You would think that being part of the Mercedes-Benz group in South Africa would be an automatic recipe for success. Unfortunately for Mitsubishi, this wasn’t quite the case. Of course, it could be argued that the brand never got the attention it needed, but still… going it alone must be quite a daunting challenge. What Mitsubishi has to its advantage, however, is the might of the Imperial group, as well as a South African populace that is well aware of the brand’s core strength – reliability. Now, with its local distributorship secured, the brand looks set to grow by adding much needed new models to its line-up. The subject of this test, the Mitsubishi ASX crossover, is one of the most important.
Compact attitude for Mitsubishi ASXWith the compact crossover segment being one of the fastest growing in the local market, Mitsubishi can count itself lucky that it has a product such as the ASX to launch. It is available locally in three derivatives, all powered by the same engine. This Mid Spec version is likely to be the top seller, seeing as it adds a number of nice-to-have features at not too much of an extra cost. It boasts an attractive design, too, with the requisite high ground clearance and stubby front and rear ends lending it that much-desired “off-roader-in-a-city-slicker-suit” appearance. Up front it gets the same massive trapezoidal grille that already appears on the Lancer sedan. There’s some neat sculpting along the sides along with attractive 17-inch alloys and, at the rear, a large black “skid plate”. This Mitsubishi ASX model also features fog lamps and a very smart panoramic sunroof.
Unfortunately, Mitsubishi’s designers have not been quite so successful inside. But first the good news… Despite its relatively compact exterior dimensions, the Mitsubishi ASX nevertheless rides on a lengthy 2 670 mm wheelbase, which ensures good legroom for all passengers. Even the boot is decently sized at 442 L. Our criticism really centres on the facia design and choice of trim materials. As per usual, fit and finish is really good on this Mitsubishi ASX and never once emitted a rattle during the period of our test, but the facia looks low-rent for a vehicle of this price category. Most of the plastics are of the hard and shiny variety, and the design is very generic – the one area of exception being the very upmarket instrument cluster. Sadly, not even the standard fitment of leather upholstery can lift the ambience.
It’s a particularly jarring disappointment because the Mitsubishi ASX Mid Spec is very well equipped indeed. You get climate control, auto lights and wipers, electrically folding and heated mirrors, electrically adjustable driver’s seat, keyless entry, rear park assist and even heated front seats. The safety package may exclude ESP (disappointing), but it does offer no fewer than seven airbags, ABS/EBD and also Isofix child seat anchors.
Straightforward mechanical packageAs much as the Mitsubishi ASX broadcasts a message of adventure and excitement, it is essentially a high-riding front-wheel drive hatchback. There’s not much wrong with that formula – after all the typical usage pattern of these types of vehicles see them hardly ever leaving the confines of the city. Under the bonnet is the brand’s proven 2,0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine that delivers 110 kW and 197 Nm of torque – both figures are good for this type of vehicle. Mated with a robust-feeling five-speed manual transmission, the engine powers the Mitsubishi ASX along at a very decent rate. Expect a 0-100 km/h time of just below 10 seconds. More importantly, the ASX feels nippy and responsive in most circumstances, even when cruising at relatively high speed. The downside is that it can’t match the fuel economy of some newer, smaller-capacity turbocharged engines that offer similar power and performance. Mitsubishi claims a consumption of around 7,5 L/100 km for this model, but you’ll have to really pussy foot to achieve that – more likely is a figure of around 10 L/100 km.
Mitsubishi is well-known for developing great handling cars from relatively ordinary underpinnings, and this talent also shines through in the ASX. Yes, the higher centre of gravity does mean that it’s no hot hatch in the corners, but generally it impresses with its grip and good body control. The steering is good, too. Perhaps the ride is slightly too firm on those 17-inch wheels, but on most surfaces we believe the suspension set-up strikes a good compromise. A final (small) criticism is the relatively high levels of road noise that reach the cabin.
Mitsubishi ASX - VerdictBacked by a four-year warranty and five-year service plan, the ASX offers an attractive purchasing proposition. It fits very neatly into a very competitive and popular segment, but does possess its own character and is a well-polished product, save for two areas of concern – firstly, we think the facia design could be improved and, secondly, the engine is not very economical. All that said, the Mitsubishi ASX is likely to be one of those vehicles that may appear somewhat basic at first glance, but which eventually wins you over with its reliability and lack of problematic frills. Think of it as the Honda Jazz of compact crossovers – high praise indeed.
- Attractive looks
- Standard specification
- Build quality
- Firm ride
- Uninspiring cabin design
Fast factsEngine: 2,0-litre, four-cylinder, petrol Power: 110 kW @ 6 000 rpm Torque: 197 Nm @ 4 200 rpm Transmission: Five-speed manual Wheels: 17-inch alloy Top speed: 194 km/h 0-100 km/h: 9,5 seconds Fuel Economy: 7,5 L/100 km
- Nissan Qashqai 1,6 Acenta n-tec: N-tec special edition trim brings the Qashqai closer to the Mitsubishi ASX in terms of spec and design appeal. The Qashqai has a bigger interior and better ride quality, but can’t match the Mitsubishi’s performance.
- Hyundai ix35 2,0 GLS: A top-seller with good reason – the Hyundai offers not only more space, but also a very comprehensive standard specification and a more powerful engine. And then there’s that warranty and service plan combination…
- Kia Sportage 2,0 Ignite: The ix35’s prettier cousin – a deadly rival. Ignite specification is not nearly as generous as the Mitsubishi’s, but you can upgrade and pay a similar amount for more features. But do you need much more than this? A superb package.