Mitsubishi ASX VS Mazda CX-3
- 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
- Design, inside and out
- Sharp handling
- Fun steering
- Small boot
- CarPlay still not fixed (it's coming)
- Engine can sound like it's working hard
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|
Some cars are just so desirable, so delectably tempting to look at, that they cause people to abandon all logical and practical concerns and buy them anyway. Fortunately, most vehicles in this category of dangerous desirability are stupidly expensive, but when you combine the cuter-than-a-puppy looks of a car like Mazda's CX-3 with a price range that starts in the low $20,000 range, anything can happen.
Throw in the fact that this diminutive darling of a thing is a small SUV - one of the most desirable categories in the Australian market, with sales in the segment doubling in the past five years - and Mazda may need to reinforce the doors in its showrooms with the launch of this new one.
I speak from experience here because my wife loves the look of the CX-3 so much she wanted to buy one. So I explained that it is built on the Mazda2 platform, which means its boot is too small for a family of four, and that the rest of it probably wasn't suitable for us either. But she was still keen.
I know of a young family who bought one because they were so taken with its prettiness, but when they got it home they remembered they had a small child and realised that their pram would never, ever fit in the back. Oh dear.
If you are a young single or a childless couple, of course you can enjoy its alluring looks all you like, and the tight rear seats and small boot volume probably won't bother you at all.
Mazda happily admits the way this car looks is the main reason people buy it, which is no doubt why the new one looks so much like the highly successful old one (more than 58,000 CX-3s have been sold in Australia since its launch in 2015).
So, what actually is new about this incorrigibly cute crossover? We went to the local launch drive to find out.
|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.
If you liked the previous Mazda CX-3 - and just about everyone did - then you're going to love this one even more. It's got a tiny bit more presence, a less busy and more classy interior and marginally better engines with slightly improved fuel economy. Basically, it's a little bit more of the same for this little gem of a compact SUV.
Would you have a Mazda CX-3 over a Mitsubishi ASX, on looks alone? Tell us in the comments section.
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
In the right light, in the right colour, (obviously the hugely popular red), the CX-3 can move beyond being just small and sweet looking and reach the point of genuinely striking. There's a lovely, criss-crossing line that swinges down the sides, crossing over at its mid point. It's what Mazda calls pure Kodo design - simple, sleek and slightly sexy.
The angle most people fall in love from, though, is front on, with the CX-3's toothy grin only slightly changed for this new version with a new "more assertive" grille, with a solid, detailed design featuring horizontal bars of different thicknesses.
The goal here, as CX-3 program manager Takata Minoru explained, was to make "no unnecessary changes" and only to "refine the beauty and enhance the quality feel".
The new grille is supposed to give the car a sharper look and a greater feeling of depth, but to us it just looked like a new grille. Mazda says the new car is defined by being "exquisite" and "edgy", but it's not clear what that means in terms of new-ness.
The sTouring and Akari grades get a new line of chrome along the front bumper and sides, which is pleasant enough, while there are also new fog light bezels in gloss black on Maxx Sport variants and above.
Oh, and the rear lights, in the top two grades, have adopted a cylindrical shape for the facelift version, because round things are classier than square ones. Apparently.
Colours, of course, in a car so pretty and feminine, are a big deal, and there are now eight to choose from - 'Soul Red Crystal Metallic' (as opposed to just Soul Red Metallic) and 'Machine Grey Metallic' are new and join 'Dynamic Blue Mica', 'Titanium Flash Mica', 'Jet Black Mica', 'Snow Flake White Pearl Mica', 'Ceramic Metallic' and 'Eternal Blue Mica'. Brown is not an option, happily.
In short, it's a good looking car, much like the old one, and it's hard to imagine a vehicle of this size and shape being any more attractive. It's surprising, then, to learn that the CX-3 is only the second-best seller in its segment, behind the Mitsubishi ASX.
Ground clearance for the CX-3 is 160mm unladen. So, no rock hopping then.
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.
Considering the external dimensions of the car, the CX-3 does quite well. Allow me to illuminate you with my own example, which is that I recently spent 10 days driving one of these around Italy, with my wife and two young children on board, plus a significant amount of luggage.
I had sleepless nights before picking up the car, because I was sure we'd never get it all in, or be able to breathe if we did, but not only did we fit, we were quite comfortable and happy with the luggage capacity.
Rear leg room is just bearable for an adult, but no problem at all for small kids (although it wouldn't suit teens). The boot space, at 264 litres, is very small, and even calling it adequate seems generous. What it will not fit, though, due to its narrow dimensions, is a pram of any sort, so young families should look elsewhere. Although if they don't, there are two ISOFIX points and two top-tether points for child seats.
The biggest change for the new model in cabin terms is the inclusion of an electronic park brake, which has allowed Mazda to include a new centre console/armrest, with two handy cup holders of different sizes, there are also bottle holders in all four doors, and (for Maxx Sport spec and above) a rear armrest with two more cupholders).
