Mitsubishi ASX VS Suzuki Vitara
- 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
- Good interior space
- Reasonably priced
- Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Lack of advanced safety
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|
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|
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'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 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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.