The current generation ASX is delivering its final swan song and as such we decided to revisit the model as one of the last true sport utility vehicles in the compact crossover segment.
Remember the days when the all-wheel drive vehicle allowed you to command when 4×2 or 4×4 traction should be enabled? If not – here’s a Japanese chance to do so. The SUV and crossover segment is booming all around the world right now which means automakers are rushing to deliver as many models as possible in the segments ad niches that form this category. From utterly small introductions to hulking US models, we have anything to choose. What we’re consistently lacking more and more lately are vehicles in the segment that retain a higher off-road performance strategy – there will be people that will choose a SUV because they live an active life that includes leaving the asphalt more often than not. It’s true, most buyers will consider the crossovers for their practicality (which is why some don’t even offer all wheel drive as an optional extra) and will never go off the beaten pathways. But there’s a big chunk of buyers that will resort to buying larger vehicles than they wanted because they are limited in their choice. This is where the compact ASX comes into play – it offers the option to retain some of those Mitsubishi world-famous off roading capabilities without resorting to selecting a model that will not feel at home in densely populated urban areas.
This is why some automakers have seen so much success with their offerings – Europeans love smaller cars because they live in tighter urban agglomerations than US inhabitants, for example. And I can think of at least two very successful models that have not downplayed the off-roadign card and have been praised by their drivers, media and industry experts: Dacia’s utterly affordable Duster SUV (which uses a simplified platform taken from Nissan models, another renowned 4×4 expert) and the Suzuki Vitara.
The Mitsubishi ASX meanwhile has played another card – those two options are in the low-end area of the segment – while the Japanese peer on review will play in the major league. While it can be had starting at around 17,000 euros, the model we drove was almost 31,000 euros, which is rather steep for a compact crossover. Still, let’s see what the now five year old model has to offer before its retirement scheduled for next year.
Design, Interior and Gadgets
The ASX – which is actually sold as the RVR (and already in its third generation) or the Outlander Sport in other parts of the world – has been offered since 2010 and underwent a refresh treatment some time ago, which makes it one of the older offerings on the market that has grown to such dynamics that a six years life cycle seems way too long. It also shares its underpinnings with the previous generation Outlander, in a bid to maximize efficiency, cut costs and offer an alternative to those looking for a model that has seating for five persons.
While growing long in the tooth already, the design can still be considered attractive, mainly because the Japanese back then eschewed intricate lines and a flourish of details in favor of simplicity and harmony. We’re pretty sure the next one will align to the current design language – which is heavier on the eye – so if you strive for a compact crossover that is not overly flashy but still fashionable now would be the time to have a spin in the ASX.
Moving on to the interior, if the exterior design holds off well against the test of time, the same cannot be said about the cabin. We’re not going to treat the ASX too harsh, since we’re looking at what was top notch just half a decade ago but we can also easily see how the automotive industry has evolved very fast during this short period of time. We are met by dark materials making up a sober stance, while soft-touch zones are highly limited. Next up there’s a high degree of contrast between the infotainment system (which is highly recommendable), delivered with assistance from audio experts Rockford Fosgate and the rest of instrument displays. The infotainment system is connected to the car’s systems, which makes it usable with steering wheel commands, but the UI for example has nothing to do with the rest of the displays in the cabin, which is at times disconcerting – for example if you have an ASX and plan to sell the car you might have a hard time convincing the prospective buyer it’s a factory system and not an addition done via a third-party service.
The MMC – Mitsubishi Multi Communication system – as it’s called uses a touchscreen interface and comes with navigation, USB connection, SD memory card access, nine speakers and a 710W amp, as well as a rearview camera setting. Never mind the discrepancy between the UI and the rest of the car’s user interface, or never mind it’s a pressure sensitive – not capacitive – display, just plug in your smartphone and select your favorite song because audio quality is top notch and will make up for the botched experience.
Other than that, the driver will be met by a minimal cabin layout, with three fields of view: steering wheel with instrument cluster, infotainment display and climate control area – which is a rather ideal setup. The seating position is high, reminding you the ASX is a true sport utility vehicle and not a crossover that has the same characteristics as a passenger car and an added practicality feature. You’re not going to use the ASX to break any speed records going on an uphill climb so the seats offer little lateral restraint, but they’re comfortable and large enough to accommodate even very tall driver and side passengers. At the back we have ample space for head and knees but little to no possibility to arrange the cabin layout – only the traditional 60/40 split back seat.
