Mitsubishi ASX VS Suzuki Vitara
- Good safety package
- Interior space
- Weak engine/transmission combination
- Iffy ride and handling
- Feeling old
- Good interior space
- Reasonably priced
- Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Lack of advanced safety
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|
Suzuki's much-loved Vitara returned in 2015 and it was a happy day for people over a certain age. Over the years, Suzuki has tweaked and trimmed the range, ditching the diesel (much to the chagrin of towing fans) and leaving us with three Vitaras with the subtly updated 2019 model - the entry-level, the Turbo and the Turbo Allgrip.
The entry-level Vitara is a lot of car for the money but there is a small catch - instead of the excellent 1.4-litre turbo engine of the other two, it ships with a 1.6-litre naturally-aspirated engine that has significantly less power than anything else in the segment.
That doesn't seem to bother the target market, though - the base Vitara is by far the biggest seller in the range.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
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.
It's frustrating that the Vitara is a good car fitted with such a weak engine. It's got great interior space for less money than a Qashqai, a big boot and some nice touches.
The ledger for the base model Vitara is more balanced than the higher grades. While the turbo-engined machines get along very nicely, the ride and handling are great and all the Vitara's strengths are magnified, the entry-level struggles against similarly-priced competition.
The Vitara Turbo is the one to get if you can stretch to it. The Vitara isn't ruined by this engine, but it is compromised.
Is engine power a big deal for you? Or is the Vitara's lack of pace and refinement secondary to its undeniable charms? Let us know 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.
Not everyone is a fan of the new Vitara's looks, but I am. Most of the colours are fairly vivid and everyone seems to buy it in metallic green, so it was nice to have it in this grey/silver (optional) colour.
The chrome grille can be a little bit much, but I really like the purposeful, chunky profile. Wasn't sure about the new rear lights at first, but as I said in the Allgrip review, they had already grown on me.
The Vitara's interior isn't going to win any materials quality awards, but it seems like it will last a long time. There's nothing amazing about it apart from the fact it's roomy and everything looks and feels honest.
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.
Passenger space in the Vitara is excellent for a compact SUV. Part of the reason back seat occupants do so well is because the roof is high, the doors aren't very thick and the seat is a long way off the floor, meaning the distance between the front and rear seats isn't made smaller by angled legs. It's comfortable, too.
Which is lucky because you won't have anywhere to put your drinks or phones or your inboard elbows, which is a shame.
Front seat passengers have somewhere to put their elbows and there are two cupholders. All four doors have a bottle holder.
The boot has a false floor under which you can hide a decent amount of stuff, including small bags. Its volume starts at a decent 375 litres (beaten only by Honda's HR-V and Nissan's Qashqai). Drop the rear seats and space increases to 1120 litres.
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.
Engine aside, there is much to like about the base model Vitara - in fact any Vitara - and this one is a pretty decent $24,990.
That lands you, all the way from (somewhat unexpectedly) Hungary, 17-inch alloys, climate control, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, sat nav, leather steering wheel, cloth trim, power windows, four-speaker stereo and a space-saver spare.
That four-speaker stereo is run from the same touchscreen found in pretty much every Suzuki. The basic software is okay but the hardware itself is a bit iffy. Cleverly (and unlike Toyota), Suzuki knew an easy fix for that is to throw in Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Sorted.
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.
The 1.6-litre naturally-aspirated engine in the base Vitara wheezes up just 86kW and 156Nm, easily the least-powerful in its class, and by some margin.
I often joke that it's almost like there is legislation about how much power a compact SUV must have. The Vitara is proof there isn't. The $29,990 Turbo has 102kW/220Nm, for comparison.
As with the turbo cars, the 1.6 has a proper six-speed automatic driving the front wheels. You can also get a five-speed manual for $23,990. Luckily it weighs bugger-all at 1180kg.
The Vitara offers 1200kg towing for braked trailers and 400kg unbraked.
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 non-turbo Vitara clocks up an official combined cycle fuel consumption rating of 6.0L/100km, 0.1L/100km worse than the Turbo.
My week with the car saw an indicated 9.2L/100km which is almost a litre worse than the Turbo Allgrip I last tested, and a whole lot less fun.
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.
As has been the case since the Vitara's re-emergence a few years ago, it's a good car to drive. Light steering, supple ride and good body control mean progress is smooth and, if you're going downhill, fun.
For a modern car, it's a featherweight, but without the bounciness of some other cars of this weight. It's also quite maneuverable and is unexpectedly slim, meaning you can thread it around easily and it's not a bother in car parks or tight city streets.
It's good on urban streets, too, because it soaks up bumps and lumps very well.
I've said it before and I'll say it again - the Vitara is a good car. But in this spec, it's a good car with a deeply ordinary engine.
It's noisy, which wouldn't matter except to get anything like decent movement, you have to rev it. If you use anything more than quarter throttle - and you really have to - the transmission kicks down to try and find the scraps of torque on offer. It might be light, but the torque figure just isn't enough to move the Vitara with any urgency.
The base Vitara is slow and noisy and from that perspective is no match for its similarly-priced competition. Compounded by a lack of refinement from both engine and transmission, it highlights what a good engine is the 1.4-litre turbo.
The Vitara is slow and noisy, and from that perspective is no match for its similarly-priced competition.
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 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.
Suzuki offers a three year/100,000km warranty, but there's a small catch. If you continue to service it at Suzuki dealer every six months/10,000km, you're extended to five years/100,000km. That seems like a decent deal.
Somehow, the 1.6 costs more to service than the more complex 1.4-litre turbo, working out at an average $516 per year over the first 60 months.