What is it?
The Mitsubishi ASX is a compact crossover that first appeared in 2010.
Originally Mitsubishi had high hopes for the ASX. It was launched into a rapidly expanding market at a competitive price and benefitted from efficient engines and decent kit levels.
The automotive market took a turn for the worse, however, and an unfavourable exchange rate led to the ASX’s pricing creeping ever upwards. Consequently the initial forecast of 8000 sales per year was quickly revised down to 3000, partly due to a lack of money to spend on advertising, resulting in the ASX being a rare sight on UK roads.
Fast-forward to 2013 and Mitsubishi is pushing the ASX back into the limelight. The company has had a successful year, reputedly becoming the UK’s fastest-growing brand with substantial increases in sales figures thanks to new dealers, new product, increased customer spending and favourable exchange rates.
So, besides now being in a position to offer more competitive pricing, Mitsubishi has also set about revising some of the issues with the original ASX. The model line-up has been simplified, the rear suspension has been tweaked, additional sound deadening material has been installed and equipment levels have been improved - for example, entry-level models now feature Bluetooth connectivity.
Most notably the ASX's powertrain line-up has been expanded this year with the addition of Mitsubishi’s own 2.3-litre diesel engine and a six-speed automatic transmission. Output is rated at an adequate 148bhp and 266lb ft, which is sent primarily to the front wheels. A switchable four-wheel drive system allows drive to be sent to the rear wheels to boost traction and stability, when necessary.
This diesel is a relatively large displacement engine for a crossover the size of the ASX, which has a footprint smaller than that of a Ford Focus. Besides granting it decent performance, with Mitsubishi claiming 0-62mph in 10.8sec, it's also acceptably efficient since it doesn’t have to work particularly hard. The claimed average fuel consumption is 48.7mpg, while its emissions are rated at 153g/km of CO2 – meaning road tax of £175 per year. Both the engine and the transmission are well proven units, having being sourced from the current Mitsubishi Outlander.
Being the most powerful and costly powertrain option, as tested here, it’s predictably offered only in range-topping ‘4’ grade models. These, however, are well equipped and come with sat-nav, climate control, a reversing camera, cruise control, parking sensors, keyless entry, front and rear fogs, privacy glass and a panoramic roof.
Opting for the range-topping model does not necessarily entail a hefty price tag. An ASX in ‘4’ 2.2 Di-D 4WD Automatic specification, claimed to be the most popular by Mitsubishi, will set you back £23,899. That compares favourably to the likes of the Hyundai ix35, Skoda Yeti, Kia Sportage or outgoing Nissan Qashqai, all of which cost around or upwards of £25,000 in a similar specification.
What's it like?
Previous iterations of the ASX were criticised for their somewhat drab interiors which featured hard plastics and poor finishes in places. The 2014 version benefits from some very slight improvements with regards to materials, but its cabin still lacks any real interest and the quality remains patchy in places - for example the glovebox sits in a partially unshrouded enclosure, with exposed wiring and ventilation channels visible behind.
These issues are unlikely to faze most buyers considering an ASX however, with the priorities being comfort and durability. Fortunately, it feels well assembled and the materials used, while not pleasingly tactile, should stand the test of time well. The instrumentation and switchgear is clear and intuitive, improving the Mitsubishi's ease of use.
Front occupants will find plenty of head- and leg-room. The rear will just about seat three adults, with a decent amount of leg-room, but those approaching or over six feet tall will find head-room somewhat lacking due to the panoramic roof's frame. Seating is generally comfortable but the front seats could do with more substantial side bolsters, in order to hold you in place more securely in corners.
An electric driver's seat and a steering wheel that adjusts for rise and reach make it easy to find a decent driving position. Visibility is generally good but substantial side and rear pillars can impede your view, although the reversing camera and large door mirrors compensate for this somewhat.
There are myriad storage points in the front cabin, including card holders in the sun visors, multiple cupholders, adequately sized door bins in the front and a useful power outlet and USB/auxiliary point in the centre cubby - but there is no storage, barring two cupholders in an armrest, in the rear cabin. The boot is reputed to hold an average but useful 442 litres of luggage with the seats up and 1193 with the seats down; there is also some underfloor storage and a rubber boot liner but - somewhat disappointingly - there is no spare wheel as standard, only a repair kit.
