Thursday, 7 June 2012

2012 Mitsubishi ASX FULL ROAD TEST

Air conditioners, escalators, optical telescopes and hand dryers are all products that you probably didn’t know Mitsubishi produce. You probably did know that Mitsubishi and 4x4s go together like itchy and scratchy or cheese and crackers.

It all started with the Shogun back in 1982 which carved a healthy share of the market rivalling the Nissan Patrol, Toyota Land Cruiser and later the Land Rover Discovery. Over the last decade as fuel prices have skyrocketed and the cost of road tax has climbed, demand for heavy 4x4s has tailed off as buyers seek out lower running costs. As a result the compact crossover was born and every manufacturer wants a piece of the pie.

Since its launch in 2007 Nissan has shifted over 1 million examples of its Qashqai which kicked off the compact crossovers journey to world domination. Mitsubishi have enjoyed considerable success in the UK with the launch of their Outlander crossover back in 2004, the latest version is even available in a more frugal 2 wheel drive guise for those who love the idea of a 4x4 buy not the dent in their wallets.

The ASX, or “Active Sports Crossover” is Mitsubishi’s attempt at repeating its big brothers success but in a smaller package aimed squarely at not only established crossovers but also traditional C-segment vehicles. We hit the road to find out if the ASX is any good and whether it can crush the opposition.

What is it?

The original RVR (not sold in the UK)
The ASX, or RVR as it’s known as in Japan, was launched in the UK in early 2010 as Mitsubishi’s first foray into the lucrative compact crossover marketplace. Overseas the ASX was a replacement for the long running previous RVR which was essentially a 4 wheel drive version of Mitsubishi’s popular compact MPV the Space Runner. As a result of Mitsubishi’s alliance with PSA Peugeot Citroen two further developments of the ASX in the form of the Peugeot 4008 and Citroen C4 Aircross are due to be launched but as yet there is no confirmation that these will make it to our shores. In the UK there are only two engines on offer, a 1.6 petrol with 115bhp mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox available in 2-wheel drive only or a 1.8 DiD turbo diesel with 114bhp and 221lb ft of torque mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox. This engine can be specified with 2 or an electronically controlled 4-wheel drive system. Trim levels range from the base “2” which costs £16,499 to the range-topping 4-wheel drive “4” at £25,895. Here we are testing the mid-level “3” DiD diesel with 2-wheel drive which tips the scales at £20,599

Rivals: Nissan Qashqai, Peugeot 3008, Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf

Key Features

  • Automatic air conditioning
  • Keyless entry
  • Automatic lights and wipers
  • Voice activated Bluetooth stereo connection
  • 17” alloy wheels
  • Cruise control
  • Heated seats
  • ASC, TCS, ABS, EDB with Regenerative Brakes
  • Dual stage front, side, curtain and drivers’ knee airbag

Joining a crowded market sector isn’t easy for any manufacturer especially one that has experience of larger 4x4s and superminis but nothing in between so the ASX has to be really special to stand out. Thankfully Mitsubishi’s design team have done a sterling job in designing a crossover that blends the best of both worlds.

What strikes you most is the aggressive front fascia which sports the company’s bold “Jet Fighter” grille and angry-looking projector headlights. Unlike other cars in Mitsubishi's range which have a slightly tacked-on appearance the front treatment fits perfectly with striking similarities to the fire-breathing Lancer Evo X that also sits in the range.
Not the ASX's best angle but still it could hardly be described as unattractive

The stubby rear continues the theme with smartly styled pointy rear lights that sit high up just below the rear window. Side on is probably the ASX’s weakest angle, don’t get me wrong its chunky, bulging arches, swage lines and slim glass area look good, but its lacks the wow factor found elsewhere , fortunately the smart looking 17” alloy wheels fitted help improve things.

As the ASX is based on the same underpinnings as the larger Outlander it has a long wheelbase but the tiny rear overhang make for an unwelcome front heavy profile. Strangely Mitsubishi have done the opposite to most rivals who try very hard to make their cars look smaller than they are, the ASX looks much bigger than it actually is, its noticeably shorter than a Ford Focus or Nissan Qashqai, this only increases its appeal.

Inside the ASX is a bit of a surprise, Mitsubishi are renowned for their solid, hard wearing interiors that feel capable of outliving their owners. This time round it’s all change, ASX has jumped on the soft and squishy plastics bandwagon and is all the better for it. Every surface at eye level feels classy and everything else is robust but still of great quality.
Pleasing design and upmarket build quality impress, mass expanses of black trim do not.
Dials incorporate a miniature screen which looks modern and displays all the information the driver could want.

All of the major controls are perfectly situation and are breeze to use, the dials are a particular highlight with their chrome surrounds and cool red and white glow which Mitsubishi say were inspired by those on a motorbike. Furthermore there is a glitzy smart phone-like screen between the dials displaying a raft of driver information including the fuel and temperature gauges. We also liked the chrome rotary heater controls which operate smoothly and look really snazzy.

The steering wheel is generously smothered in quality leather- it’s the perfect size and feels great to hold, it’s lovely and chunky housing controls for the stereo and cruise control. There are smatterings of silver effect trim on the doors, steering wheel and centre console but this isn’t enough to lift the mood. There is simply too much black in the cabin which makes it seem unnecessarily dark and drab.

The seats on the other hand; although black, are superbly shaped and wouldn’t feel out of place in a sports car. There bulging sides grip occupants well and offer plenty of support so backache will be a thing of the past on longer journeys. Finding a comfortable driving position is as easy as pie with bags of adjustment in the steering column for rake as well as reach matched by equal amounts of height adjustment in the driver’s seat.

