Mitsubishi’s tidy little ASX has been around for a while and was given a new and bigger diesel heart earlier this year. It’s punchy and quiet, sitting nicely behind the Lancer based SUV’s nose and it does the job. Here’s A Wheel Thing’s view.
The Driven Heart
It’s a 2.2L diesel, only available with the six speed constant variable transmission automatic, compared to the 1.8L powerplant previously offered only with a manual transmission. Naturally, being a diesel, torque is abundant, with 360 Newton metres available from 1500 to 2750 revs whilst power is a reasonable 110 kilowatts at 3500 rpm. It’s muted, even under load and when left in 2 wheel drive mode (the Aspire has a switchable drive system) while happily chirping the front driven tyres. In non-locked 4wd, the torque is enough to do the same before the transmission starts sending torque to the rear, but there is a measure of torque steer to start. 4WD sees somewhat more grip overall and there’s no noticeable steering issues.
It’s a mostly smooth combination, the engine and transmission, but there is a vibration through the driveline at around 1500 revs, shuddering though the body and clearly audible as well. Once into the torque band, it’s a rapid and smooth shift up through the gears, with acceleration decent enough once the turbo has spooled up and with the CVT having six preprogrammed shift points, using the paddle shifts mounted behind the steering column (rarely used actually in the eight days) move the gears crisply. There were times where the auto downshifted perhaps a little too eagerly, rather than letting the engine’s torque pull it along in the chosen gear.Economy is unsurprisingly good, with the LED display showing just one notch below half full from the sixty litre tank with over 500 kilometres of predominantly city driving (with some in full 4WD mode) completed.
On The Road
The ASX utilises the proven combination of MacPherson struts at the front and a multilink beam rear. It’s tight, taut, with enough initial compliance to smooth out the smaller bumps. Over car park bumps and the bigger road speed humps, it’s also well sorted, with minimal bumpthump or crash intruding via the 17 inch x 6.5 alloys and not heavily affected on the turn. Pushed hard into a roundabout turn, there’s understeer in 2WD mode, not helped by the road oriented tyres gripwise. On the highway the ASX sits flat, ignores undulations and exhibits minimal float. The brakes pull up the Aspire quickly and without too much ABS intrusion however are initially a touch grabby, with pedal engagement fairly high up on the travel. The steering is well weighted if a little vague on the centre however is tactile enough to give a good sense of connection with direction.
The Lancer based nose leads to a standard three pillar design; it’s not unattractive, with a creaseline running from the top of the wheelarch down the side to the taillights. Sweet looking double spoked five bladed alloys add to the visual appeal along with some brightwork. The roof houses a almost full length glass house; it looks great at night, lit up with a bank of red LEDs but could use a touch more UV protection. The headlights themselves are bight enough but miss out on LED running lights, almost “de riguer” these days. The doors are also, in the Aspire, one touch keyless to open.
Mitsubishi is renowned for functional and logical ergonomics, however the interior is let down by two things: flat, overly hard and unsupportive seating (electrically adjustable) and the oddest placement for the heated seats. The ASX isn’t the widest vehicle around, although the interior most makes good use of what there is, but tucking the switches down in next to the seatbelt clasps, tight up against the centre console and somewhat hidden by the seat’s padding, is ludicrous. The navitainment screen, located high in the centre dash and framed by a dull, lustreless gunmetal plastic, hides a secret: a small, almost unnoticed button opens the screen, folding out quietly to reveal the CD slot whilst the reverse camera image is relocated from the rear vision mirror to here. As ever, the red backlit dash and dials stand out for their usefulness and simplicity; the push start button is hidden behind the steering wheel (redesigned with switches for audio and cruise) as is the info button, another ergonomic not so good. Cargo capacity (not quoted by Mitsubishi, http://www.mitsubishi-motors.com.au/uploads/pdf/specs/asx-spec-sheet.pdf) with the nonsliding rear seats (60/40 split fold and ski-port) up is good, although the load height level is perhaps a touch high.
The Aspire, with CVT gearbox and diesel 2.2L engine, although not the prettiest small SUV around (A Wheel Thing gives that to the Kia Sportage) digs deep and offers a decent amount of quality, luxury and driveability for the coin ($36460 + ORCs). With competitors such as the aforementioned Kia, the Hyundai ix35, Ford Kuga, Captiva 5 from Holden, Suzuki’s Vitara, Mazda CX-5 and VW’s Tiguan, it’s in good company and competes well. http://www.mitsubishi-motors.com.au/vehicles/asx/specifications