Mitsubishi ASX VS Mazda CX-5
- Lots of space
- New nose looks better
- Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Buzzy pedals
- Lumpy ride in town
- Just about everything, actually
- Sleek styling
- Great value
- Enjoyable to drive
- No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto
- Boot is on the smaller side
- Space saver spare
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 when toothpaste makers slightly tweak ingredients and then plaster 'New and Improved!' on the box, but you can’t really tell because it still just tastes like toothpaste?
That’s sort of the same with the new Mazda CX-5, which is almost identical to the old one. But there are some important changes you may not notice, and one you really will.
To be clear, this isn’t a new-generation of the CX-5 – that only came out last year. This is a minor facelift – which isn’t a good term, because the face has been left untouched.
You’ll find out what I’m talking about later, but here’s a hint: when we tried to pick the difference between the new and old model at the Australian launch of the new CX-5, turns out we felt and heard, rather than saw, what had changed.
|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 CX-5 has been a best-seller for years and when the new car launched in 2017 it cemented that position even more. This 2018 update sees Mazda addressing or fine-tuning parts which could be improved, such as the diesel engine's turbo lag and noise, as well as the economy of the larger petrol engine, while making the car even better value for money with the price drop.
Did Mazda need to make any more changes than they did to this latest CX-5 or is this a case of: if it ain't broke don't fix it? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
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 CX-5 is one of the best-looking mid-sized SUVs on the market. Take a look at the photos: there’s that sharp-edged and gaping grille, and that sleek profile. Sure, the back looks a bit ‘empty’ because of the tiny tail-lights, but while small they accentuate the athletic haunches of the CX-5.
The CX-5’s interior is also just as stylish and refined as its outsides with an excellent fit and finish, quality-feel materials and a design which isn’t just pleasing to the eye but pleasing to the arms, legs, bottom, and any other part of your body which will come in contact with the comfortable cabin.
There have been no changes to the exterior in this update, and the interior, too, mirrors the previous CX-5, but in a way it’s fine that nothing has been tweaked here as it was darned good already.
The CX-5’s dimensions haven’t changed (well it’d be weird if they had) and at 4550mm end-to-end, it’s shorter than a Toyota RAV4 but longer than a Volkswagen Tiguan. Other figures to jot down to make sure it fits in your garage are these: 1840mm across and 1675mm tall.
From the outside it’s tricky to tell the higher grades of CX-5 apart, that’s how similar looking the exteriors are – the steel wheels of the Maxx are a dead giveaway, they look a bit ridiculous, and it’s a shame this new update hasn’t brought alloys.
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.
If you have kids, maybe steer clear of the white leather. That sounds like a comment that should be in the design section above but to parents its just as much a practicality point. I’ve lived with a white-leathered CX-5 and a toddler and I can tell you the marks don’t come off easily. Then again, neither does toothpaste spat on black cloth seats by adults – don’t ask.
The CX-5’s boot has stayed the same size at 442 litres. That’s not enormous like the 615-litre cargo space in the Tiguan, or even as big as the RAV 4’s 577 litres of boot space, but it was just enough for two adults and a toddler who always over pack for a week away.
Legroom in the back seat is good – I’m at the freakish end of the height spectrum at 191cm, and I can sit behind my driving position with about a finger’s width of space between my knees and the seatback.
Like the previous CX-5 that sloping roofline can be a small practicality fail for entry and exits, especially if you’re putting kids into car seats, but that’s the price you pay for looking good.
Cabin storage is great with two cupholders in the back and two up front, there’s a large centre console storage bin with a USB port and pockets in all doors. Grades from the Maxx Sport up come with centre armrest storage in the rear with a USB port.
The CX-5 has five seats, if you're looking for a sevn seater SUV then the larger CX-9 could be for you.
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.
As with the previous CX-5 there are five grades: Maxx, Maxx Sport, Touring, GT and Akera. The most obvious change, and the one most will really notice, is the price drop. The Maxx Sport and Touring have had $400 lopped off, and the GT and Akera now cost $800 less.
Missing out on the price cut is the entry-grade Maxx. This is also the only grade you can have with a manual gearbox and is matched to a 2.0-litre petrol engine making it the most affordable in the range with a list price of $28,690 (add $2000 for the auto). The Maxx with the more powerful 2.5-litre engine lists for $33,690 and is offered only with an auto.
The Maxx Sport gives you a choice of three engines: the 2.0-litre petrol lists for $33,990, the 2.5-litre petrol is $36,990 and the 2.2-litre diesel is $39,990.
The Touring is halfway up the range and lists for $38,590 if you have it with the 2.5-litre petrol engine or $41,590 for the 2.2-litre diesel.
Getting close to the top now, the GT lists for $43,590 with the 2.5-litre petrol and $46,590 for the diesel.
The Akera lists at $46,190, and like grades below it, the diesel is $3000 more.
The standard features list has changed so little since the car launched in 2017 I can sum it up in a sentence: The Touring now gets a cool head-up display like the top two grades and the Akera now has a 360-view camera. There, that’s it.
But the standard features were already extensive on all grades, with the Maxx coming with a 7.0-inch screen with a reversing camera, digital radio and Bluetooth connectivity, a six-speaker stereo, push-button ignition, cloth seats, air-conditioning, rear parking sensors, LED headlights and 17-inch steel wheels.
The Maxx Sport adds sat nav, dual-zone climate control, auto headlights, LED fog lights and 17-inch alloy rims.
The Touring gets all the Maxx Sport's features plus the head-up display we talked about, and front parking sensors, proximity key, and black synthetic leather (which feels quite nice).
The GT adds real leather in black or white, a 10-speaker Bose stereo, power front seats and 19-inch alloys.
