Gareth Butterfield tests the small but perfectly formed Mitsubishi ASX
IF you squint a bit, the front end of Mitsubishi’s ASX crossover looks a little bit like an ‘Evo (that’s street slang for the bonkers Lancer Evolution the marque produces).
Of course, its slanting headlights and gaping grille are where the similarities end but, let’s not beat about the bush, this is a handsome car. And the same can’t really be said for its rivals.
This is a bit of a David and Goliath vehicle, you see. Mitsubishi doesn’t have a huge chunk of market share in the UK. It’s still shaking off an image of producing tough SUVs and mediocre MPVs but, with its handsome ASX it’s having a stab at the lucrative sector dominated by the bland Nissan Qashqai and the pricey Honda CR-V.
Of all the cars in the Mitsubishi stable, this is the one that should have the widest appeal. It’s a versatile platform and it needs to be good, or it’ll be ignored. Happily, it’s not been ignored. It’s a common sight on the UK’s roads and, rightly so. It’s really rather good.
For starters, it’s really cheap to buy. It under-cuts most of its rivals by at least a few hundred quid, with the base model weighing in at a shade over £15,000 – but the base model isn’t short on kit. There’s plenty of standard equipment and overall the car is great value for money.
Its other trump card is its packaging. Compared to other cars in this class, it’s quite small. And that’s good for nipping through town or on the school run – but there’s little compromise on interior space.
Boot space is good, the rear seats have more room than most of its rivals and folding them down to create even more loading area is a doddle. Headroom is a little on the low side, but it’s certainly not too low. Given its size, the ASX has impressive capacity inside.
In fact, the interior is light and airy with good visibility and lots of storage options. It’s comfortable too, although to be honest, there are a few too many cheap plastics. The premium feel of rivals such as the Renault Kadjar is not present here.
That’s not to say you’re resorting to bargain-basement motoring with the ASX.
It all feels very well screwed-together and, aside from the lowliest base model, you’ll not feel left out when it comes to goodies fitted as standard.
The middle-of-the-road ZC-M trim, likely to be the popular choice, includes 18-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlights, rear parking sensors, DAB radio, Bluetooth phone connectivity, climate control and cruise control.
The ASX-5, which sits at the top of the tree, starts at £27,000 but packs in features normally seen on much more expensive cars. There’s a panoramic roof, a premium Alpine stereo and a trick four-wheel-drive system that borrows from Mitsubishi’s proven pedigree of producing some of the world’s most capable mud-pluggers.
On the road its ride is soft and comfortable, rather than firm and entertaining. It’s at its best when driven gently but that’s fine as, after all, this is a family car designed for its comfort and practicality rather than the thrills of its fire-spitting Evo sibling.
A crossover doesn’t need to be quick, but the ASX is far from brisk. The engines, especially the diesels, have enough punch to get you out of trouble, but don’t expect it to sprint off the line, particularly with the automatic gearbox fitted.
Of course the pay-off for a more sedate pace should be fuel economy and this is where the ASX scores highly. The smaller diesel engines are particularly economical.
That said, its emissions are relatively high and the 2.2 diesel engine needs to be serviced every 9,000 miles. All this might put off fleet buyers but they’re probably be going for the smaller engines anyway.
Historically, Mitsubishi has always been good at building off-roaders like the LT200 pick-up and the Shogun SUV but there have always been diminutive cars like the Colt at the other end of the scale.
And the ASX bridges the gap very well. It might not have the premium feel of the Qashqai or some of the other similar models, but it costs far less.
And with Mitsubishi’s off-road and rallying DNA coursing through its veins it might not feel tough, but it really is.
It’s also comfortable, practical and nice to look at. So it’s no wonder it’s been a success. It deserves it.