Another week, another SUV. Or is this one a cross-over? The line between the two seems to become ever blurred as more and more manufacturers get in on the act of making higher riding machines that offer – or at least appear to offer – varying modicums of off-road prowess. Lamborghini, Bentley, Aston Martin, Maserati and even Rolls-Royce all now have, or are soon to have, SUVs in their luxury portfolios. And who can blame them? The SUV market is set to increase by 20% over the next five years. Going off-road, or at least straying on to the grass now and then, is clearly a big money-spinner.
Mitsubishi on the other hand have been doing the whole off-road thing, and properly I hasten to add – by which I mean more than just picnicking on the tailgate at the local gymkhana – for more years than either they or I care to mention. They’ve also been making their little ASX crossover since 2010 too.
Little, the ASX? Well, yes. At 3 and bit inches shorter than Nissan’s now benchmark Qashqai and nearly a foot shorter than the Honda CR-V, Mitsubishi’s ASX is indeed smaller than many of its contemporaries; think Yeti, Kuga, Cactus, CX-3, Tucson, Sportage, Juke… I did say everyone was trying their hand at this. Nevertheless it offers surprising interior space.
Targeted predominantly at family orientated buyers who want to upgrade from a C-segment hatchback the wheel-very-much-in-each-corner ASX will accommodate 5 adults with ease - as long as the rear passengers don’t mind rubbing shoulders on occasion that is – and there’s room for their luggage. Headroom is pretty generous, even if as in our case Mitsubishi have fitted their panoramic glass roof, and access is easy too thanks to wide door apertures. There’s even some useful cubby space under the boot floor to keep your valuables out of sight - albeit at the cost of a spare wheel – plus a low loading lip means access to the boot is also a doddle.
That initial feeling of practicality is evident throughout the ASX. Visibility is good in all directions, the controls are laid out so as they fall closely, if not always intuitively, to hand and there’s a generous amount of standard kit.
Mitsubishi sent us the range-topping 5 trim-level which benefits from such goodies as a Nappa leather interior in a choice of colours, (although I’d avoid the white in a car like this if I was you), heated front and rear seats, twin rear USB charging ports, front and rear blue LED mood lighting, LED interior lights, touchscreen sat-nav, reversing camera, and ASX 5 logoed front-door entry guards. That said, even the entry-level ASX 2 model comes loaded: alloy wheels, air conditioning, leather steering wheel and Mitsubishi - Active Stability and Traction Control (M-ASTC) all put in an appearance, and like all 2017 ASX’s they get Mitsubishi’s “Dynamic Shield” front bumper and a roof mounted shark fin antenna as well.
If only Mitsubishi had given the engine and chassis similar amounts of sparkle. Whilst I’ve no doubt that the ASX will go pretty much anywhere you point it – selectable and lockable four-wheel drive sees to that – it doesn’t offer the most entertaining of driving experiences. The 2.2 diesel engine certainly makes its presence felt, rattling like mini-cab if you’re pressing on, and sending vibrations through the pedals. The six-speed auto ‘box – the only option on this engine – is also little slow to react, the result of which, although torquey and quite brisk in fact, leads to a somewhat agricultural sounding means of progress.
It is quite comfy though. Mitsubishi have resisted the urge to fit the ASX with fashionably huge rims and skinny tyres so the ride is cushy and composed rather than sporty and hard. If only it were a little more engaging. A Renault Kadjar or a Seat Ateca both feel far more dynamic.
That’s probably not I suspect what potential ASX owners are looking for though. Practicality is the key to the ASX’s appeal, even if now it is beginning to feel its age.
In a world where SUV’s are becoming ever more fashionable the ASX, in certain specs at least, is still be very much the sensible (if perhaps a tad too sensible sometimes) choice.
Mitsubishi ASX 5 2.2 Diesel 4WD Auto
Engine: 2,268 cc 4Cyl, 16V turbo-diesel
Power: 147 BHP @ 4,000 rpm
Torque: 265 lbft @ 2,750 rpm
Transmission: 6 speed automatic with manual mode and lockable Four Wheel Drive.
Performance: 0-62mph 10.8 sec
Max Speed: 118 mph
MPG: 48.7 (combined)
Many thanks to Mitsubishi’s UK press department for the loan of their ASX