At the top, the Akera has all the GT bits plus the 360-degree view camera and a stack of advanced safety equipment.
Talking of safety, read on further to find out what’s protecting you on each grade.
Sounds like nothing is missing? Well, it would have been good for this update to add the excellent Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, especially considering the Maxx doesn’t come with sat nav.
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.
This is where this latest CX-5 differs most from the previous one – the engines. The offerings stay the same: two petrols – a 2.0-litre four cylinder and a 2.5-litre four cylinder – and a single 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel. The 2.0-litre cars are front-wheel drive (FWD) and everything else is all-wheel drive (AWD).
The 2.5-litre petrol engine now comes with cylinder deactivation, allowing it to run on just two cylinders when cruising and at low speeds while the other two will join them under more load. Less fuel is being burnt, so there’s a fuel saving there.
For those mechanics out there shaking their heads and muttering into their instant coffees about potential vibrations in two-cylinder mode, well, Mazda has compensated for this issue with a counterforce to iron out the bumps.
Demonstrating Mazda’s determination to hone the combustion process further are the newly shaped intake ports which tumble the air harder and faster during the intake stroke. The height of the piston crowns has also been shortened and this strengthens that tumble flow, too. All this extra ‘tumbly’ air causes the flame to spread faster when the spark ignites.
The nozzles on the fuel injectors have been redesigned and fuel pressure increased to spray faster, too, and even the piston oil rings have been re-shaped to optimise the thickness of the oil film on the cylinder wall.
All of these advances apart from the cylinder deactivation have been adopted by the 2.0-litre petrol engine, too.
While the refinements have increased efficiency, the petrol engines also have a little more grunt. I really mean little too: the 2.5-litre’s torque has increased 1Nm for a total of 252Nm and power stays the same at 140kW, while the 2.0-litre has been given 1kW more for a total of 114kW and torque remains at 200Nm.
The 2.2-litre diesel has been overhauled. The engine now has a higher compresion ratio; there's the redesigned combustion chamber to minimise energy loss and ultra-high response injectors are designed to improve fuel economy.
A new turbocharger fitted to the diesel has led to a decent increase in output with power jumping from 129kW to 140kW and torque from 420Nm to 450Nm.
The extra grunt isn't the only benefit – Mazda says the new turbo has been designed to reduce lag in acceleration response at low revs. This turbo lag was an issue I had with the previous diesel found in the CX-5. Now that's been addressed using a two-stage turbocharger with the larger of the turbines now adopting variable geometry which will supply boost more rapidly at lower engines speeds. We’ll tell you if we reckon it’s worked in the driving section below. We’ll also let you know if the new refined method of combustion has made the diesel engine quieter, too. Those were two of the issues I had with the diesel engine in the previous CX-5.
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.
Mazda has delayed going headfirst into electric vehicle and hybrid production, preferring to refine combustion engines further, and the changes to the engines have been primarily about improving efficiency.
The figures don’t really reflect massive gains in economy, with the 2.5-litre petrol improving from a claimed 7.5L/100km to 7.4L/100km over a combination of urban and open roads. After 100km of mainly country roads our trip computer was telling us the engine was using 8.1L/100km. Don’t forget this engine is only available with AWD CX-5s.
The 2.0-litre petrol engine’s fuel economy stays the same at 6.9L/100km – again, remember this engine is only found on FWD CX-5s.
The 2.2-litre diesel benefits the most in terms of efficiency with old car’s 6.0L/100km dropping to 5.7L/100km in this new CX-5. After 150km of dirt and tarmac the tripmeter in our diesel Akera was reporting an average of 6.4L/100km.
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.
In my review of the diesel Akera last year I whinged about how noisy the engine was and then complained a bit more about the turbo lag. Well, it looks as though my views found their way back to the Mazda Motor Corporation HQ in Hiroshima because the new turbo has fixed the lag and the refinement to the combustion process seems to have reduced engine noise.
Sure, the diesel engine is still not as quiet as the 2.5-litre petrol we also tested at the launch (in Akera grade), but the increase in torque made the diesel more fun to drive with decent shove off the line.
Jumping back into the petrol made the grunt difference very apparent with the petrol having to work and rev hard to get up to speed.
Suspension, steering and brakes remain unchanged from those in the CX-5 which launched last year – but that’s no bad thing as the ride, handling and braking response is excellent for this segment.
A low seating position makes you feel part of the car rather than sitting on top of it, while good pedal feel and great communication through the steering wheel deliver confidence.
As for the CX-5's off-road capability, I suggest you don't go much further than placid dirt and gravel roads because while your CX-5 may be all-wheel drive its low ground clearnance, lack of ladder frame chassis and no high or low range four wheel drive restrict it to less adventurous activities.
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.
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 CX-5 scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2017, and if you look into the safety credentials you’ll see it comes with an impressive armory of technology you won’t find on some more expensive prestige cars.
Lower grades aren’t covered by as much safety tech, but all come with AEB (which works at up to 30km/h), and stepping up to the Touring adds traffic sign recognition.
For baby seats you'll find two ISOFIX mounts and three top tether anchor points across the rear row. A space saver spare wheel is under the boot floor on all grades.
There's front airbags for the passenger and driver, along with side ones, while curtain airbags extend to cover the second row.
The CX-5 that's in Australian showrooms is made in Japan at Mazda's Ujima and Hofo plants.
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 CX-5 is covered by Mazda's three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which isn’t outstanding, but the service costs are low.
Servicing the diesel is recommended every 12 months/10,000km and is capped at $316 for the first, $386 for the second, $316 for the third, then $358 and $316 for the fifth service. The 2.5-litre petrol costs about $115 less over five years