OPINION: Mitsubishi's smallest crossover, the ASX, has received a mid-life facelift. Rob Maetzig drives the entry model, the front-wheel drive LS.
Acronyms, huh? The Japanese car-makers love them.
Up there, Mitsubishi calls its Lancer-based crossover vehicle the RVR, as in Recreation Vehicle Runner. But down here it is preferred that the vehicle is called the ASX, as in Active Sports Crossover.
It's also interesting to note that in the United States the same vehicle is simply known as the Outlander Sport, which I think is the best name of all because it illustrates the fact that the ASX is designed to be marketed as a downsized version of the larger seven-seater Outlander.
It's a good vehicle, this ASX, and it is selling well among those customers who appreciate SUV-like motoring without being silly about it.
This is particularly the case with the front-wheel drive versions such as the LS model that is the subject of this road test.
It is, to all intents and purposes, a Mitsubishi Lancer sedan - same engine and drivetrain, same wheelbase and track - but it has the necessary SUV body styling that is so important to those who seek to inject the word "lifestyle" into their motoring requirements.
You pay a little bit more for an ASX than for a Lancer, but sometimes it's not much more. In fact, the vehicle has just been facelifted, and to help recognise this fact the LS is being offered for $31,990 which is just $1300 more than a Lancer ES sedan.
It also makes the LS considerably less expensive than the all-wheel drive versions of the four-vehicle ASX range, all of which retail for more than $40,000.
And it performs well enough, too. Ever since the ASX was launched in New Zealand in 2010 it has never been recognised as the fastest model on the circuit, but its 112 kilowatts of power and 200 Newton metres of torque do a good job.
This is particularly the case when the continuously variable automatic transmission is flicked into a manual Sport mode so it can be operated as an electronic six-speed manual. In this mode it is possible to access all the available power and torque for such maneouvres as passing other vehicles, and the ASX does it well, particularly when the revs are up above the 4000rpm mark.
The transmission has also undergone a minor electronic re-mapping in the interests of improved driver response when used as an automatic. I couldn't notice any difference, to tell the truth. But it is a sound CVT to use, and its efficiency allows Mitsubishi to claim an average fuel consumption of 7.9 litres per 100 kilometres.
The ASX facelift is more cosmetic than anything else, involving a bodyshell redesign to give it a softer look. The vehicle used to have what Mitsubishi called a "jet fighter" front grille which was quite aggressive in its appearance, but this has now been toned down somewhat.
Mitsubishi claims the ASX exterior now has a two-tone feel, with sills and lower bumpers finished in dark grey, and the chrome-surrounded grille that meshes seamlessly with a new front light design.
All the 2013 ASX models get a good measure of detail design and equipment improvements, including a new LCD touch screen display that offers fingertip control for the audio system and also doubles as the view screen for a reversing camera that's now standard across the range.
All models also receive a newly designed Mitsubishi steering wheel that features fingertip controls for Bluetooth, audio and cruise control.
While the ASX's powertrain is the same as before, one significant change is that the towing capacity has been increased to 1300kg with a braked trailer, which means this model is easily capable of towing the average trailer and even a boat.
ASX is a safe choice, with seven airbags, Mitsubishi's RISE safe-construction technology, and a five-star maximum Euro ANCAP rating as tested on the 2WD models.
The car also has ABS anti-lock braking, stability and traction control, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, and the very good "smart brake" brake over-ride system which automatically takes over the braking action from the driver if it judges big trouble is brewing.
So overall, while this mid-life facelift hasn't done much other than make a few cosmetic changes to keep the vehicle's looks fresh, it is still sufficient to maintain the ASX's position as one of the most appealing compact crossover vehicles around.
I particularly like the driver position and the sheer ergonomics up front, and there is excellent room for those in the rear seats. While the rear load area is lacking a little for room with 416 litres on offer, this can be increased by folding down one or both sides of the 60/40 split-fold back seats.
And right now, the big plus about this particular model is its price.
It might be a special price that will head upwards by five grand early next year, but it represents very solid value.
MITSUBISHI ASX LS
POWER PLANT: 2.0-litre in-line four cylinder petrol engine, 112kW at 6000rpm, 200Nm at 4200rpm.
RUNNING GEAR: Front-wheel drive. Continuously variable automatic transmission with electronic manual function. MacPherson strut front suspension, multi-link set up at the rear.
HOW BIG: Length 4295mm, width 1770mm, height 1615mm, wheelbase 2620mm.
HOW MUCH: $31,990.
WHAT'S GOOD: Good looks, nice interior room and comfort, attractive price.
WHAT'S NOT: Modest performance, not a lot of cargo room, engine can be a little noisy.
OUR VERDICT: Despite the fact the facelift hasn't achieved much other than some cosmetic change, this Mitsubishi remains a good product – particularly at the asking price for the LS.
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