Out on the road the ASX proves to be a likeable car to drive. The steering is light and precise, although a little extra weight would be more reassuring in corners, and the Mitsubishi exhibits no unpleasant traits. There is plenty of grip on offer and, even when hustled across country at speed, it delivers a controlled and stable-feeling experience - exactly as you'd hope.
The ride quality is acceptable, with only rougher surfaces causing the ASX to feel a little busy, and body roll is relatively well controlled for a taller car. The ASX's brakes - discs front and rear - provide decent stopping power too, without an overly aggressive pedal response.
Predictably the 2.3-litre diesel endows the ASX with a decent performance credentials. Occasionally the ASX can be a little sluggish to step off the line, but once moving acceleration is swift, even at higher speeds. The diesel isn't the quietest of units but it's smooth, flexible and rarely leaves you wanting.
The six-speed automatic transmission does a decent job of picking the right gear at the right time, with relatively seamless changes through a range of well-selected ratios. Standard-fit paddle shifters allow for quick and painless manual selection of gears, as well as granting rapid access to a modicum of engine braking.
In standard two-wheel drive mode the 266lb ft on offer can overwhelm the Mitsubishi's front wheels, particularly in inclement conditions, but the traction control and transmission does a good job of quickly reining the ASX in.
A single button press is all it takes to switch the ASX into 4WD AUTO mode, where up to 50 per cent of the available torque can be sent to the rear axle. This improves off-the-line traction considerably, reducing wheelspin, and also lends the ASX a more confident feel when accelerating out of bends or junctions. A 4WD LOCK mode boosts the available torque to the rear axle further, if needs be.
Overall the ASX is very easy to drive, and its precise steering, tight turning circle and compact dimensions result in it being simple to manoeuvre and place on the road. The only major gripe is road noise, which intrudes notably into the cabin, even at lower speeds - but not to a degree whereby you have to raise your voice to talk to your passenger.
Most buyers are likely to average around, if not upwards of, 40mpg in the ASX. Besides being a tolerable consumption, considering the performance on offer and four-wheel-drive system, it also ensures a useful range of over 500 miles.
It's also gratifying to see that Mitsubishi's no-nonsense approach continues under the bonnet. For example the engine's oil cap, the washer fluid reservoir and other necessities are clearly marked and easily accessed.
Should I buy one?
What the ASX may lack in some areas, primarily refinement and finish, it does make up for in others. Besides being a practical, capable and efficient means of transport, it also offers up an appealing ownership proposition.
Besides a standard three-year unlimited mileage warranty and 12 year anti-corrosion guarantee, it includes a comprehensive three-year pan-European assistance package that even provides onwards transport and misfuelling cover. A fixed-priced three-year servicing scheme is offered too, although at £650 it appears to offer little in the way of true savings - but the predictability of it may be appreciated by some.
Some owners may also be slightly irked by the Mitsubishi's service intervals of 9000 miles or 12 months for the 2.3-litre diesel automatic, however, which seems a little short compared to the 1.8-litre version's more palatable 12,500-mile intervals.
The only real issue is that, for £23,175, you can buy a well-equipped 2.0-litre 4x4 Skoda Yeti with a rapid-shifting dual-clutch transmission. As well as being considerably more refined inside, it's also better to drive and finished to a higher standard.
Opt for one of the entry-level versions of the 2014 Mitsubishi ASX, however, and you'll be rewarded with a durable, reliable and competent car that will undercut many of its rivals when it comes to price and total cost of ownership. It's a safe choice too, with the ASX earning the full five-star rating in Euro NCAP crash testing.
Mitsubishi ASX 4 2.2 Di-D 4WD Automatic
Price £23,899; 0-62mph 10.8sec; Top speed 118mph; Economy 48.7mpg; CO2 153g/km; Kerb weight 1520kg; Engine 4 cyls, 2268cc, turbocharged, diesel; Power 148bhp at 3500rpm; Torque 266lb ft at 1500-2750rpm; Gearbox 6-spd automatic