It will also skew upmarket, meaning it will offer a new level of luxury for the brand in the booming small/compact SUV market. It will also offer a raft of active safety technologies and an array of drivetrains including plug-in hybridisation and potentially pure electrification.
The addition of a new small SUV in 2017 will see MMC also change its approach on the ASX, which presently straddles segments. According to the company’s head of product planning in Australia, James Tol, the next version will likely be a little smaller.
The next ASX, which Aikawa-san said would premiere in 2018/19, will therefore become a more like-for-like rival to cars such as the Mazda CX-3 and Suzuki Vitara, giving the new model room to breathe. The Outlander will remain atop the road-focused range.
MMC says it is previewing the next ASX’s design with the EX concept at this week’s Tokyo motor show, a project led by design head Tsunehiro Kunimoto, an ex-Nissan designer who says Mitsubishi needs its design to be revived with “toughness” as part of a “brand rebuilding”.
The ASX/2017 new model/Outlander trio are joined by the Pajero, which we can reveal will continue on in current form for several years yet, and the all-new Pajero Sport (nee Challenger, now renamed to align with global policy) due to launch locally in December.
Mitsubishi has long spoken of its decision to focus largely on SUVs and light commercials, and has said any passenger models outside of the Mirage must be developed in joint-venture with another brand. This means any new Lancer is years away at best, and off the table at worst.
The company justifies this by saying it must invest its modest R&D budget in the parts of the market growing best, given it expects SUV sales to grow another 30 per cent to 2020, making high-riding vehicles the new market default.