Mitsubishi ASX VS Mini Countryman
- Good safety package
- Interior space
- Weak engine/transmission combination
- Iffy ride and handling
- Feeling old
- More mature looks
- Safety overhaul
- Still fun to drive
- Ride can feel overly firm on standard suspension
- No Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Inevitable price hikes
You can never be completely sure about the age of a car, but I reckon the Mitsubishi ASX has taken over as the elder statescar after the demise of Holden's Captiva. The old Holden was commissioned by the pharaoh Khufu while the ASX arrived a few years later... in 2009.
Over the last near-decade, the ASX has consistently sold without any major changes. Evolution has been the name of the game (ironically), with now-annual running changes to the ASX to try and keep it fresh.
The compact SUV segment is enormously competitive, with new entrants squeezing the ASX harder than ever. Amazingly, despite being ready for the pension, it still manages to post excellent sales figures when by rights it should be languishing near the bottom - old cars are old news.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Andrew Chesterton road tests and reviews the new Mini Countryman Cooper, Cooper D, Cooper S and Cooper SD All4 with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its Australian launch in Canberra.
Mini's new Countryman is officially the least mini Mini ever made. So un-Mini, in fact, it now stretches over 4 metres in length for the first time ever. It's also taller and wider than the car it replaces, making it the biggest Mini ever produced by the brand.
But there's method to Mini's super-sizing madness, with the brand desperate to make sure its new Countryman isn't just big, but is also a big deal for the first time in its brief history.
The outgoing model makes up about 15 per cent of Mini's sales in Australia - despite playing in the most popular segment - and the brand's bosses reckon they know the problem. Internal surveys reveal more than 30 per cent of people who were considering a Countryman, but ended up buying something else, did so because it was too small and impractical to be used as a family car.
And so it's grown in every direction. Its now 20cm longer, 1.5cm taller and 3.3cm wider, and it sits on a 7.5cm longer wheelbase. And while those numbers might not sound massive, it makes a difference in the cabin, and adds an extra 100 litres of boot space.
So is a maximised Mini a good thing?
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
It might be as old as the hills but the ASX keeps going. It's tempting to say it's on life support, but it still does the job, and with the new ADAS package, there's still life in the old dog. It's also cheaper than before, although why you'd want to spend money on the Exceed when you have everything that's worthwhile in the ES ADAS or LS is beyond me. As for the pick of the range, I'd go for the LS - it has the nicer interior trim and better seats.
The ASX will be with us for a while yet - as the newest member of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, whatever was on the way has been delayed. So for now, the ASX is the roomiest, cheapest and among the best-equipped in its class. It's just a shame it has to be so boring.
Does the ASX do what you need or is the old-timer too far off the pace? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Bigger is better for Mini's Countryman. More space, more technology and with a more mature styling treatment, the Countryman finally offers the right ingredients to appear on family shopping lists.
2017 Mini Countryman range specifications
Price: From $39,900
Fuel consumption: 6.0L/100km (Cooper), 4.8L/100km (Cooper D) 6.5L/100km (Cooper S), 5.2L/100km (Cooper SD)
Tank: 51 litres
Warranty: 3 years/unlimited
Service Interval: Condition based
Engine: 1.5-litre petrol, 100kW/220Nm, 2.0-litre diesel, 110kW/330Nm, 2.0-litre petrol, 141kW/280Nm, 2.0-litre diesel, 140kW/400Nm.
Transmission: 6-sp auto/8-spd auto
Spare: Run flats
Turning circle: 11.4m diameter
Dimensions: 4,299mm (L), 1,822mm (W), 1,557mm (H)
Would you prefer a Countryman to an X1 or a Q2? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
The early cars were a study in minimalism and looked so bare they could have come straight out of an early Grand Theft Auto game, such was the lack of detailing. These later models feature lashings of chrome and a far less timid approach, on the nose at least. The profile has been the same for the better part of a decade, with just the occasional addition like new wheels or wing mirrors.
The 18-inch wheels give the car a good solid stance and the paint looks pretty good these days. But that's pretty much it. The ASX is a box on wheels with doors that clang when you shut them.
Inside has once again had a going-over. The last proper update to the cabin made it a much better place to be. The part-suede interior of the LS is the one to go for, the Exceed's leather merely adds to the overall cheap-feel. The ASX is entirely unpretentious - no soft plastics, no attempt to cover gaps or blanks (the fifth cupholder is now covered by a dodgy-looking cap) and the switchgear is a mix-and-match arrangement to get the job done. Nothing wrong with that, but it might leave an aesthete twitchy.
Like an old-school Mini that's been stung by something flying and horrible, the Countryman has swollen in every direction, with Mini also smoothing out some of the design quirks of the outgoing model.