While technically a compact SUV, the ASX is actually as small as some of the latest subcompact crossovers, making it one of the most compact choices in the segment that doesn’t compromise interior space – five adults will have enough room if they opt for a short trip and four persons with luggage will be fit for long journeys. I have rarely seen a model so compact that doesn’t make a compromise in terms of habitability – and that’s because the ASX doesn’t use the much beloved by European automakers cabin-forward layout, making for a more upright windshield that doesn’t steal from the interior space.
Engine, Transmission and Handling
Since it’s so compact, it’s hard to find direct competitors in its own segment, with the ASX most prominently fighting a sort of blood-related campaign – against the technically related (they even have the same interior, just differently badged) Citroen C4 Aircross and Peugeot 4008. It could also be compared to another model that is off-road astute – the newly introduced Jeep Renegade which is just a tad shorter, but has a tad bigger wheelbase figure. Naturally, we could assume the ASX has dropped into the subcompact category, but we’re not going to start a debate on the shenanigans of such structures, since the Nissan Qashqai is for example very close to the ASX and no one has decided to call it a subcompact crossover.
With the competition set in mind, we also noticed the ASX shares the same engine with the PSA Peugeot Citroen brethrens, sourcing it from the French associates after they in turn took the ASX and rebadged it as their own. Again seeing how years have passed over the ASX, we immediately noticed the engine to be clearly audible in the cabin as soundproofing was not a major focus back then – the diesel unit will be rather noisy when warming up and then feel its presence felt every time the driver hits the throttle harder than the average. The unit well known already across Europe, as it equips numerous models and can be found across a wide range of segments so we encountered in on numerous occasions. It lacks the massive torque offered by the 2.2 liter brethren that also comes with 150 hp instead of 115 but as such the performance is not really impaired: 180 km/h maximum speed instead of 190 km/h and 11,5 seconds to 100 km/h instead of 10.8 seconds. The upside is the financial toll is way lighter, not just because of increased fuel economy (5 liters on average to 5.8 for the bigger engine) but also because of way lower taxes in many countries that put a premium on buyers opting for models with engines jumping above 2 liters.
Mated to a six speed manual transmission, the ASX does offer one modern amenity – the Start/Stop system that will increase fuel efficiency in most urban scenarios – we found the average in our review to be relatively close to the one displayed by the automaker (around 1,5liters in difference is considered a good margin in terms of real world driving performance) – especially given the fact that everyone is scrutinizing the diesel technology following VW AG’s admission of cheating emissions tests. We did see a major jump in fuel consumption once assuming highway driving – the six speed manual is traditional in this sense, not actually delivering the expected low rpms you would envision when opting for it instead of a traditional five speed. I constantly experienced this scenario over the years while testing other makes and models and the ASX is not very close to the worse performers.
Handling dynamic driving is not overtly one of the model’s characteristics, since I previously mentioned it has remained rather apt to handle off road scenarios as well. But having an old school setting is sometimes helpful – if you want to get the better out of the ASX you simply hit the 4WD switch to select automatically handled all wheel drive and you can be sure that drivability will not be an issue even on slippery surfaces. The ASX has retained a way of selecting transmission modes – a singular 4WD button next to the gearbox lever will take you from the fuel sipping 2WD to the auto 4×4 or to the Lock mode where you always get the same amount of power delivered to both axles. The Instyle version does have one argument against driving it on off-road surfaces – the rather big 18 inch alloys.
Pro: compact dimension making it ideal for urban usage; compact dimensions that don’t sacrifice interior space; the ability to also engage into mild off-roading; audio quality for the top of the line MMC with Rockford Fosgate input.
Against: noisy and lacking in soundproofing; user interface shows the age of the model; high price when opting for 4×4 top of the line version.
Starting price – Mitsubishi ASX 1.6 Mivec 2WD Inform – 16,730 EUR
Tested Version – Mitsubishi ASX 1.6 DI-D 4WD Instyle ASG – 30,492 EUR
Engine: 1.6L four cylinder, diesel, direct injection, turbo, start/stop (1560 cc)
Power: 115 HP (84 kW) at 3600 rpm
Torque: 270 Nm at 1,750 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Dimensions: length – 4,295 mm, width – 1,770 mm, height – 1,625 mm, wheelbase – 2,670 mm
Fuel Tank Capacity: 60L
Trunk Capacity: 26/416/ 1193 liters
Weight: 1565 kg
0 – 100 km/h: 11,5 s
Top Speed: 180 km/h
Fuel consumption: urban – 5,6L/100 km, highway – 4,7L/100 km, average – 5L/100 km
Rating: 3.4 / 5