We have been waiting a while to get our hands on the ASX Aspire 1.8-litre turbo diesel 4WD. This is the all-new Mitsubishi car designed to appeal to family car buyers who want something a little different from the standard family hatchback.
The ASX provides the driving experience of a standard hatchback but with the benefits of a 4×4 such as high driving position and, where fitted, four-wheel drive. The ASX comes with two engines: 2.0-litre petrol (two-wheel or four-wheel drive), and a 1.8-litre diesel (four-wheel drive). The ASX is well equipped as standard and includes Active Stability Control with Traction Control. Is the all-new Mitsubishi ASX is the ideal family car? Let’s find out.
Behind the wheel
Moving behind the wheel, the interior is typical Mitsubishi, with the centre console and air-conditioning straight out of the Lancer, so, functional and practical immediately come to mind. The design of the dash, the layout of the controls and smart conventional instrument panel is clear and clean. In the base-spec models in particular, the interior feels better than a mid $20k priced car.The multi-function wheel (lifted from the Outlander), is adjustable for both reach and rake.
The driver sits high compared to a regular family hatchback. This gives a good view when driving in town although the high bonnet makes it a bit tricky to judge where the front of the car is. There is a lot of dark black plastic surrounding the dash that is broken across all models by subtle brushed metal trim highlights in the dash and doors.
The ASX Aspire has an upmarket feel with privacy glass and soft-touch surfaces to the door trim, and leather seats, plus all the mod cons you’d expect from a flagship model in the ASX line up, with Bluetooth, cruise and audio controls on the steering wheel. The Aspire also gains Mitsubishi’s Multi Communication System (MMCS) so you get a Rockford Fosgate stereo that comes with a 7 “ touch-screen display which is also used for the sat-nav and rear camera. The overall layout was simple, but not cheap-looking and the Aspire impressed with a genuinely up-market feel.
Even though the two engines available on the ASX sound relatively small in capacity for an SUV at 110kW, don’t be put off – as the 1.8-litre turbo diesel engine has plenty of grunt to keep things moving along well and was surprisingly quiet for a Mitsubishi diesel. As a matter of interest, Mitsubishi says their 1.8-litre turbo diesel engine is the most fuel efficient in class and the world’s first passenger car diesel to use variable valve timing.
The downside is that the diesel is only mated to a manual gearbox, and the auto option won’t be available for 15 months according to Mitsubishi. With all wheels powered, the diesel delivers a strong spread of power and plenty of low-down pulling power that makes for relaxed progress. Against the clock the diesel is also significantly quicker than the petrol.
From standstill to 100 kph take low 10s seconds compared to the petrol’s low 11s. The manual six-speed gearbox is reasonably slick and matches the engine’s power well. Combined with the car’s nimble handling it feels a pleasure to use both round town and on more twisty roads. The four-wheel-drive versions offer more grip on slippery surfaces and is sure footed even on bush trails.
Based on the same platform as the Lancer & Outlander, the ASX could be mistaken for a small Outlander. It uses the same brakes, similar suspension, same 4WD system and many other features of the Outlander. However I believe if you look at the ASX as Lancer on stilts you wouldn’t be far off the mark.
The car has a higher ground clearance than a Lancer but it handles like a regular hatch and doesn’t roll excessively in corners. In fact, the car feels quite nimble especially around town and it inspires confidence when nipping in and out of traffic. Obviously it’s not a sports car and you can feel the gravitational forces if you try to treat it like one.
But decent, honest steering and a reluctance to let go at the front will keep you out of trouble at the sort of speeds most drivers are comfortable with. Out on more twisty roads the ASX is surprisingly rewarding to drive, while on dual carriageways and motorways the ASX is a competent and quiet cruiser. On some undulating roads the ASX didn’t feel fully composed but the car’s ride mostly feels secure and smooth while coping well on the dog tracks they call roads around Sydney.
The ASX is roomy, with reasonable space for four adults and five will fit in with a pinch, in reasonable comfort. Due to the same chassis as its big brother, the Outlander – they even share the same wheelbase, but the ASX is 37 centimetres shorter than the Outlander, and the ASX’s hatchback body has much less of a “wagon” look to it. So up front, the steering wheel is adjustable for both rake and reach; while the driver’s seat is easy to adjust meaning most should find a comfortable driving position.
The seats are reasonably supportive and offer ok side supports. Rear passengers get good legroom and shoulder room for a car this size, and there is an arm rest. The cockpit feels spacious for what is essentially a small car on stilts. The boot is surprisingly roomy for its compact dimensions, with a volume of 416 litres with the rear seats up, which jumps to a voluminous 1193L with the rears folded flat.