A redesigned grille and bonnet give the front end a calmer, more mature look, while the higher roof line and the fact the 18-inch alloy wheels have been positioned at the furthest corners of the car make the Countryman seem bigger but more well-proportioned than the car it replaces.
Inside, there's a half-premium, half-techy air to the cabin. All models get well-bolstered, leather-trim seats, a meaty steering wheel and some genuinely cool touchpoints including the bright-red switch that fires up the engine. The dash is still dominated by a huge and light-ringed (part of a more extensive illumination set up that also shines ambient lighting in the footwell) circular display that houses the multimedia screen, while the air-vents have now been placed vertically.
There's a new-found maturity to the cabin. Nicer materials, less in-your-face dials and a genuine sense of premium. The cabin lighting is hit and miss though, but the little Mini dial that lights up on the sidewalk as you approach and unlock the car will surely put a smile on some owner's faces.
Straight up, I'll answer a common question - how many seats? The ASX is as near as you'll get to a five-seater in this segment. Interior photos show generous interior dimensions, its boxy exterior design delivering a good size cabin.
Front seat passengers score a pair of cupholders and a decent-sized central bin with a lid on top doubling as an armrest. Rear seat passengers miss out on many things - there's just one seatback pocket but there are two cupholders in the armrest.
Boot space starts with 393 litres, which is near the top of the class. If it's maximum luggage capacity you're after, drop the 60/40 split-fold rear seat and you'll have 1193 litres.
Despite looking like it's on stilts, the ground clearance is 205mm, which is significantly higher than the segment's low-rider, the Mazda CX-3. As you might expect, if you're this low-slung - and without 4 wheel drive, off-road ability is compromised.
The 4.4m long ASX's turning circle is a small-ish 10.6 metres.
Growth is good for Countryman buyers, with more room for passengers and luggage. Shoulder room and leg room have both grown (albeit by about 5cm), and the interior never feels cramped no matter whether you're sitting in the front or the back.
Boot space has increased, too, growing from 350 litres to 450 litres with the 40:20:40 rear seat in place, and from 1,170 to 1,390 when it is folded flat.
Standard fit includes two cup holders for front seat passengers, plus room in the doors for bottles, but both the S and SD models also get a pull-down divider in the rear seat that houses another two. There's two ISOFIX attachment points, one in each window seat in the back.
Price and features
The MY19 upgrade - one of many over the ASX's long and fruitful life - has brought some changes to the price list and a rejig of the available models. There's a new entry-level model, the ES, the mid-point LS and a range-topping Exceed. All pricing is RRP and how much you pay is between you and your dealer. The drive-way price is helpfully listed on the Mitsubishi website, however. Our model comparison features the full price range.
A big change for MY19 is the end of the all-wheel drive (AWD) for the ASX, with just front-wheel drive on offer. So no more AWD option, meaning if you're after an off-road review, you're out of luck.
The new entry-level ES means it's now $1510 cheaper than before for the cheapest ASX.
The ASX now starts at $23,490 for an ES with a manual gearbox and $25,490 for the CVT automatic transmission. The value proposition is pretty reasonable - you get 18-inch alloys, four-speaker stereo, climate control, reversing camera, halogen headlights, leather gear shifter and steering wheel, power folding rear vision mirrors, cruise control, power windows all round, cloth trim and a space saver spare tyre.
The ES ADAS is $26,990 and is essentially the ES with a safety pack, which you can read about in the safety section.
Moving on to the second of the three models, the LS starts at $27,990 and is auto-only - so no manual transmission. To the ES spec you can add keyless entry and start, the 'ADAS' safety package, rear parking sensors, fog lights, auto high beam, auto headlights and wipers and partial leather seats with fake suede inserts (which are rather good, actually).
The $30,990 Exceed adds leather, two speakers to make the speaker number six as well as a sunroof.
The ES and LS comes with a four-speaker sound system while the top of the range Exceed scores six speakers. All of them have the same 8.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system. What is standard across the range is iPhone and Android integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto respectively. The new screen looks good and the updated software is easy to use, but it's not very well integrated - for instance, Apple CarPlay's clock disappears off the edge of the screen.
There is no sat nav (hmmm) or CD player (far enough, it's 2018), but there is digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity and a baffling screen that displays your GPS co-ordinates.
There are seven colours available - black, 'Lightning Blue', 'Titanium' (grey, obviously), red, 'Sterling Silver' and 'Starlight' all cost an extra $590 while white is a freebie. Not surprisingly, orange and brown are off the menu.
The bad news first: there's pricing pain right across the streamlined Countryman line-up, with the like-for-like cost of entry into an automatic model climbing by $3,400, and the cheaper still manual option banished from the line up altogether.
The range now kicks off with the entry-level Cooper, now starting from $39,900, sitting below the Cooper D at $43,900. The first of the fun-flavoured variants arrives next, the $46,500 Cooper S, with the 2017 line-up topping out with the $51,500 Cooper SD (Sport Diesel) All4 - the only model to get all-wheel drive.
