Mitsubishi ASX VS Subaru Forester
- 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
- Range-wide AEB and active cruise
- Lots of kit for your $$$
- Real-world practicality
- Derivative styling
- Engine missing turbo mid-range
- Engine line-up has gone from 4-1
I could be the first person to compare the Mitsubishi ASX with a Porsche 911, but bear with me. You may know the story that the Porsche 928 was designed to replace the 911, but the popularity of the 911 kept it selling alongside the 928 and eventually outliving it.
The ASX seems to be emulating this tale, to a lesser degree at least. The Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross that was introduced in 2018 is widely understood to have been intended as the ASX's replacement, but as it soldiers through its tenth year on the Australian market well and truly outselling the Eclipse Cross and every other small SUV on the market, the triple-diamond brand has just given the ASX its biggest birthday yet.
The 2020 model may look like an all-new car from the front, but from the rear it’s clearly more of a significant update if you look past the fresh details.
Read More: Find Mitsubishi ASXs for sale here
Given previous versions of the ASX have trailed behind most of its rivals in terms of design, refinement and dynamics for some time, have they done enough to warrant your choice over the numerous much fresher small SUVs out there?
We were among the first to experience the new ASX at its Australian media launch last week to find out.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
If you haven't seen Clint Eastwood's son, Scott, you should Google him - he's a dead ringer for his Dad. But while he might be following in his father's Hollywood footprints, he's of a completely new generation.
A similar story applies with the new fifth-generation Forester. It looks a lot like the model before it, but everything you see is actually new.
That's hardly a new phenomenon, with most previous Foresters representing a blur of evolutionary design. Subaru does this across the board, actually, to protect existing owners from feeling like they're yesterday's news, and to take advantage of feelings of fond familiarity when those owners look to update their cars.
This precludes a lot of the excitement of new design, but Subarus have rarely been about visual appeal (the fourth-gen Liberty is one big exception), rather a quirkiness that stands aside from a lot of the same-same from other mainstream brands, which is paired with the relative USP of all wheel drive.
So there's method to the mimicry, and every conceivable element has been improved. Matt Campbell was impressed after his limited experience at the Forester's international launch in July, but this week's Australian launch gave us the full picture of this latest version of Subaru's mid-size SUV.
|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.
It remains to be seen whether Scott Eastwood is able to match the cinematic legend of his father, but it's clear that the new Forester is better in every way than the model it replaces. If you were a fan of the old one, you'll love this one, and it's pretty tough to argue against if you're in the market for a mid-size SUV.
If you can live without leather seats, the 2.5i-Premium is probably the sweet spot of the range, given it brings all the safety gear, the bigger multimedia screen and the power tailgate for a list price of under $40,000. Having said that, the top 2.5i-S is also a pretty good deal for just $3000 more.
Would the new Forester tempt you away from a CX-5? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
Also check out Matt Campbell's review video from the Forester's international launch:
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
My first experience with the new Forester actually came the week before the launch, when I overtook one of the launch cars being run-in in country NSW.
It wasn't until I was within two car-lengths that I realised it was the new model, and this was approaching it from its most distinguished angle. The tail-lights are the biggest giveaway, with the slash of body colour eating into each light - as inspired by Subaru's recent Viziv concepts.
Many will probably need to see them parked side by side to pick the exterior from the old one, but the fundamental newness starts with its adoption of the latest Subaru Global Platform, as already seen with the Impreza and XV.
The body is now 53 per cent high-tensile steel, which makes for a stronger chassis that's lighter than it would be otherwise. Despite its growth and expanded list of features, the new Forester is just 26kg heavier as the base 2.5i, and 15kg as the top spec 2.5i-S.
In terms of size and dimensions, the key growth area has been an extra 30mm of wheelbase, which accounts for the lion's share of the extra 33mm between the front and rear seats that represents the biggest gain for interior dimensions.
