ASX offers SUV looks, hatch practicality

Last updated 09:58 22/09/2010
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Back view: The new Mitsubishi ASX.

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It's almost a case of Honey They Shrunk The Outlander. Rob Maetzig drives the new Mitsubishi ASX.

I suppose it makes sense that if you have a medium-sized crossover vehicle going great guns on the new vehicle market, you'd take advantage of that by developing a pint-sized version as well.

That's what Mitsubishi has done with its new ASX (as in Active Smart Crossover) which is to all intents a downscaled version of the popular Outlander.

MITSUBISHI ASX SPORT AWD POWER PLANT: 2.0-litre in-line DOHC four cylinder petrol engine, 112 kW at 6000 rpm, 197 Nm at 4200 rpm.

RUNNING GEAR: On-demand all- wheel drive. Continuously variable automatic transmission with six- speed manual over-ride. McPherson strut front suspension, multi-link setup at the rear.

HOW BIG: Length 4295mm, width 1770mm, height 1615m, wheelbase 2670mm.

HOW MUCH: $41,990.

WHAT'S GOOD: Cute looks, nice ride and handling, excellent build quality.

WHAT'S NOT: Lack of cargo storage in the rear. Modest engine performance - I'm told the diesel version is much better.

OUR VERDICT: If this new crossover can do anywhere near as well as the larger Outlander, it will play a big role in reviving Mitsubishi's stocks in New Zealand.

It even looks a little like an Outlander, particularly from the front, and in fact there are a large number of bits and pieces aboard the vehicle that have been pinched from its older brother.

But the ASX is based more on the Lancer hatchback - the two models share the same wheelbase - and the 2.0-litre four cylinder engine aboard the model we've just been driving comes from the Lancer too.

So it's a bit of a case of mix 'n match with this new Mitsubishi, with its makers taking various components from here and there to develop this little cutie, which slots nicely between the Lancer and the Outlander in the Mitsubishi lineup.

Mitsubishi has introduced the ASX in a variety of offerings, ranging from a two-wheel drive 2.0-litre petrol LS, to an all-wheel drive 1.8-litre turbo-diesel Sport. The model we've just been driving is the top petrol version, the AWD Sport, which retails for $41,990.

Now it has to be said that while the ASX is designed to be a smaller sibling to the Outlander, it is by no means a small vehicle. I'd describe it more as a hatchback that feels bigger than, say, a Toyota Corolla.

When viewed from the front it looks like a crossover vehicle, and because it employs the same 'jet fighter' grille design that is aboard the Outlander, it could be mistaken for nothing other than a Mitsubishi.

But at the rear the look becomes more of a hatchback, with a style fairly reminiscent of the Suzuki SX4. And, because a lot of rear length has been lopped off this vehicle when compared to the Outlander, the amount of cargo look is very hatchback-like too - with all seats in use the load space is a quite tight 384 litres.

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Of course this can be increased by laying down the split-fold rear seats, which is a relatively simply thing to do.

Up front the ASX feels very much like an Outlander, even though there is obviously slightly less room. The controls are familiar, and include audio and cruise controls on the steering wheel, a CVT automatic with paddles on the steering wheel for manual operation, and the dial on the centre console that can be used to control whether the vehicle is to be operated in 2WD or 4WD modes.

The ASX has a nice soft-touch dash, and a high level of specification that includes push-button start, climate control air conditioning, and an excellent stereo system. Seats are very comfortable, too.

Powering this vehicle is one of Mitsubishi's well-known 2.0-litre four cylinder engines, which in this iteration develops a modest 112 kilowatts of power and 197 Newton metres of torque. That's less than is on offer in any of the Lancer models.

The engine is mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission, and they combine to offer reasonable, easy-driving performance and very good fuel consumption - Mitsubishi claims this car can achieve an average fuel use of 8.1 litres per 100 kilometres.

Where the ASX does stand out is with its ride and handling. It's nice, and far more entertaining than the larger Outlander. I had a lot of fun bounding along a few country roads in this vehicle, with the auto in the manual mode so I could use it as a paddle shift- operated six-speeder.

So overall, this new Mitsubishi ASX is an impressive addition to the new vehicle lineup in New Zealand, one that will prove competitive not only against other crossover-style product such as the Nissan Qashqai and Suzuki SX4, but also against all the traditional hatchbacks.

It has the higher stance of an SUV including a slightly higher ground clearance, but it offers almost the look (particularly at the rear) of a conventional hatch. And, importantly, it rides and handles very well. It's an appealing combination.

- Taranaki Daily News

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