Poke your nose onto Mitsubishi’s UK website and the ASX tab screams ‘Urban Dweller, Country Getaway’. Sounds as if Mitsubishi is aiming for best-of-both-worlds crossover status, but has it compromised its Nissan Juke rival? Read on for the CAR first drive review of the Mitsubishi ASX.
So the Mitsubishi ASX is one of those jumped-up supermini crossover jobs?
Bang on. Its dimensions conform to the compact norm for this class and it’s priced from £14,999 to £23,899 (£22,499 for the 1.8-litre diesel with a manual gearbox as tested). Given the most divisive-looking machine in this segment, the Nissan Juke, starts much lower down the price ladder, at £13,195, the dull-looking ASX is already on the back foot.
For the same outlay as your test car, you could bag a new Nissan Qashqai 1.6 DCI, albeit without our ASX’s all-wheel drive.
>> Click here for CAR’s review of the 2014 Nissan Qashqai
It’s far from the funkiest little car in its class. Cars like these, if the popular Juke and Clio-overshadowing Captur are anything to go buy, sell on trendy looks. Small wonder Vauxhall predicts its Mokka crossover will be its third-best-selling model in 2014. These family-friendly fashion accessories need to stand out in a crowded marketplace – and the ASX doesn’t. Forget turning around to study it after a journey – you’ll struggle to spot it in the car park at all.
Still, if it drives more like a car than an out-and-outdoor 4×4, plain-Jane styling needn’t be the ASX’s downfall.
Is the ASX more refined than the rest of Mitsubishi’s range?
We tested the 1.8-litre diesel variant, in range-topping ‘ASX 4’ trim. The powerplant is good for a healthy 221lb ft, 114bhp, and 54.3mpg. It’s a torque-rich motor, and good thing too, because things get awfully raucous as the revs climb. Meanwhile, the wind gusts around the A-pillars like a Hollywood horror movie sound effect.
Inside, the ASX isn’t any livelier than it is outside. The aftermarket infotainment, plonked into a glossy slab of plastic in the middle of the dashboard, is the visual highlight, but certainly not a user-friendly one. CAR’s Damion Smy likened its unintuitive interface to that of his Subaru BRZ long-termer’s swearword-inducing infotainment – far from a compliment, take it from us. In typical Mitsubishi fashion, all the switchgear and surfaces are catered towards longevity rather than stroke-ability, and this flagship ASX ‘4’ certainly crams in the kit.
With heated seats, a reversing camera, and a panoramic glass roof, there’s plenty to keep you entertained in the absence of any fun driving dynamics.
Want to know the ASX’s most eye-popping feature? Easy – the LED mood lighting strips that run along the inside of the roof rails. Open the roof blind after dark and the cabin is bathed in an orange glow, whole the roof rails look like the illuminated outline of an airport runway from the cockpit of an approaching jet.
It’s an odd touch, but we quite like it. That glass roof certainly adds an impression of spaciousness rearward…
Is the ASX a bit cramped?
Certainly not up front, where decent headroom is teamed with a raised driving position, and there’s a commendable amount of seat adjustment and overall visibility. However, though the boxy profile aids rear headroom, legroom is just as pinched as it is in the Nissan Juke.
Open the light tailgate (praise be, it’s not as flimsy feeling as the rear doors) and 442/1193 litres of storage space is up for grabs. Enough to embarrass a few family hatches – Ford Focus, must try harder!
Will I be taking my ASX the long way home?
Nope – this isn’t the driver’s car in the class. Though the slab-sided body has been tuned to not roll about like Mitsubishi’s more rugged 4x4s, the ASX lacks engagement and chuckability. There’s grip from the all-wheel drive system – which switches between two- and four-wheel drive at the touch of a button – and understeer thereafter. It rides decently enough, but isn’t memorably compliant, nor does it boast a gearchange you’ll be telling your mates about down the pub.
Things are better in the ASX’s intended environment: town centres. There, the light, disconnected-feeling steering is handy for manoeuvring and the low-down grunt from the diesel motor a real boon in blink-and-you’ll-miss-green traffic-light cycles.
Though the ASX is a competent machine (and probably the best car in Mitsubishi’s current range), it desperately struggles to stand out in a very crowded, talented class. Fact is, unless you’re really sold on the ASX’s looks (and we mean really sold), or its workmanlike hard-wearing character, you’re not short of far more desirable rivals to plump for instead.