You do get a heap more kit for your money, though, even if some of the items really should have been included on the outgoing model, too. You get a reversing camera for the first time, for example, but you'll also find front and rear parking sensors, an auto-parking system, cruise control, 18-inch alloys and a powered boot you can open by waving your foot under the rear bumper.
Elsewhere, expect leather-trimmed seats, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry, a 6.5-inch screen (still not a touchscreen, but you can option one) paired with a six-speaker stereo and an admittedly cool light system that illuminates the Mini logo on the footpath when you unlock the car.
But the big news is the standard safety equipment that makes an appearance even on the entry-level Cooper. But more on that under our Safety heading.
Spring for the Cooper D and you'll find the same kit, but add two gears to your automatic gearbox, now an eight-speed. The Cooper S adds a sports transmission, a rear centre armrest, LED headlights and the steering wheel from the John Cooper Works models. You also get a drive-mode selector, but adjustable dampers are a cost option. The SD model gets the same as the S, only with all-wheel drive.
Engine & trans
The ASX's model simplification extends to the drivetrain. Gone is AWD and diesel, leaving just one petrol engine. The engine specs read fairly adequately - the 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder delivers 110kW/197Nm. As with the rest of the segment, engine size and power seems to be legislated to almost these exact specifications.
The 0-100 acceleration performance is best described as leisurely and noisy. The motor, codenamed 4B11, uses a chain rather than timing belt, which should help keep service costs down and improve long-term reliability. The 4B11 is capable of producing a lot more horsepower, but sadly the version of the engine in the Evo X is not available.
On the upside, this simplicity means no turbo problems or diesel problems and in this unstressed spec, engine problems are unlikely to occur with regular servicing.
Power reaches the front wheels through Mitsubishi's ubiquitous continuously variable transmission (CVT). LS buyers can choose a less than bang-up-to-date five-speed manual, but that's probably down to the fact almost nobody buys a manual.
If you're interested in the tank size, oil type and weight, the owners manual lists these things. The CVT seems a hardy if unspectacular unit, so gearbox problems appear unusual in my sweep of the usual internet forums. The CVT's abilities, however, are another thing entirely.
Towing capacity is rated at 750kg unbraked and 1300kg braked.
Just in case you're wondering, there is no LPG (or gas) option.
Things kick off with a less-than-exciting three-cylinder engine housed within the entry-level Cooper. The 1.5-litre power plant produces 100kW at 4,400rpm and 220Nm from 1,400rpm, fed through a six-speed automatic before being sent to the front wheels. It'll squeeze a 9.6sec zero-to-100km/h sprint out of the cheapest Countryman.
Step up to the Cooper D and you'll find a 2.0-litre diesel under the bonnet producing 110kW at 4,000Nm and 330Nm from 1,750rpm. It will reduce the sprint time to 8.8secs, using the first of the eight-speed automatics in the Countryman line up.
The sporty Cooper S squeezes 141kW at 5,000rpm and 280Nm from 1,350rpm from its 2.0-litre petrol engine, channeled to the front wheels via an eight-speed sports automatic, which is enough to produce a 7.4sec sprint to 100km/h.
Finally, the Cooper SD All4 gets a 2.0-litre diesel donk producing 140kW at 4,000rpm and an impressive 400Nm from 1,750rpm, fed to all four wheels through an eight-speed sports automatic. The 100km/h sprint takes an identical 7.4 seconds, however.
Mitsubishi says the ASX's fuel economy figures are 7.6L/100km of 91 RON petrol. Fuel tank capacity is listed at 63 litres. If you can eke out this sticker figure mileage you could squeeze out nearly 800km of range. We found its real-world fuel consumption is closer to 11.5L/100km in a mix of city and highway driving.
The entry-level Cooper will sip a claimed/combined 6.0 litres per hundred kilometres and produce 138g per kilometre of C02. The Cooper D is the most miserly of the Countryman family, returning 4.8 litres per hundred kilometres on the claimed/combined cycle, and will produce a 126g per kilometre of CO2.
The sportier models will predictably cost you more at the pump, with the Cooper S drinking 6.5 litres per hundred kilometres (claimed/combined) and emitting 149 grams of CO2 per kilometre, while the Cooper SD need 5.2 litres on the same cycle, while emitting 138 grams of C02 per kilometres.
The ASX is the archetypal appliance on wheels. It's one of the least involving cars you will ever drive. The inconsistently-weighted steering completely insulates you from the road. It seems to need an extra quarter turn to do anything and that gets tired pretty quickly.
The CVT auto is rudimentary at best, completely outclassed by that in the Honda HR-V. The pronounced rubber band feel is something that takes some time to get used to and requires a keen eye on the speedo.
