► Extensive facelift of decade-old ASX
► New face, engine and interior
► Worth choosing this over younger models?
There’s an odd divide in the industry – cars that age well, and those that don’t. Take the Fiat 500, for example – kept fresh by numerous small facelifts, it’s selling just as well today as it did at its 2007 debut. On the flip side, though, models such as the Fiat Punto stuck around until a long way past their sell-by-date, slowly becoming worse and worse as their competition improved.
Mitsubishi hopes that the ‘new’ ASX will be more 500 than Punto. The model’s been around since 2010 and already undergone a major facelift in that time. But the brand is adamant that it’s worthy of another nip and tuck. It says that the ASX sells well already, and the cost of developing a new small car platform is something it can’t stomach at the moment. As extensive a facelift as this may be, can it mask the underpinnings of a crossover pensioner?
It looks pretty decent…
From the front, we agree. Mitsubishi’s quite rightly very proud of its ‘Dynamic Shield’ design language, and applies it to everything from the enormous L200 pickup right down to the miniscule eK kei car. It sits pretty well on the ASX, and though it’s not necessarily conventionally handsome we like the chunky, chrome-laden front end of the ASX.
Mitsubishi says everything forward of the A-pillar is brand new, and the rear’s also gained new LED taillights and a redesigned bumper. Round back it’s unmistakably still the old ASX, though, and it doesn’t sit too comfortably with the smart new front end.
New engine too?
The new ASX gets a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine, paired as standard to a five-speed manual gearbox. Wait, five speeds? Naturally aspirated? What year is it?
Mitsubishi says the engine produces 148bhp but you’ll need to be going some to find it. Power only comes along once you’re pretty high up in the rev range – not a pleasant experience. It’s a coarse, noisy engine, and the manual shift is long and imprecise.
Not that selecting the automatic makes things any better. CVT automatics are traditionally pretty terrible to drive, but in recent years we’ve been treated to a rash of half-decent models. The latest units employed by Toyota and Nissan are actually fairly smooth, responsive and drivable. Mitsubishi’s CVT? Not so much.
It has all the get-up-and-go of a teenager on a Sunday morning – put your foot down and you’ll even be greeted by a resounding: “but MuuuuuuUUUUUUMMM!” as the CVT sends the revs skyrocketing. Joining the motorway is downright grim and overtaking best planned well in advance. It even sticks an extra two seconds onto the 0-62mph sprint, just to add insult to injury.
Around town things are more bearable, but this is no patch on the dual-clutch or torque converter autos you’d find in rivals like the Skoda Karoq.
So the engine’s coarse, noisy and gutless. At least it must be economical, right? We’ll let the 27mpg mixed driving figure we achieved speak for itself. Go slightly more gently and you’ll probably see in the mid-30s.
Is the chassis as poor as the drivetrain?
Thankfully no, but it’s still not great. For the most part, the ASX is inoffensive in the corners. The suspension doesn’t really iron out bumps too well – rather, it just softens the edges of them. Pockmarked Portuguese tarmac didn’t show it off at its best
Head onto a twistier road and it doesn’t come unstuck as such, but you definitely won’t be chasing thrills in this thing. Grip is decent but the steering is as dead as the aforementioned pre-10am teenager and it really doesn’t respond well to being chucked about.
What about inside?
Improving on the old ASX interior wasn’t too difficult, but it’s still a mixed bag in here. Build and material quality is typical of Japanese manufacturers – not necessarily the plushest, but it does feel pretty bombproof inside and it’s easy to imagine that ten years on, everything will still be working as well as it did on day one.
Taller drivers will take issue to the driving position – this tester is 6’2 and found the seat wouldn’t go low enough or far enough back to be comfortable. The product of that is exceptional rear legroom for a compact SUV, so at least the kids in the back will have space to stretch out. The boot is decent, too.
Both of the two trim levels available are decently equipped with heated seats, an eight-inch infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, climate and cruise control as well as auto lights and wipers. Stepping up to the top trim level – a necessity if you want the CVT auto or four-wheel drive – nets you truly awful leather-ish upholstery, a panoramic glass roof, electric adjustment for the driver’s seat and built-in TomTom sat-nav. There’s no option for semi-autonomous driving aids, though, not even adaptive cruise control.
A special mention has to be made for the Rockford Fosgate stereo, however. It’s genuinely excellent, with strong bass courtesy of an enormous subwoofer in the boot. Then again, buying a car for its stereo is like buying chips for the newspaper they’re wrapped in.
Mitsubishi ASX: verdict
Mitsubishi says that buyers of the ASX like its simplicity, its reliability, its comfort and its price. And it is cheap, we’ll grant you that, with Mitsubishi anticipating a price of below £21k when it lands in September. It’ll also likely be very reliable, though we do hope the floor mats are reinforced against drivers pressing the accelerator through the floorpan in a bid to extract some meaningful performance.
From our point of view, it’s very difficult to recommend the Mitsubishi ASX, quite simply because the competition is so fierce that there’s a better alternative no matter what your priorities are. Need space for all the family? Skoda Karoq or Honda HR-V. Simply want a cheap car with four-wheel drive? Dacia Duster. Japanese reliability? The Subaru XV and Toyota RAV4 are both miles better.
And if nothing but a Mitsubishi will do, we’d suggest stumping up the extra cash and getting the far superior Eclipse Cross instead. It’s better to drive, will actually pull the skin off a rice pudding and feels like a superior product all-round.
Check out our Mitsubishi reviews