As you'll see in the video and interior images, the inside is an evolution of the design used in the Impreza and the XV. The dashboard actually appears to be a direct lift from these, and is therefore dominated by vertical vents either side of the multimedia (6.5 inch on the lower two trim levels, 8.0 inch on the upper two) screen. There's a 6.3-inch multifunction display (MFD) atop the dash for monitoring vehicle functions, which is joined by a third screen in the instrument binnacle.
In the upper 2.5i-Premium and 2.5i-S variants (the ones we drove on test, at least), this means a good variety of materials and textures, although the soft golf ball-like surface on the centre console is hard on the door trims. It's also surprising to see leather trim limited to the top 2.5i-S.
Regardless, it all feels like a typical Subaru; good, resilient quality.
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.
Real-world practicality has always been a Forester hallmark, and the new model pushes the envelope even further.
Starting up the front, driver visibility has been improved by increasing the gap between the A-pillar and the rear-view mirrors, meaning you can see more through the quarter windows when turning corners or when judging parking situations.
As you'd expect, there are a couple of cup holders in the centre console, plus a 12V charge point in the lidded bin, and another in the centre stack, while the lower two trim levels get one USB port, and the upper two get two. All trim levels get a sunglass holder in the overhead console.
The backseat scores the aforementioned extra 33mm between the front and rear seats, which extrapolates to an extra 65mm of net rear legroom. Shoulder room is up by 20mm and hip room by 15mm, which is well in excess of what's needed for my 172cm frame.
The flat beltline allows big windows to maximise child visibility. All versions get a backseat armrest with two cupholders and two ISOFIX points. Without a sliding rear seat, though, it'll be worth trial-fitting a rear-facing child seat, if that's part of your life, to ensure there's enough room left for front-seat occupants.
The back of the centre console now comes with directional air vents, which sit above two quick-charge USB points.
There are bottle holders in each door, and as a nod to the many Foresters you see wearing roof racks, the rear door sill has been broadened and grip has been added to improve its function as a step ladder when loading something onto the roof.
The upper two trim levels come with a power tailgate that now operates nearly twice as quickly as before (hallelujah!) and locks the rest of the car automatically once it's closed.
The rear opening is nicely squared off and measures 1300mm across, or sufficient dimensions to load a set of golf clubs, width-wise. The boot size is 76 litres bigger with the seats up, now measuring 498 litres, which expands to a luggage capacity or maximum storage space of 1481 litres with the 60/40 rear seatback folded. The top two variants also now score a one-touch electric folding function for the rear seat.
Unless you've suffered the inconvenience of a flat tyre with just a space saver or inflation kit as backup, you won't fully appreciate the fact that the new Forester still packs a full size spare wheel across the line-up. Most of its rivals do not.
The boot area is also adorned with tie-down points, cargo hooks and a third 12V charge point.
If you're looking to tow, all four versions of the new Forester carry a maximum braked towing capacity of 1500kg, with a maximum towball weight of 150kg - which is about average for its class. We're aiming to bring one to a towing review in the near future.
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.
If you're stretching the budget to reach for a Forester, you'll be disappointed to read that the cost of entry has risen by $3250 to $33,490 (MSRP) for the new entry-level 2.5i variant. This is because the previous price-leading 2.0-litre petrol engine has been dropped, in addition to the 2.0-litre turbodiesel and 2.0-litre turbo petrol performance option in favour of an all 2.5-litre petrol line-up.
The absence of the two turbo engines also means the Forester range now tops out $6,250 earlier (for now), and consolidates your options down to just four trim levels. The price list moves from the 2.5i up to the $35,490 2.5i-L, then the $38,490 2.5i-Premium, before the $41,490 2.5i-S at the top of the range.
All told, the range represents pretty stunning value with no shortage of gadgets, and as of this week you'll be able to buy a Forester directly from Subaru online at a drive-away price.
All versions are now equipped with AEB via the EyeSight system, but more on that under Safety.