Indeed, Mazda says the cupholders have had their depth and diameter revised so they can now fit giant, American-sized cups if required.
That centre console also offers useful, deep storage and there are two USB points handily located in front of the shift lever. The control buttons for the MZD media system are also more ergonomically positioned thanks to the electronic park brake.
The rear seat armrest, with built in storage box, is said to "embody the human-centred philosophy by increasing comfort and reducing fatigue". I know I always find that armrests make me less tired, but then I wouldn't volunteer to sit in the back of a CX-3 anyway.
The overall goal with the new interior was to make it more minimalist and Japanese, and when you compare it with photos of the old one it does look less busy and less cluttered, with classy touches here and there. That is only slightly offset by the cheaper, harder feeling plastics around the doors on their armrests.
Top-shelf Akari models come with genuine leather seats in black or white, sTouring gets grey with black leatherette and everything beneath that gets a black interior with black cloth seats.
A sunroof is available on the Akari models.
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.
Comparing the differences between the CX-3 range, there really is a variant for all budgets, with an entry price of $23,990 drive-away for the Neo Sport with a six-speed manual, cloth seats and steel wheels, rising all the way to $37,490 for the leather-filled, sunroof-topped Akari LE, which gets some impressive tech previously only seen in German cars, like a driver-attention monitor and radar cruise control with full stop and go functionality.
Prices have risen over the previous model, but Mazda says this pricing reflects the fact that you're getting more equipment in the new version.
You are also, undeniably, getting a less busy and more classy interior, although the changes to the exterior design are so small you wouldn't want to be paying for them. Nor would you want to change a look that is this pretty, and successful.
Standard kit for your $23,990 drive-away Neo Sport (that's manual, auto adds another $2000) includes 16-inch steel wheels, body-coloured powered mirrors, black cloth front seats with height adjustment, electric parking brake, Bluetooth functionality, a 7.0-inch full-colour 'MZD Connect' touchscreen to control your infotainment and sound system with DAB and six speakers (but no CD player and no GPS), and a multi-function 'Command Control', plus keyless start, rear parking sensors, a reversing carer and 'Smart City Brake Support', which works in both forward and reverse. It's a (very) good-looking package at a tempting price. Apple CarPlay, which would helpfully allow you to run navigation from your iPhone in the base model, is not yet available, but it's coming soon, and a kit to retrofit it will be available at Mazda dealers in the near future.
The Maxx Sport adds 16-inch alloys, auto headlights, rain-sensing wipers, a fold down armrest with two cupholders for the rear passengers, leather-wrapped gear shift knob and steering wheel, climate-control air con, sat nav, 'Blind Spot Monitoring' and 'Rear Cross Traffic Alert'.
Step up to the sTouring and win 18-inch alloy wheels, LED lights all round, slightly nicer black 'Maztek' and cloth seats, a handy head-up display, keyless entry and start, 'Driver Attention Alert', from parking sensors and 'Traffic Sign Recognition'.
The Akari does feel noticeably nicer inside with its softer dash material and leather seats in white or black, plus 'Mazda Radar Cruise Control' with start-stop function, a 360-degree view monitor and adaptive LED headlights and lane-departure warning.
Personally, I'd be quite happy with my value at $25,490 for a manual Maxx Sport. Indeed, it's a bit of a bargain.
The prices we've listed here are drive-away (no more to pay!), which is something new for Mazda and does provide wonderful clarity.
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.
Mazda is offering a new SKYACTIV-D turbo-diesel engine with the CX-3 - which has increased in capacity from 1.5 to 1.8 litres, which takes power from 77kW up to 85kW, while torque stays at 270Nm - but you have to wonder why. Mazda Australia predicts the diesel will make up a measly one per cent of sales, which probably explains why they didn't bring one along to the launch for us to drive.
Almost everyone, then, will be choosing the revised SKYACTIV-G 2.0-litre direct-injection petrol engine, which makes 110kW at 6000rpm and 195Nm of torque at 2800rpm, an increase of exactly one kilowatt and three newton metres from the previous model.
Changes to the engine have focused on improving fuel consumption, and variations in that consumption caused by seasonal changes and usage patterns. Apparently the new version offers improved combustion efficiency when under heavy load - climbing hills for example - and thermal-management tech to reduce excess fuel consumption when it's cold outside.
New high-pressure injectors also help to improve torque delivery, with the amount of torque on offer throughout the rev range increased by "one to two per cent". Fuel economy is also improved by the same percentages. Not huge improvements, then.
You can also choose between a six-speed manual and a six-speed automatic transmission, and between front-wheel or all-wheel drive (not on the base Neo Sport, though). Not surprisingly, for a city crossover like this, 92 per cent of CX-3s sold will be FWD, and 90 per cent will be automatics.
Having driven the manual version myself on holiday, I would highly recommend it, because it allows you to get the most out of the engine. With a weight of 1266kg it's useful to be able to get involved in shifting.