The all-around independent suspension promises much but delivers the workmanlike performance of a bored politician who knows they're resigning before the next election. Sharp bumps resonate through the cabin and body control is lacking - turn the wheel left to right and it ties itself up in knots. But once you're up to speed, it's a comfortable rider.
The safety systems seem to work reasonably well, although we did find the reverse cross traffic alert to have longer range sensors than the Starship Enterprise.
There's s reason F1 cars don't offer much boot space, and that's because bigger is rarely better in the slippery world of aerodynamics and performance. So the model we were most excited about driving - the overgrown Cooper S - was also the one we approached with the most trepidation.
Happily, it still feels the most urgent of the current crop (a JCW version is still en route) with a zero-to-100km/h time that doesn't set the world on fire, but equally doesn't feel anything resembling slow. The optional variable dampers ($700) make a different on rougher road surfaces, with the harsh and jarring ride of old banished in favour of something a little more smooth, but no less connected.
Equally important, though, is that its weight gain hasn't hurt it in backroad hillclimbs. While the tired old "like a go-kart" description can't be applied to something now the the genuine size of a small SUV, it still feels constantly planted to the road, with direct steering and plenty of feedback fed through the meaty steering wheel.
Step up to the range topper, the diesel-powered SD All4 and things take a turn for the weirder. On paper, the all-wheel-drive model should kill it. A mere kilowatt less power than the Cooper S, but a bucketload more torque, along with the ability to channel that power though a clever all-wheel-drive system should see it devour the sprint. But with that extra kit comes extra kilos (1530kg versus 1460kg), and so the offical time is bang-on that of the petrol-powered S.
But it never feels as quick in the real world. It lacks some of the free-revving fun of the petrol, instead choosing the next gear early in the rev range in automatic mode, and flat-out refusing to shift down a gear as you approach a corner should you take over the shifting via the manual paddles. It feel no less planted than the Cooper S, and it grips and sits beautifully on the twister stuff, but the fun factor just isn't the same.
While we didn't sample the Cooper D, we spent some time in the fun and frugal Cooper. Its three-cylinder engine offers enough power to keep you entertained in the city, but things get a little less fun out on the open road where the climb from 80km/h to 100km/h can feel eternal. The ride, too, feels rougher, with the suspension set to a sportier ride which allows harsher bumps into the cabin.
But all of that stuff will fade into obscurity when you're off the twisting roads and back in the city - and let's face it, that's where the Countryman will spend the bulk of its time. And it's here where Mini's changes make the most sense. The cabin feels light and airy, you can fit more stuff in the boot, the interior treatment is first-class and the addition of crucial driving aids will make day-to-day driving so much easier.
If you need to load up a baby car seat, there are three top-tether anchor points and two ISOFIX anchors.
In the interests of transparency and for an opportunity to self-deprecate for your amusement, about a year ago I wrote that the ASX was missing advanced safety systems and was unlikely to see them anytime soon.
That update is called the ADAS package, optional on the ES and the same features are standard on the Exceed. ADAS includes lane departure warning, lane change assist, forward AEB and rear cross traffic alert. You also get auto wipers and headlights and rear parking sensors.
Irritatingly, the LS loses blind spot warning, lane change assist and rear cross traffic alert with no apparent way to get them on that spec. The Exceed's package also picks up automatic high beam.
The ASX has a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating, awarded in 2014.
The Countryman has gone from one of the worst in show (no reversing camera?) to one of the strongest standard safety performers. The now-standard reversing camera joins front and rear parking sensors and an automatic parking system that will take over the steering for you when manoeuvring into a tight spot.
But you'll now also find Mini's Driver Assistant Package, which includes forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and AEB, and street-sign recognition that reads the signs as you pass them and displays that info on the in-car screen. You can add to that active cruise that will come to a complete stop with traffic before accelerating to speed again, and five airbags (dual front airbags, a side airbag for the driver and two curtain airbags covering both rows of seats).
The ASX now has a five-year/100,000km warranty with one year of roadside assist in the form of membership to your state or territory's motoring organisation (eg RACV, RACT, NRMA). The three-year capped price servicing regime also includes extending that membership another 12 months.
Each service will cost you $240 which isn't especially cheap nor is it overly-pricey. Annoyingly, the car demands to be returned to the dealer at the 1000km mark for a free look-over.
A quick search reveals an absence of common problems, faults or issues. It seems a pretty solid sort of car, with few common complaints from owners. Resale value is heavily dependent on the model, with early cars not doing as well as later updates.
The Mini Countryman is covered by a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty and requires what BMW calls "condition-based servicing", meaning your car is serviced when it needs to be, rather than after a predetermined amount of kilometres. Owners can prepay their maintenance costs for five years or 80,000km for $1,240.