Apple CarPlay (for iPhone users), Android Auto (for pretty much everyone else), and digital radio (DAB) are also available, and fitted standard across the range for the first time, and if you're not the smartphone-mirroring type, the built-in satellite navigation (GPS) fitted to the top two models is a new TomTom system.
The top three models also come with the new Driver Focus driver-monitoring system which detects drowsiness, but can also recognise the driver's face and adjusts to your preferences when you sit in the driver's seat. Each Forester so equipped enables more preferences to be remembered depending on how much you spend, but the system will remember up to five drivers. In practice, it's pretty amazing technology; the moment you sit down and look forward it gets to work and your settings are restored before you can think about it.
Key standard features for the base 2.5i include a 6.5-inch multimedia touch screen, Harman Kardon sound system with six speakers, dual-zone climate-control air conditioning, leather steering wheel and gearknob, active cruise control, tinted windows at the rear, rain sensing wipers, automatic active LED headlights, daytime running lights and LED tail-lights, front and rear foglights, heated folding door mirrors, keyless entry with push button start, hill start assist, the basic version of the off-road focused X-Mode drive mode, hill descent control, Bluetooth and 17-inch alloys.
The 2.5i-L brings Driver Focus in its most basic form, which includes distraction and drowsiness warnings and will remember your previous climate control settings, along with how you left the dash top and driver instrument screens.
The second-tier model also adds a third camera beyond the EyeSight system, mounted in the grille, which enables the Vision Assist suite of safety features. This is comprised of Front View Monitor (FVM) and Side View Monitor (SVM) collision warnings, Adaptive Driving Beam (ADB) auto high beams. More sensors in the back of the car enables Reverse Automatic Braking (RAB).
The 2.5i-Premium brings dashes of extra chrome to the outside, upgraded cloth seats and dash and door trim, alloy pedals, 8.0-inch multimedia screen with built-in navigation system, eight-way power front seats with memory settings, auto folding door mirrors with dipping passenger mirror, power folding rear seats, power tailgate, and 18-inch rims.
The Driver Focus system also adds driver's seat and door mirror setting recollection.
The top-spec 2.5i-S brings even more exterior and interior garnishes, including leather seats, a panoramic sunroof, eight-speaker Harman Kardon audio plus a subwoofer, and the X-Mode off-road drive program scores two modes to choose from, tailored for either snow/dirt or deep snow/mud.
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.
Rather than the four engine choices and manual transmission option of the Forester it replaces, the new model is available with just one of each. That means no turbo diesel and no turbocharged petrol. The 2.5-litre auto was by far the most popular option before, so it's not all fire and brimstone.
This is the first application of the 2.5 motor with direct injection, which is 90 per cent new according to Subaru. The most measurable specifications gain is an extra 10kW and 4Nm, which now totals a decent 136kW/239Nm for this engine size without a turbo.
Max horsepower is developed at the same 5800rpm as before, while max torque now arrives 300rpm later at 4400rpm. Impressively, these numbers are still possible with Regular 91 RON unleaded.
Unlike the Subarus of old, the 2.5 uses a timing chain instead of a timing belt, which is designed to last the life of the engine. The CVT automatic transmission has also been revised, now with a greater spread of ratios, and the manual mode now has seven stages.
Like all Subarus aside from the BRZ, the new Forester drives all four wheels (front wheel drive is not an option) through the tried and tested Symmetrical all-wheel drive system. Therefore, it's the only mainstream mid-size SUV without price-leading front-wheel-drive variants.
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.
With one engine and transmission across the board, there's just one fuel economy figure to note. The new Forester's official combined petrol consumption figure of 7.4L/100km is 0.7 better than the previous 2.5 auto, and is line-ball with the CX-5 2.5's mileage. It's also within cooee of the diesel fuel consumption figure of 6.4 in the outgoing model.
As mentioned above, it is worth noting that the Forester manages this on Regular 91 RON unleaded fuel, where a lot of its rivals demand more expensive Premium 95 RON to generate decent figures.
The fuel tank size is a generous 63 litres, which suggests a theoretical range of 851km is possible between fills.
