MITSUBISHI ASX REVIEW
What’s Hot: Funkier alternative to Lancer Sportback.
What’s Not: Still no diesel CVT option... but it’s coming.
X-Factor: Handles better than bread-and-butter Lancers despite higher centre of gravity.
Vehicle type: Small SUV
Price: $31,240 (plus on-road costs)
Engine: 2.0 litre petrol | Power/Torque: 110kW/197Nm
Transmission: CVT (automatic)
Fuel Use (claimed): 7.9l/100km
It’s a solid little package but it hasn’t set the world on fire, Mitsubishi’s ASX. It’s holding onto a 12.5 percent share of the small SUV segment, but soundly beaten by the Dualis, Hyundai ix35 and Subaru XV.
Now, to breathe a bit more life into sales, and just two years after its local release, the ASX has copped a light make-over.
Available from September, the most obvious changes are new front and rear fascias, along with the addition of two new colours; Ironbark (tungsten), and Starlight (pearl white).
The previous ASX and Aspire spec-levels remain, but the range has been simplified. Both 4WD and diesel options are deleted from the entry-level ASX, and the luxo Aspire is now available in 2WD and with manual transmission.
This brings the entry price of the Aspire down $8000 to a $28,990, making the top-spec model significantly more accessible than before.
There is still no diesel available with an automatic transmission, but we’re assured by Mitsubishi that such a model will be launched during the first half of 2013.
Where available, the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) automatic option is now $250 cheaper at $2250.
Aspire 4WD models also gain a standard panoramic sunroof - previously a $900 option.
The only mechanical change is relatively minor; there’s a retuned rear suspension to improve ride and handling.
Both engines retain the same output figures, but a redesigned exhaust system on the diesel Aspire sees fuel consumption drop by 0.2 l/100 to 5.7 l/100km, and emissions improve by 6.0g/km, dropping to 149g/km.
We drove the Aspire 2WD CVT automatic at the new model’s launch north of Brisbane.
The base ASX’s rather dark and sensible interior design gets a new cloth trim-pattern, more chrome on the switchgear, and a redesigned leather steering wheel.
This steering wheel brings wheel-mounted audio controls to the entry model for the first time, and all models benefit from new audio head units.
While the entry-level ASX still does without a touchscreen and camera unless optioned with the $995 ‘Safety Pack’, the reversing camera is standard as is the 6.1 inch touchscreen audio head-unit on the Aspire model tested.
And the camera display now appears on the touchscreen rather than the rear-view mirror-mounted unit used previously.
Aspire models also continue with leather trim, heated front seats and a host of other convenience items.
Satellite navigation remains an option however, and comes packaged with a seven-inch Rockford Fosgate audio system for an extra $2995.
The leather trim and abundance of convenience items makes for a mostly pleasant driving experience, especially considering the relatively modest $31,240 list price.
Our only gripe is that the flat front seats, trimmed in slippery leather, were found out though the twistier sections of the drive route,
And, as before, rear-seat accommodation is tight for adult passengers.
On The Road
The Aspire 2WD CVT we tested comes with the 2.0 litre petrol engine, and delivers performance better described as “coping” rather than “loping”.
The issue here is the ASX Aspire’s circa 1400kg kerb weight.
Outright pace is not entirely the issue, but when asked to perform, the characteristic buzz while the CVT holds the engine hovering around the 4200rpm torque peak can become tiresome.
(This despite Mitsubishi tuning the CVT to minimise the false sensation of ‘slipping’ common to all CVTs.)
We know from previous experience that the 1.8 litre 110kW/300Nm diesel is the more capable ASX engine. With maximum torque at 2000rpm, and a bit of muscle behind it, we expect it will be a nicer match with the CVT.
We’re yet to find a single CVT - despite the demonstrated efficiency benefits they provide - to match the refinement of a well-designed conventional torque-converter automatic.
CVT issues aside, while it had to be kept working, the 2.0 litre proved adequate in the hills surrounding Queensland’s Glasshouse Mountains area.
Our return leg was largely flat motorway, and the limited throttle/revs this required made for a relaxed cruise, with nary a buzz from below.
The ASX’s rejigged rear suspension comes as somewhat of a surprise, given that ride and handling were hardly a source of criticism in the past.
Either way, the ASX’s body control and ride comfort continue to impress, and driven back-to-back with Lancer, its the ASX that is surprisingly more composed, despite the SUV’s higher centre of gravity.
This suspension redesign has also contributed to an increased tow capacity of both engines. Petrol models get an increase of 250kg to 1300kg, and the diesel Aspire up 350kg to 1400kg - both sufficient to tow a small camper trailer.
First Drive Verdict
The Mitsubishi ASX continues to represent a good, if not great, option in the small SUV segment.
The 2013-model spec upgrade has improved the availability of several ‘must-have’ features the range previously lacked, such as steering wheel controls, touchscreen and reversing cameras.
Mitsubishi expects the entry-level ASX with CVT to continue as the volume seller, and its list price of $28,240 undercuts all of its key automatic-equipped competitors aside from the Dualis ST CVT at $27,490.
While we tested the $31,240 CVT Aspire, the best value buying is in manual form. A leather-clad SUV for just $28,990? That’s going to win friends.
That said, the ASX’s appeal to family buyers will remain limited until the diesel automatic option arrives.
The 2013 ASX range is on sale in Australia from September 1.
- 2013 Mitsubishi ASX 2WD 5MT - $25,990
- 2013 Mitsubishi ASX 2WD CVT - $28,240
- 2013 Mitsubishi ASX 2WD Aspire 5MT - $28,990
- 2013 Mitsubishi ASX 2WD Aspire CVT - $31,240
- 2013 Mitsubishi ASX 4WD Aspire 6MT - $34,990
- 2013 Mitsubishi ASX 4WD Aspire CVT - $34,990
Note: prices exclude on-road costs.
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