Based on the same platform as the excellent, and recently revised Outlander 4x4, Mitsubishi’s latest entry to its UK passenger car is aimed squarely at the expanding ‘crossover’ market. The ASX is basically a pumped-up five-door estate car and it’s targetted directly at Nissan’s Qashqai.
It has a trump card up it’s sleeve, however. It can be front-wheel drive or specified with the same electronically selectable four-wheel drive system as the Outlander.
By the way, the reason for this article appearing on What Van? Online is that Mitsubishi intends to offer the ASX in light commercial trim. The conversion will take place in-house in the UK, just as it does for Outlander and Shogun.
Two Euro 5 engines are up for grabs; a 115hp 1.6-litre petrol — two-wheel drive only — and a 150hp/300Nm 1.8-litre turbodiesel, but it’s the latter that’s of real interest. As well as a variable geometry turbo it also features variable valve timing, a first for a diesel engine in a passenger car. The result is a lower than normal compression ratio of 15:1 which helps towards improving performance, refinement, long-term reliability, fuel consumption and emissions.
Fuel economy and CO2 emissions — combined cycle figures of 51.4mpg and 145g/km respectively for the 1.8DiD — are also helped by the standard fitment of Auto Stop & Go (the engine cuts out when the ASX is stationary and starts automatically when the clutch is depressed), low rolling resistance tyres, low viscosity oil and electric power steering. On top of these ASX also comes with a regenerative brake system, known as GCS (Generation Control System). Basically this allows the battery to be charged during braking and deceleration and therefore enables the alternator to be taken off-line temporarily.
The ASX is also kitted out with a full array of active safety features. These include ABS, Active Stability Control, Traction Control, Hill Start Assist, Electronic Brake Distribution, Brake Assist and an Emergency Stop Signal System. It also features front, side and curtain airbags for the two front seats occupants, and additionally the driver gets knee protection.
Mitsubishi hasn’t stinted on the in-cab goodies either. The entry-level ASX2 (what happened to ASX1?) gets electric windows and door mirrors (folding), remote central locking, MP3-compatible radio/CD player with an Aux-in socket, manual air conditioning and reversing sensors. Alloy wheels are standard.
Move up to ASX3 and you gain fully automatic air con, one-touch starting, cruise control, heated seats, Bluetooth and automatic lights and windscreen wipers. ASX4 brings with it leather seats and a Kenwood entertainment system with iPod control, sat nav and a reversing camera.
ASX has a good upright driving position. The seat is set high-up for good visibility and is supportive in all the right places. The reach- and rake-adjustable steering wheel helps with finding the perfect driving position and all the instruments and controls are well laid-out and eminently visible.
We went straight for a six-speed manual diesel-powered model and were glad we did; what a great engine. There’s bags of low-down torque and it continues to make its presence felt all the way past 3,000rpm. This is no slouch in the performance stakes. It’s also very refined for a diesel and there appeared to be virtually no vibration. Drivers will soon become familiar with the seamless nature of the Stop & Start system.
The all-round disc brakes — ventilated at the front — are more than up to the job and despite being electrically-assisted the steering provides plenty of feedback. We had no complaints with the ride and handling of the front-wheel drive demonstrator and were reassured by the firm nature of the former.
Our only slight concern is the rather too frequent 9,000 mile oil change interval. High mileage users may want to consider a Mitsubishi Service Plan at £395. The warranty is good at three years unlimited mileage and you get 12-year anti-corrosion cover as well as three-year pan-European roadside, home and accident assistance.
Basic prices (excl VAT) for the passenger car versions start at £12,765, rising to £18,765. Converted light commercial models should start appearing in September and the price will be set closer to the time.
We have already fallen for the ASX, in particular its diesel engine. We can’t wait to get our hands on a two-seater LCV conversion.