The CX-3's engine uses a timing chain rather than a belt and you should check our problems pages to see if there are any reports of problems with automatic transmissions.
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.
One of the aims of upgrading the CX-3's engine was better fuel economy, and yet the Mazda engineers admit they managed an improvement of just "one to two per cent" on the 2.0-litre petrol engine and 3 per cent with the diesel, which has grown from 1.5 to 1.8 litres and still manages to use slightly less fuel, at an impressive 4.7L/100km.
The 2.0 petrol has claimed figures of 6.6L/100km for the FWD manual, 6.3L/100km for the FWD auto and 6.7L/100km for the AWD automatic. People who are chasing better economy would go for the diesel, but customers for this car obviously aren't that bothered, or are happy with mid-sixes, because Mazda tips just one per cent of sales will be the diesel.
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.
In a world of constant downsizing, a 2.0-litre engine might sound brutish and bold in a car of this size, but 110 is certainly not an overpowering number of kilowatts. As a result, the petrol-powered CX-3 feels spry and sprightly, but certainly never sporty.
There is a Sport button you can press, but all it seems to do is hold the gear you're in for longer, causing the engine to drone on like a Peter Dutton speech, and not really making much happen in excitement terms.
A sports car this is not, obviously, so perhaps the words "more than adequate" are best for describing the car's performance. You're not going to fly up any hills, but you can zip off traffic lights with reasonable aplomb, and you're never genuinely found wanting for power. More torque would be nice for overtaking, but you could choose the diesel for that (if you're a ‘one percenter').
One of Mazda's goals with the new CX-3 was improving NVH and they've done a stellar job with that. While the old car was bit of a buzz box at times, the new one is far quieter and more refined in terms of road-noise intrusion, but if you are tempted to push on, the noise from the engine remains strident, and at times strained.
In most driving conditions, however, it's a pleasant cabin to be in, with negligible road noise (although it's more noticeable with the optional 18-inch wheels). And if you do enjoy a slightly lower driving position, you have the ability to drop your chair to a point where you feel more like you are sitting in the car rather on it.
The newly fettled electronic power steering is sharp and fun to use, falling at that point just before it becomes too light and wafty to give proper feedback. The engineers concentrated on "rolling plushness", which is the feel you get through the wheel, basically, and produced an 18 per cent reduction in buzziness through the steering wheel.
Ride control is good over most surfaces - and with ground clearance of 155mm you won't be going too far off road - but there's still a bit clatter over really sharp impacts. Overall, it's a very comfortable cruiser, even on our more brutal country roads. Mazda says it worked on "reducing choppiness", or vertical body movement, and it seems to have succeeded.
Cornering is something you can actually enjoy, if you care for that kind of thing, and this CX-3 benefits from Mazda's 'G-Vectoring Control' (GVC), which is meant to provide "neutral cornering" by minutely reducing torque output to the appropriate wheel to cancel out understeer, or oversteer moments.
It's all about giving the driver that sense of "oneness" with their vehicle that Mazda likes to call "Jinba-ittai" - horse and rider as one. In terms of horsepower and performance figures, they're not something CX-3 buyers are going to worry too much about, clearly, as Mazda makes no mention of the car's 0-100km/h time. A bit of research uncovered the fact that it ranges from 9.0sec for the manual to 9.5 for the auto. Not terrible, then.
Overall, much like the Mazda2 this vehicle is based on, the CX-3 is one of those cars that is genuinely as much fun as it looks, and slightly more fun than you expect it to be.
Throw in its good looks, economical engines and reasonably affordable pricing and it's a complete package. Up until the point where you have kids, and you're forced to upgrade to something that can actually carry a pram.
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.
Mazda says its new CX-3 is part of its "aim for a safe and accident-free automotive society", which means the company is living slightly in dream land, but at least you know it's thinking about safety.
The 360-degree view monitor is very handy, but you can only have it on the Akari, where you'll also get eight parking sensors, while the base model makes do with rear ones only.
Indeed, the base model goes without most of the safety goodies that are sprinkled across the more expensive variants - blind-spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane-departure warning, traffic-sign recognition, adaptive LED headlamps, driver-attention alert (with a coffee cup popping up to remind you that you might be tired) and the very handy, almost autonomous radar cruise control with full stop and go function.
What you do get on the entry Neo Sport is 'Smart City Brake Support', which works when moving forwards or backwards and is basically Mazda's name for AEB. The system works with both cars and pedestrians at speeds of up to 80km/h. The previous CX-3 received a maximum five-star ANCAP rating.
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.
Surprisingly, Mazda claims its customers are completely unconcerned by the fact that it doesn't offer free roadside assistance as part of its new and improved five-year warranty, although it does occasionally offer it as a promotional thing. I'd be negotiating hard to have it included in the price.
The five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, from Mazda Motor Corporation itself, is a real selling point, however.
Servicing is due every 10,000km or 12 months and the first one will cost you $289, the second $317, third $289, fourth $317 and fifth $289. Seems to be a pattern there.