There has never been a better time for Mitsubishi Australia, the Japanese company has enjoyed a yearlong period of consistent growth and plans to continue its success with new models such as the sub-compact Mitsubishi ASX starting from $25,990.
The Mitsubishi ASX (Active Smart Crossover) is aimed at buyers looking for something between a Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback and an Outlander. The idea is simple, as well as attracting new buyers it will limit current Mitsubishi customers defecting to a Nissan Dualis, Hyundai ix35 or Volkswagen Tiguan.
Initially it's rather hard to tell the ASX apart from an Outlander. In fact as the photo below shows they are nearly identical from the front, minus a few minor details. This is a good thing as the Outlander's styling has been well received. From the rear the ASX looks like a raised Lancer Sportback but with more elegance in its lines.
Based on the same platform as the Lancer & Outlander, the ASX is essentially just a smaller Outlander. It uses the same brakes, similar suspension, same 4WD system and many other features of the Outlander. So the question that instantly comes to mind is, will anyone still buy an Outlander?
Unless you need seven-seats or that little bit more room, ASX is the ideal vehicle for anyone looking for a small compact SUV. It's available with either a 1.8-litre turbo diesel engine which manages 110kW (@ 4000 rpm) 300Nm of torque (@ 2000rpm) or a 2.0-litre petrol engine (same as the one currently found in the Lancer) which generates 110 kW (@ 6000 rpm) and 197 Nm of torque (@ 4200 rpm).
The highlight of the package is by and large the 1.8-litre diesel, which is coincidentally the first ever diesel engine in an Australian delivered Mitsubishi passenger car. More on that later.
To celebrate the launch of the ASX, Mitsubishi invited a group of automotive journalists to the Sunshine Coast in QLD. The drive program involved a trip from Brisbane airport through town, on the highway and through a series of dirt roads before ending up at Quay West Resort in Noosa. Around town it's rather hard to fault the ASX, it behaves just like a Lancer would, sits flat and corners accordingly. It's an easy drive which ever way you look at it.
Around the twisty bends of Mount Mee the petrol 2WD variant struggles with torque-steer and a very flat feel to the steering, but it's unlikely any real buyer will ever push hard enough to notice. Nonetheless, if you do want to have a bit more fun, get yourself behind an AWD diesel ASX mated to a six-speed manual transmission and it instantly becomes a completely different beast.
Despite being a smaller capacity diesel, it still has the same power (110 kW) as the petrol but delivers 103 more Nm of torque, which makes all the difference. More torque and better power delivery across the range easily assures the diesel engine's victory over the petrol. Additionally if you've never driven a petrol CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) it may come as a bit of a shock. Instead of changing gears the traditional way it simply 'continuously' adjusts its gear ratios, this makes an immensely unsatisfying mechanical-torture sound as you flatten the accelerator. You get used to it, but it'll take a while.
Unfortunately the 1.8-litre diesel is only available with a six-speed manual and won't be coming out with an automatic transmission for another 18 months. Mitsubishi says the demand for manual diesels in Europe meant all resources were allocated to its creation first. Lack of automatic transmission will do doubt limit sales of ASX diesels with Mitsubishi predicting 90 percent of buyers will go for a petrol variant.
The company predicts 350 sales per month to start with, limited only by supply. ASX is expected to potentially cannibalize only a small percentage of Outlander sales but have a reasonable affect on Lancer Sportback. Nonetheless, sacrificing a few hundred Lancer Sportback or Outlander sales to maintain existing customers or attracting new ones is no real loss.
On dirt roads the 4WD variant (2WD not driven on dirt) behaves just like an Outlander would, except that it has better stopping power and feels more nimble. The six-speed manual is smooth to operate but has an unusually long throw between gears.
Fuel economy ranges from 7.7L/100km (combined city/highway cycle ADR 81/01) for the five-speed manual 2WD 2.0-litre petrol (7.9 for CVT) to 8.1L/100km for the 4WD CVT petrol and a remarkably good 5.8L/100km for the diesel 4WD six-speed manual. If you can drive a manual, ASX diesel makes perfect sense.
Moving inside, the interior is typical Mitsubishi at first glance. The same style centre console and airconditioning controls that we've seen in the Lancer for the last few years still make the cut. Thankfully, Mitsubishi has added soft touch plastics around the dashboard and doors which goes a long way to give ASX a more upmarket feel.
The base models (starting from $25,990 for the 2WD petrol 5-speed manual) get all the usual plus 16-inch alloys, climate control air conditioning with rear seat ducts, cruise control and a 4-speaker AM/FM radio/CD/MP3 audio system with both auxiliary and USB inputs.
For just $500 more you can add the convenience pack which comes with bluetooth connectivity, reverse sensors and chrome exhaust. This is standard if you opt for a 4WD variant (starting at $31,990 for both 1.8-litre turbodiesel manual or 2.0-litre petrol automatic).
Paying $5,000 more for an Aspire variant (starting at $36,990 for both 1.8-litre turbodiesel manual or 2.0-litre petrol automatic) gets you 17-inch alloys, privacy glass, smart keyless entry and start, chrome side window garnish, leather look door trim, automatic dusk sensing headlamps, rain sensing automatic windscreen wipers, heated seats, power driver seat and centre armrest with cupholders.
Of course a big chunk of that $5,000 goes into Mitsubishi's Multi-Communication System (MMCS) that acts as an all-in-one system for audio, satellite navigation, bluetooth and more. It makes use of a 40GB hard disk drive (of which you can use 15GB to store music) and 7-inch LCD display. Although a great system overall, the use of buttons instead of knobs for volume and all other controls can become a tad tedious. The main benefit of this large high-quality display is its link with a rear view camera (a life-saving feature that should ideally be mandatory on all SUVs).
Mitsubishi will also throw in a Rockford Fosgate audio system that packs a massive 710W power amplifier with a 25cm subwoofer and eight speakers. It's good, but not brilliant. The only option on Aspire variants is a panoramic roof for $800.
Safety is paramount as expected from Mitsubishi. Apart from all the safety designed into the car's DNA, such as a pedestrian friendly bonnet design and energy absorbing front bumpers, ASX comes with everything else you can think of. How does Active Stability Control, Active Traction Control, Hill Start Assist system, ABS, Electronic Brake Distribution, Brake Assist, Emergency Stop signal System, and seven airbags (dual front, front side, side curtain and driver kneebag) sound? It still hasn't undergone ANCAP testing but all preliminary accounts suggest it will gain a five-star safety rating without any trouble.
Overall the Mitsubishi ASX is a surprisingly good package. The Japanese giant has taken the best bits of the Outlander and Lancer to form a neat and sharply priced package. It proves that sometimes less is better.
- ASX 2WD 2.0-litre petrol 5-speed manual: $25,990
- ASX 2WD 2.0-litre petrol CVT automatic: $28,490
- ASX4WD 1.8-litre turbodiesel 6-speed manual: $31,990
- ASX 4WD 2.0-litre petrol CVT automatic: $31,990
- ASX Aspire 1.8-litre turbodiesel 6-speed manual: $36,990
- ASX Aspire 2.0-litre petrol CVT automatic: $36,990