Considering its relatively compact dimensions the ASX’s interior packaging is clearly the work of the wizards at Hogwarts. Room up front is more than generous and space in the rear isn’t far behind, at a squeeze 3 can sit abreast with plenty of room to nestle feet neatly under the raised front seats.

There’s no shortage of storage space either with big door bins and lots of little nooks for oddments, there is even a usable glove box which seems to be rare in today’s cars. Boot space is also plentiful at 442 litres with the rear seats in place swelling to a cavernous 1193 litres by flipping them down. If this wasn’t enough lift the boot floor to reveal more storage.
Plenty of space in the rear for even the tallest passengers, seat are incredibly comfortable
Luggage space is plentiful with additional hidden storage under boot floor

All ASXs have an abundance of standard equipment to keep everyone happy, base models are adorned with alloy wheels, air conditioning, and keyless entry. Our “3” model adds automatic air conditioning, one touch starting, cruise control, heated seats, audio wheel controls, Bluetooth, leather steering wheel and gear knob and automatic lights and wipers, what more could you want?

Valuable safety items include Active Stability Control, Traction Control, ABS with EBD and Brake Assist, dual stage front side and curtain airbags including driver’s knee airbag earning the ASX the coveted 5 star Euro-NCAP crash rating. If you are planning on mowing down pedestrians the ASX is one of a small group of cars that have been designed to minimise pedestrian injuries should the worst happen with its plastic front wings, double bulge bonnet and energy absorbing bumper.

Powering this Qashqai-eater is a thoroughly modern 1.8 DiD turbo diesel with 114bhp and 221lb ft of torque arriving at a convenient 1,750 rpm. The unit is also the first diesel in the world to feature variable valve timing dubbed MIVEC which boosts economy, torque and emissions.

At idle the all too familiar diesel clatter is inaudible and not much changes on the move, only when really hammering the throttle does it become apparent that you are sat in an oil burner. Power delivery is ultra-smooth without any annoying flat spots and with a 0-60mph time of 10.2 seconds its not going to win any drag races but it does a grand job of pulling the 1400kg body around.
You will struggle to find a better diesel engine at this price point, variable valve timing is a diesel world first.

Usually with any crossover there is always a compromise to be made when it comes to running costs. The ASX however is different. Mitsubishi’s Cleartec technology aids emissions and fuel consumption with the use of electric power steering, regenerative brakes, low rolling resistance tyres, low viscosity oil, LED lighting and weight reduction measures. Fuel economy is remarkable returning 54.3 mpg on a combined cycle, we managed a very honorable 46.9 mpg whilst with us. With emissions at 136g/km the DiD falls into tax band E costing a wallet-friendly £120 in road tax.

It’s hard to know what to expect from the driving experience of a car with a high centre of gravity but the ASX is nothing short of incredible. When setting off the superb refinement of the engine lends itself to a soothing drive which is aided by a well-judged ride that feels compliant and able to deal with any road surface so is completely unflappable. The only minor niggle is its slightly springy nature over sleeping policeman.

Show the ASX a sweeping rural road and it really comes alive. The steering is pretty much perfect; it is beautifully feelsome sending a raft of information about what the tyres are doing instilling confidence in the driver when cornering. The gear change is equally well engineered. All too often these days gearboxes don’t actually feel like they are designed for swapping cogs, but the ASXs has a really nice smooth mechanical feeling action making gear changes a joy. The ratios are also particularly well-spaced to exploit the power on offer.

When approaching corners body movements are kept well in check with next to no body roll and plenty of grip. We liked the way the traction control system lets the driver have some fun before intervening. The overall feeling is a one of a car engineered to perfection offering the driver genuine driving thrills that so many cars lack and you certainly don’t expect from this class of car.

Words and Photos by Rob McSorley
Technical Data

Price as tested: £20,599
Engine: 1.8 16v 114bhp - 0-62mph: 10.2 secs - Maximum Speed: 117mph -
Economy: 44.8mpg (urban) –62.8mpg (extra-urban), 54.3 (combined) - Emissions: 136g/km (Band E) - VED (12 months): £120
Dimensions: Length 4295mm - Width: 1770mm - Height: 1615mm - Wheelbase: 2670mm

*data from Mitsubishi UK

The Verdict 4.5/5

The ASX is a really astounding car, its entering a very cut-throat sector of the market and deserves to make a real splash. In every area it has exceeding our expectations and then some. The level of driver involvement on offer is simply breath-taking and it’s easy to see similarities between this and the scorching Evo – yes it’s that good! If this wasn’t enough the ASX is spacious, comfortable, well-built, refined and economical. With the range kicking off at just over £16,000 it’s also a real bargain. There really isn’t much not to like about the ASX without nit-picking, the cabin may be a touch bland and the ride slightly bouncy over speed humps but this fails to detract from a superb all-round package.

You will like

Engaging drive
Spacious, refined and well-built cabin
Aggressive looks
Value for money
Superb diesel engine

You won't like

Bland interior
Springey ride over speed humps

Special Thanks to; Mitsubishi Motors, Watermoor, Cirencester, GL7 1LF

All photographs and text are the exclusive property of Rob McSorley (except where stated otherwise). They are made available for your personal viewing enjoyment only. No images are within the Public Domain. The photographs may not be copied, reproduced, redistributed, manipulated, projected, used or altered in any way without the prior permission of Rob Mcsorley (

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