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Car reviews - Mitsubishi - ASX - DiD

Our Opinion

We like
Badly needed diesel/auto combination, panoramic roof, cabin mood lighting, value
Room for improvement
Slight engine lag, unsupportive seats, hard cabin plastics

Mitsubishi logo4 Jul 2013

By DANIEL GARDNER

FROM a distance, the aesthetic changes that accompany the engine and transmission upgrade (and which joined the petrol range last year) are hard to spot, but the overall effect of the revised bumper design, fog lights and ten-spoke alloy wheels keep the ASX looking fresh.

The 17-inch Aspire wheels have more presence but the 16-inch standard versions may appeal more to those drivers wanting to test the ASX’s soft-road skills (in AWD guise anyway). Either way, the result is not a standout supermodel but still something you won’t be embarrassed to put on the driveway.

The cabin layout is very good with everything where you would expect to find it and, while the lack of soft-touch materials is a shame, ergonomically speaking everything falls in to place well.

Outward visibility from the cabin is top-notch. The elevated driving position (one of the reasons these vehicles sell so well) allows a good view of surroundings without A or B pillars obscuring things.

The interior space is also equally easy to monitor from the driving seat, which will appeal to any parent wanting to keep an eye on unruly kids or a dog that has developed a taste for upholstery.

Good outward views are also afforded by rear passengers too, but a high window line means smaller passengers in the back might spend a little longer looking at computer games instead of their surroundings.

Opting for the top spec Aspire costs $4,500 more than the entry level DiD, but it is almost worth spending the extra cash for the panoramic sunroof alone.

The vast single panel glass roof is a delight to sit under come rain or shine and subtle amber lighting adds a further touch of glass class to distract you from the uninspiring dash plastics.

Both standard cloth seating and the leather clad versions in the Aspire are firm and comfortable but a lack of support becomes apparent when pushing the ASX through some windy roads.

The electrically adjustable driver’s seat and heated front seats, which come as standard in the Aspire, add a little luxury.

The standard seven-inch screen in the Aspire is clear and easy to negotiate with a combination of touchscreen and conventional buttons.

However, dash illumination dims to an almost unusable brightness if the dusk sensing headlamps decide the sun has set before it actually has.

Accessing vehicle information, including fuel use and average speed, requires the driver to reach for a button mounted near the instrument panel. A steering wheel-mounted button would be better.

Lifted directly from the Outlander diesel, the new 2.2-litre direct injection four-cylinder is a welcome addition to the ASX.

It might not bring any more power than the previous 1.8-litre offering but the extra 60Nm of torque sits usefully around the mid rev-range and is on tap as and when required.

Initial off the mark acceleration felt a bit laggy without a full prod of the accelerator but the new engine copes well pulling strongly on steep roads without having to rev hard. The typical rough diesel note pervades the cabin, but its no worse than rivals.

Ample torque and a wide power band will ensure the new DiD tows well with a 1400kg capacity.

Our combined figure of 7.5 litres per 100kms was impressive given the terrain that the ASX had thrown at it, and the sprightly manner in which it was being driven.

Thankfully, Mitsubishi resisted the temptation to fit a CVT automatic as used in the petrol version, because the hydro-automatic six-speed suits the gutsy diesel and makes use of the added torque admirably.

Gear-changes are smooth and well-timed depending on the circumstances but even if you disagree with the gear choice the automatic can be overridden with either the selector lever in sport mode or the paddles mounted behind the steering wheel.

Unfortunately the paddles don’t spin with the steering wheel, which partly defeats the object but manual selections can be made with the gear selector lever when manual mode is engaged. Still, the presence of paddles in any form is notable, and welcome.

The transmission did have a tendency to upshift a little early wasting some of the mid-range qualities of the impressive engine – all in the name of conserving fuel.

The ASX is not just an exercise in styling. With a switchable four-wheel-drive system available in higher grades, and generous ground clearance, the little SUV can hold its own on more than just the black-top.

The on-demand four-wheel-drive system senses which wheels require grip and manages the torque being sent to either end of the car. If no additional traction is required only the front wheels are driven – even when in 4WD mode.

If the ‘4WD Lock’ mode is selected however the final drive is locked in to a 50/50 split sending equal amounts of torque to front and rear wheels.

The ASX holds a respectable line even when being pushed through varying and unpredictable surfaces, and while the suspension absorbed vibration well it did allow quite a lot of noise through to the interior.

Mitsubishi has tweaked the rear shock absorbers and the rear stabiliser bar, the affect of which is a noticeable improvement in road manners.

On an unsealed road understeer was minimal and the various stability management systems intervened in time to prevent occupants becoming part of the scenery.

Even in 2WD mode the ASX had reasonable manners while traveling unsealed roads thanks to an adequate traction control program and nicely matched tyres.

While full wilderness exploration is not recommended the gutsy diesel and capable 4WD system will inspire confidence to find that slightly better picnic patch.

As a package the Mitsubishi ASX has already proven itself a worthy competitor in the small SUV sector but the addition of a solid diesel and automatic transmission option comes not a moment too soon.

Pressure from the Nissan Dualis and Hyundai ix35 shows no sign of relenting, so the ASX badly needed its diesel/auto update and, as a result, it should fare well in the fierce battle for SUV-premacy.

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