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.
Matt's number-one question mark over the new Forester from its international launch was how it would handle rough Australian roads, given he only drove it on a billiard table-smooth, road-cycling track in Japan. Matt's concern is underpinned by the fact that the Liberty and Outback's latest suspension revisions lack the poise of the versions they replaced.
Thankfully, there was no shortage of dirt roads for the Australian launch, which was held around the Grampian Mountains in Victoria. I can report that the new Forester is still a dirt-road expert, its off road capability helped by decent suspension travel, body control and the same ground clearance mm (220mm) as before, along with unpainted plastic around its perimeter to mitigate stone damage.
The stability control is well calibrated for dirt, too, although its intervention is rarely required given the all-wheel-drive system's ability to maintain composure and put power to the ground via the front and rear. We didn't get the chance to test its off-road capability properly on launch, but keep an eye out for our Adventure review in the near future.
It offers similar performance on the road, still feeling compact and nimble (10.8m turning circle) for its class, despite the new model's growth, and the steering feel is good for a car of its type.
The 2.5-litre engine will indeed suit most buyers, but it doesn't have the easy low-rev urge or outright refinement of a smaller turbo unit used by the likes of the CR-V, Tiguan or Escape. The Mazda CX-5 is about the same as the Forester in these areas, which doesn't appear to hurt its popularity.
The previous model's automatic transmission was already one of, if not the best, CVT in the business, and it continues to work well, with the characteristic drone only overcoming road noise in the cabin under sustained full-throttle acceleration. Speaking of which, the new model carries a decent 9.5 second 0-100 acceleration claim.
So all told, the new Forester continues its tradition as a nice all-round drive.
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.
Subaru is known to be one of the leaders when it comes to safety, and the new Forester's credentials don't disappoint.
The standard fitment of EyeSight across the range is a key step, as it brings AEB that will automatically detect potential collisions and bring the car to a full emergency stop at speeds up to 40km/h. The system continues to apply lesser drgrees of braking intervention right up to 145km/h.
EyeSight also brings rear cross-traffic alerts, blind spot monitor, lane departure warning and lane change assist across the board, but the active safety list continues on the 2.5i-L with the Vision Assist system.
Using a third camera mounted in the grille, Vision Assist brings a Front View Monitor (FVM) and Side View Monitor (SVM) collision warnings, Adaptive Driving Beam (ADB) auto high beams. Clever parking sensors in the rear bring Reverse Automatic Braking (RAB), which we'd describe as rear AEB.
These active safety features are backed up by dual front and side airbags, curtain airbags covering the front and rear, a driver's knee bag, and stability control (or ESP).
Another noteworthy new feature is the washer that sprays the reverse camera whenever the rear windscreen wiper is activated.
As mentioned above, the rear seat is equipped with ISOFIX child seat anchor points in the outboard positions, while the centre position makes do with just a top tether baby car seat mount.
The new Forester is expected to match the existing model's maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating - and based on more stringent 2018 standards - but this result is yet to be confirmed. Our safety score is based on the assumption it will score five stars, so please double check.
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.
The Forester is covered by Subaru's regular three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, which now lags behind the five-year terms offered by most mainstream brands. Subaru has occasionally offered a five-year extended warranty as a limited offer, but is investigating a permanent extension. Watch this space.
The Forester's service intervals have now been brought into line with the Impreza and XV, doubling the scheduled time between services to 12 months, but retaining the same 12,500km distance.
Capped-price servicing is available for the first three intervals, which amount to $346,39, $584.45 and $346.39 respectively, resulting in a total service cost of $1,277.23 over the first three years. Several other brands offer capped pricing beyond the warranty period, and Subaru's scheme is still on the pricey side, but the doubling of the time interval has resulted in a net maintenance cost value improvement over the previous model.
Being an all-new model, the new Forester starts with a clean reliability slate, but any common problems, durability or reliability issues, complaints, faults will likely be revealed in time on our Subaru Forester problems page.