First drive: Mitsubishi’s ASX tries to keep its head held high in a competitive segment
What is it?
Refreshing a car with a facelift is pretty much the norm now in motoring, but very few are treated to such treatment twice in a life cycle. Here we’re driving a rare example of the latter — the 2019 Mitsubishi ASX.
Perhaps shockingly, the Japanese crossover has been on sale since 2010 in near enough its current form — with a tweaked model arriving in 2015. Mitsubishi will make no secret of the fact the car is probably due a replacement, with the firm looking to take advantage of its alliance with Nissan and Renault to revitalise the car, but it has brought another update for now to maintain a presence in the hotly-contested crossover market.
Take a look at the front of the new Mitsubishi ASX next to the last facelifted version and you could be forgiven for thinking it was a separate car entirely. It sports the firm’s ‘Dynamic Shield’ corporate face, which brings it right in line with the rest of the range.
Visual changes elsewhere are minimal, though. The rear bumper has been tweaked, while new LED light clusters are fitted at the back too. As for technical updates, a new 2.0-litre petrol engine replaces an outgoing 1.6-litre unit, while all-wheel-drive makes a return to the model.
What’s under the bonnet?
So, this new 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine. It’s more powerful than the 1.6-litre unit it replaces — producing 148bhp and 195Nm compared with 113bhp and 154Nm in the old motor — and sends its grunt to all four wheels via a CVT automatic gearbox.
While those power figures seem fairly respectable for a car of this size, they don’t translate to an impressive outlook on paper — with 0-60mph coming in 12 seconds, before taking the ASX on to a 118mph top speed. It doesn’t result in impressive performance behind the wheel, either.
There’s a real lack of grunt to the unit, and it’s hampered even further by the temperamental CVT. These much-maligned gearboxes have seen great strides in usability recently, but this feels like a real step back compared with recent applications of the transmission type from the likes of Honda or Toyota. No word yet on official MPG or CO2 figures, either.
What’s it like to drive?
The less-than-flattering engine isn’t helped by a rather underwhelming driving experience. In everyday use, the ASX is unrefined at best with lots of noticeable wind noise and an uncomfortable ride. Light steering and a decent turning circle make it handy around town at least, while visibility is good.
Things begin to fall apart further on longer drives, too. This poor refinement compared with the lack of powertrain grunt makes motorway driving a real bore, and don’t even think about having any fun on a quiet back road with this car.
How does it look?
What it may lack in driving dynamics, the facelifted Mitsubishi at least makes some of it up in the way it looks up front. The visual changes are effective, with the corporate face applied surprisingly well considering the design is nine years ahead of the mechanicals.
At the back, it’s more easily identifiable with its older siblings. This isn’t such a bad thing — it’s an inoffensive look — but it is arguably behind the times. We won’t go as far as to say the new Mitsubishi ASX is going to turn heads, but it’s not bad-looking thing.
What’s it like inside?
As part of this facelift, Mitsubishi has attempted to bring a bit more modernity to the ASX with an updated cabin. New seat fabric, leather trim, and piano black and silver accents are all brought in, while a fresh eight-in touchscreen aims to propel the ASX into 2019. It hasn’t been very effective, though. Old switchgear and cheap-feeling materials heighten an outdated feeling, and controls just aren’t as intuitive as leading rivals.
Five can be seated comfortably in the ASX though, while boot space tops out at 442 litres with all seats fixed in place — knocking it just ahead of the class-leading Nissan Qashqai’s 430-litre capacity.
What’s the spec like?
When it arrives in September, the Mitsubishi ASX range will be split into two — Design and Dynamic.
Both versions will come with 18-inch alloy wheels, full LED lighting, heated front seats, cruise control, automatic lights and wipers, keyless start as standard, plus an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system complete with DAB Radio and support for both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Moving up to Dynamic adds a panoramic glass roof, a leather interior, TomTom sat nav, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert and lane change assist.
Though that seems comprehensive, it’s hard to judge value without knowing the cost. That hasn’t been officially confirmed yet, though expect a minor bump over the pre-2019 ASX’s £19,585 starting cost.
Though Mitsubishi’s attempts at rejuvenating the ASX have paid off visually, there’s a lot left to be desired from the rest of the car. Its powertrain is disappointing, while ride quality and refinement lag even further behind rivals than before.
It’s also far from inspiring to drive, though an appealing level of equipment combined with a five-year warranty may be enough alone to tempt buyers to the crossover — despite falling into outdated territory.
With a fresh-faced replacement planned for the car, that could be the model we hoped this would be.