A lot more. The boot is 16.5 per cent larger than the previous model at 543 litres. That’s a litre more than the RAV4’s cargo capacity.
Room in the second row has also increased by eight per cent. For somebody like me who’s 191cm that’s the difference between being cramped in the back and sitting comfortably with plenty of knee room behind their driving position.
Cabin storage is excellent with big door pockets in the front, four cupholders (two in the front and two in the rear) and a deep centre console storage bin.
There are two USB ports in the dash (a type A and a type C), plus another two in the second row for the higher grades. A wireless phone charger comes on the GT-Line.
All grades have directional air vents for the second row and privacy glass for those back windows is on the SX+ and up.
Sportages with the manual gearbox have less centre console storage space than their automatic siblings which have an expansive adaptable area around the shifter for loose items.
Price and features
One of the weirdest things about the ASX is that it's not very cheap, with one exception - the entry-level ES with the manual transmission, landing at $23,990. Or, more accurately, $24,990 drive-away at the time of writing.
I hold a deep suspicion that it won't take much arm-twisting to reduce the price considerably. In fact, a slightly stern look should do it.
The ES spec includes 18-inch alloys (where competitors will sling you steel wheels with hubcaps), a four-speaker stereo, climate control, reversing camera, remote central locking, cruise control, LED headlights, leather wheel and shifter, power folding rear vision mirrors and a space-saver spare. Slim, but useful pickings.
A new 8.0-inch screen sits proudly in a new-looking centre stack with DAB+, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The sound is pretty ordinary and the Mitsubishi software has a very 1980s Stranger Things feel about it, but the hardware is okay and works well with smart phones.
You get the distinct impression Mitsubishi has learnt what 'just enough' means for its buyers. That attitude permeates the whole car.
There are seven colours, one free (white), five for a puzzling $740 and one for a scandalous $940. For comparison, Mazda's (beautiful) premium colours are $300 and there are just two of them.
The entry-point into the Sportage range is the S grade with the 2.0-litre engine and manual gearbox and it lists for $32,445. If you want an auto it’ll be $34,445. The S with this engine is front-wheel drive only.
The 2.0-litre engine also comes in the SX grade and that’s $35,000 for the manual and $37,000 for the auto. The 2.0-litre in SX+ guise is $41,000 and it’s auto only.
Also auto only are the grades with the 1.6-litre turbo-petrol and diesel engine, they're all-wheel drive-only, too.
There’s the SX+ with the 1.6-litre for $43,500 and the GT-Line for $49,370.
Then the diesel comes in: S for $39,845, SX $42,400, SX+ for $46,900, and GT-Line for $52,370.
Coming standard on the entry-grade S are 17-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a digital instrument cluster, a six-speaker stereo, reverse camera and rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, fabric seats, air conditioning, LED headlights and those LED running lights.
The SX adds 18-inch alloys, a 12.3-inch display, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto (but you’ll need a cord), sat nav and dual-zone climate control.
The SX+ gets 19-inch alloys, an eight-speaker Harman Kardon stereo, heated front seats with a powered driver’s seat, privacy glass and a proximity key.
The GT-Line has dual, curved 12.3-inch screens, leather seats (powered front ones) and a panoramic sunroof.
The sweet spot in the range is the SX+ with the 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine. It’s the best value with the best engine.
Engine & trans
The dowdy 2.0-litre four-cylinder is unchanged (again) for 2020, with 110kW/197Nm. Those figures are class-competitive because as I always say, there appears to be legislation governing naturally aspirated compact SUV power outputs.
The basest of base specs has a five-speed manual gearbox (they're more common than you think, so I don't have a joke or exclamation of surprise here) driving the front wheels only.
No more all-wheel drive in the ASX, you have to go to the Eclipse Cross for that. Which is a pity, because the AWD ASX was almost compelling.
There are three engines in the Sportage line-up. A 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol making 115kW/192Nm, which was also in the previous model.
A 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine producing 137kW/416Nm and again, this was in the old Sportage.
But a new 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine has been added (replacing the previous 2.4-litre petrol) with an output of 132kW/265Nm.
A six-speed manual or auto can be had with the 2.0-litre petrol engine, a regular eight-speed automatic comes on the diesel and a seven-speed dual-clutch (DCT) automatic is the 1.6-litre engine’s transmission.
If you plan on towing the diesel is the way to go with a 1900kg braked towing capacity. The petrol engines with the auto and DCT have a 1650kg braked towing capacity.
The 2.0-litre petrol Sportage is front-wheel drive, while those with the diesel or 1.6-litre are all-wheel drive.
What’s missing is the hybrid version of the Sportage which is sold overseas. As I’ve said in the fuel section below, if Kia doesn’t bring one into Australia, I think it’ll become a deal-breaker for those tossing up between a RAV4 Hybrid and a petrol-only Kia Sportage.
Mitsubishi's official fuel figure weighs in at 7.7L/100km which, as I have discovered in the past, is a long way off reality.
A week in the manual delivered an even worse figure than the CVT I last drove, getting through 12.4L/100km (11.5 for the CVT) in the week I had it.
Granted, it was just me driving it, the usual softening influence of my wife was not available to the ASX.
This would be one of the Sportage’s very few weak points.