The leather seats feel a tad slippery, though they are still supportive enough, with driver’s seats electronic adjustments making it easy to get into the right position. The passenger’s seat however seat seemed a bit high, and could do with a height adjuster of its own.
The ASX is a car ideally suited to family motoring. The boot size is bigger than the average small family hatchback at 416 litres that increases to 1,193 litres with rear seats folded. The rear seats are easy to fold and form one flat load space so it’s ideal for trips to DIY stores.
The back seats spilt on a 60/40 basis for further flexibility, and there is a through-load ski hatch. The boot floor also lifts up to reveal an extra 30 litres of storage space. Up front there are several storage areas including in door pockets that can take a 500ml bottle, large glove box and central console with storage area and cup holders. For those wanting to get off the beaten track, be mindful that this isn’t a heavy duty 4X4 but it’s as good as the Outlander in fact better because of the weight advantage it offers, so on dirt roads in 4WD it behaves just like an Outlander does, except that it feels more nimble and is capable of getting the family to some out of the way fishing or camping spots.
For really rough or slippery off-road conditions, the system provides a 4WD Lock mode that transfers around 1.5 times the torque to the rear wheels to improve traction .The six-speed manual is smooth and precise through the gears.
Standard features include fully automatic climate control air-conditioning with air filter, cruise control, front and rear electric windows and exterior mirrors, electric tailgate opener, AM/FM radio/CD/MP3 player with auxiliary and USB inputs, variable intermittent windscreen wipers, tilt and telescopic steering column adjustment and 16-inch alloy wheels (17-inch on the Aspire).
A Convenience Pack combining Bluetooth 2.0 hands free phone connectivity with steering wheel mounted controls, steering wheel mounted audio controls, chrome muffler tip and rear parking sensors is optionally available on all two-wheel drive variants. For those who wish to venture off the beaten track, the four-wheel drive ASX is the vehicle of choice.
In addition to the Mitsubishi AWD electronically controlled four-wheel drive system, the ASX 4WD models also gain front fog lamps, Bluetooth 2.0 hands free phone connectivity with steering wheel mounted controls, steering wheel mounted audio controls, and rear parking sensors. The top of the line all-wheel drive ASX Aspire combines all the safety, versatility, and comfort features of the ASX 4WD and adds a number of luxury features that are rarely found in this class of vehicle.
These include leather seats with seat heating for driver and front passenger, power driver’s seat, keyless operating system with a one-touch start, rain sensing automatic windscreen wipers and dusk sensing automatic lights, 17-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass, and chrome accents for the radiator grille and belt line moulding.
The ASX Aspire also features a premium Rockford Fosgate audio system with nine speakers and the Mitsubishi Multi Communication System (MMCS), which includes satellite navigation, DVD with video input, Bluetooth 1.0 hands free phone connectivity with steering wheel mounted controls, iPod integration and control, and reversing camera. The MMCS also allows you to customise a number of vehicle functions, including wiper control, auto unlock functions and climate control.
The ASX has scored the maximum five stars in the ANCAP tests so provides a high level of crash protection. It comes with up to seven airbags including driver’s knee airbag, electronic stability system, hill start assist that keeps the brakes on while you move your foot from brake to accelerate to pull away uphill. Pedestrian safety is provided by plastic front wings, double bulge bonnet and energy absorbing front bumper.
Overall the Mitsubishi ASX Aspire is a surprisingly good package at: $36,990 (Recommended Manufacturer List Price excluding statutory and dealer costs).The Mitsubishi is a car designed to appeal to family car buyers who want something a little different from the standard family hatchback.
The ASX provides the driving experience of a standard hatchback but with the benefits of a 4×4 such as high driving position and, (where fitted), four-wheel drive. Of course, most of us would prefer a chunky SUV to a standard hatchback. We need one these days just to cope with the state of our roads, infested with speed bumps and booby trapped with potholes.
Problem is we can’t afford to run them. So what did Mitsubishi do about that? It created the first diesel engine in the world with variable valve timing. This allows the engine to run at much lower revs than a diesel usually can, with massive benefits in economy. And on top of that, Mitsubishi applied more “best bits” from Outlander and Lancer to create a brilliant auto that is great value, practical, and safe with stand-out looks that will make your friends envious.
What is good and not so good?
What is good?
• Diesel’s good spread of power/economy
• Practical family car
• Lots of kit as standard
• Refined and comfortable ride
What’s not so good?
• Back seats lack support
• Passenger seat needs height adjustment
• No auto version in diesel
• Indicator sound drives you nuts