Showing its age but the face-lifted ASX is still practical and fun to drive

I suppose you shouldn’t mess with a tried and tested formula but I’m not sure where Mitsubishi is going with its face-lifted ASX Crossover compact SUV.  The ASX has been given a few cosmetic tweaks, in line with the company’s new Dynamic Shield design language and added a 2 litre MIVEC six-speed CVT to the 2017 range.

Brian Joss – For those interested in motoring history, Mitsubishi was established as a shipping company by Yataro Iwasaki, in Japan, in 1870. The three diamonds of the company logo were originally inspired by Iwasaki’s family crest – the word Mitsubishi has long been used to donate a diamond shape in Japanese. Since its inception, the logo has continued to embody the principles of the world-renowned vehicle manufacturer. The first Mitsubishi vehicle, the Mitsubishi Model A, was manufactured in 1917. This was followed by the Mitsubishi PX 33, Japan’s first four-wheel drive diesel passenger car – the vehicle that laid the foundation for “Mitsubishi’s rich heritage of manufacturing powerful SUVs, focused on performance”, the company’s website said. In the same year, having laid the groundwork as a trusted producer of reliable engines, Mitsubishi began manufacturing engines for some of the world’s most popular 4x4s, including Jeep. It was this same technology and engineering that was used to design the Pajero, Mitsubishi’s most famous SUV, which was first unveiled in 1973. The Pajero took first prize in the Paris Dakar Rally in 1985, the first of an unmatched total of 12 Dakar Rally wins in the world’s harshest conditions. Over the years, the Pajero has become Mitsubishi’s most iconic SUV, the website said.

The Mitsubishi ASX 2 litre GLS: face-lifted for 2017. Picture: Quickpic

However, back to the face-lifted ASX: it still has the same the same four-cylinder two-litre petrol engine that has been in use for about 10 years. And this in a sector that is notoriously tough to crack. But the new CVT should help it to make inroads in to that market segment.

Even though the engine is still “old” it has the necessary vooma to take you where you want to go, up hill and down dale, without too much hassle or stirring the pot a lot. The test car was the Mitsubishi ASX 2 litre GLS mated to a five-speed manual transmission. Power is delivered through the front wheels. The engine features Mitsubishi’s Innovative Valve Timing Electronic Control System (MIVEC) and multi-point injection that produces 110 kW at 6 000 rpm and 197 N.m of torque at 4 200 rpm so it is not a slacker in the power stakes. The ASX is the first model in South Africa to feature the new Dynamic Shield design language.

The design is centred on a new front grille, which is more prominent than that of its predecessor and will soon be seen on other models, such as the new Mitsubishi Outlander and the much anticipated new Pajero Sport.

The ASX features a grille with a more aggressive and sporty design. It connects the upper and lower sections of the bumper in to a single air intake. The black section of the intake links the headlights and fog lights, and is surrounded by chrome details that widen towards the middle of the grille which is rounded off by a lower chromed section, that mimics the design of a strike plate and hints at the ASX’s SUV family tree, the designers explained.

Other design changes include new seat cushions that will keep your bum from getting numb on a long trip.  However, even though the driver’s seat can be electrically adjusted I found it difficult to find a comfortable driving position.

Safety features include LED running lights, electronic active stability and traction control (ASTC) and hill start assist (HAS), seven airbags, a range of dynamic safety systems that include ABS, electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and emergency brake assistance (BAS), as standard. The ASX is equipped with Bluetooth and voice control, cruise control, a multi-function steering wheel, electric windows, air conditioning, rain-sensing wipers, rear park distance control and automatic lights as standard on all models. The GLS also offers a full-length panoramic glass roof. But a word of warning here: don’t leave it open otherwise the interior can get as hot as an oven, even on a relatively cool winter’s day in Cape Town. The ASX also has keyless operation, a full colour touch-screen infotainment system, that is easy to use, heated leather seats in the front and a rear-view camera which is really sharp.

But as always, how does it drive?  The TV ad featuring the ASX says it all. It’s a fun vehicle for the young-at-heart or for people who just want to take the high road for a while in a practical vehicle that is comfortable and easy to drive which also has a lot of boot capacity:  a healthy 442 litres, which beats the Mazda CX-5 (tested, The Gremlin, August 15, 2017).

Another plus is a full-size spare wheel beneath the boot. Interior space too is excellent. Three normal-sized adults can relax in relative comfort at the back.

The five-speed manual gearbox works well, the changes are smooth, and you shouldn’t have much trouble driving on the open road or a clogged highway. However, if you don’t like changing gears too often then the low torque might bother you when you overtake. But the five-speed does work well and I didn’t feel that it needed a sixth gear. However, the steering seems a bit lifeless and the ASX does have a lot of body roll going round the corners. The ride though gets 7/10 for comfort; it is good on gravel, but I wouldn’t go off-road in it. There’s some engine and road noise above speeds of 110km but not enough to drown out the Rockford Fosgate sound system.

Mitsubishi claims a fuel consumption figure of 7.5 litres/100 km. That’s in a perfect world, however. My figures indicated fuel use of 8.5 litres/ 100km and that was keeping to the legal limits and driving with a relatively light foot, all over the Peninsula. The ASX has a 63 litre tank and you could get 600 km on one fill-up but the info display will keep you informed about range and distance travelled. The ASX has a top speed of 194km/ h and it can take you to 100km/h in 9.6 sec, which is academic really.

Summing up, the ASX is showing its age, even though the technology is almost on a par with some of its competitors, including the Mazda CX-3 (tested, The Gremlin, September 4 , 2017).  However,  it is a practical compact Crossover SUV with a lot going for it: it’s easy-driving, it’s comfortable and has enough interior space to accommodate five people with ease. The 2 litre MIVEC GLS 5-speed M/T comes with a R414 900 price tag (check with your dealer) and a five-year /90 000km service plan.

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