Kia says after a combination of open and urban roads the 2.0-litre petrol engine with the manual should use 7.7L/100km while the auto will use 8.1L/100km.
The 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine is more efficient using 7.2L/100km, while the 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine will need just 6.3L/100km.
Kia sells a hybrid version of the Sportage overseas, and it will need to bring it to Australia. This area of fuel use and power systems will, as I’ve said, soon become a deal breaker for many Aussies.
For some reason I was hoping the manual ASX would be a better car to drive than its CVT siblings. That proves two things. The first, is I have a short memory, and the second... I have a short memory.
I last drove a manual ASX five or so years ago. It was not my favourite car then owing to the engine buzz, the long, light clutch and the gear lever stolen from a pole vaulter's kit bag.
And for all the same reasons, some half a decade later, the manual ASX is still not very good.
Adding to the ASX's issues is the fact that having better access to the power and torque means a propensity to spin the inside wheel with moderate steering lock and throttle applied together.
The tyres screech away with entertaining abandon and the traction control light comes on like that flickering, distant lightning 20 minutes after a storm has blown through.
The CVT's torque steer is one of the aforementioned great mysteries - despite not having a huge amount of torque, the auto model still manages to pull the steering wheel under power.
That's all manageable, though. What isn't is the buzzing you get from the pedals. Once you're moving you realise that you don't have your feet planted on the shopping channel vibrating foot thing.
The accelerator, brake and clutch all have a hotline to a beehive. I got out more than once shaking my right leg because it felt like it was asleep.
Once you're over all that, you find that the ASX is a bit lumpy and bumpy around town, despite a multi-link rear end.
It's weird to ask extra then deliver a ride that isn't demonstrably better than a cheaper torsion beam set-up (sharp speed bumps being the only exception).
The steering is also slow, so you're constantly twirling the wheel when you're moving around the city and the burbs. And the electric assistance is all over the place, making you wonder what you're actually doing.
And after all of that, the manual shifter is so long that if your grip is anything other than completely orthodox, you can actually trap your hand between the dashboard and the gear knob when you go for third.
I think you've probably got the point. This is not the pick of the ASX range, not by a long way. And the manual makes it worse in the city, not better.
Not only does the dual-clutch automatic feel smoother in the Kia than the Tucson and acceleration with any engine in the Sportage feels better than what the RAV4 can deliver, but the ride and handling is on another level, too.
I find the Tucson too floaty, the RAV a bit wooden and the Outlander lacking composure and hard on most roads.
On the wide range of roads I tested the Sportage on it was not just comfortable but a better handler as well.
Pretty simple answer for this. The Sportage is the only one of these SUVs which has had an Australian engineering team design the suspension system for our roads.
This was done by driving them and trying different combinations of shock absorbers and springs until the ‘tune’ was right.
This type of care is what sets Kia apart from not just most car manufacturers but even its sister company Hyundai, which has done away with local suspension tuning and the ride has suffered as a result.
To be fair the steering isn’t what I’d have expected from Kia. It’s a tad too light and lack feels but that happens to be the one area the local engineering team weren’t able to have a great deal of input over due to restrictions from COVID-19.
For something which looks like a cheese grater from the outside, visibility from the inside is excellent. And from the inside there’s hardly wind noise, either.
I drove the diesel Sportage which felt like it had the most shove (well it has the most torque and power). I also piloted the 2.0-litre petrol with the manual gearbox and that was fun on country roads, although it’s hard work in city traffic.
But the best was the GT-Line with the 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine which doesn’t just accelerate hard and fast for the class, but the shifts are smooth from the dual clutch auto, more so than the DCT in the Tucson.
For a very solid $2500, you can add lane departure warning, auto high beam, reverse sensors, blind spot warning, lane change assist and rear cross traffic alert. There's a catch, though - you can't have it on the manual.
Explore the Mitsubishi ASX in 3D
The Mazda CX-3 is full of safety gear without ticking boxes.
The maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating stretches back to 2014 when the rules were quite different. I won't speculate on what it might achieve in 2020 as-is, but five stars might be tricky.
The Sportage is yet to be given an ANCAP safety rating, and we will report on this when it’s announced.
All grades have AEB which can detect cyclists and pedestrians even at traffic junctions, there’s lane departure warning and lane keeping assistance, rear cross-traffic alert with braking, and blind spot warning as well.
All Sportages have a driver and front passenger airbag, driver and passenger side airbags, two curtain airbags and new to the model is a front centre airbag.
For child seats there are three top tether mounts and two ISOFIX points in the second row.
All Sportages also come with a full-sized spare wheel under the boot floor. No silly space saver here. Do you know how rare that is these days? That’s outstanding.
The three-year capped price servicing regime is not bad and every service you get at the dealer extends the roadside cover for another 12 months.
A small bit of good news for you - where previously a service was $240, they're now $199 for all three during the program, with the initial 1000km service remaining free (and annoying).
The Sportage is covered a seven-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.
Servicing is recommended at 12 month/15,000km intervals and the cost is capped. For the 2.0-litre petrol engine the total cost over seven years is $3479 ($497 per year), for the 1.6-litre petrol it’s $3988 ($570 per year) and for the diesel it’s $3624 ($518 per year).
So, while the warranty is longer than is offered by most car brands, the Sportage's service pricing is generally dearer than the rivals.