Small SUVs were a big hit in 2012 and various manufacturers were taking advantage of the market boom, so no surprise Mitsubishi has decided to give the ASX an update to keep buyers interested and keep relishing the hospitality offered by the Japanese brand.
From testimonials of Mitsubishi adherents, there are some downsides to the ASX driving experience though. For instance, the CVT is designed to provide optimal fuel economy and performance by holding the engine in its torque sweet spot, but also adds an engine drone to a noisy cabin when accelerating hard.
On motion, using the throttle heavily is something many drivers do a lot because the ASX is heavy and the 110kW/197Nm engine is not overly powerful as a result achieving the 8.1L/100km fuel consumption average will be a challenge. During a week-long test, it managed only a disappointing 10.6L/100km.
On dirt roads the AWD system provides added surety, as does stability control. What also works very well is the ASX’s small size. With the assistance of light steering, big windows and a high seating position it is great for around town work. The reversing camera and parking sensors standard add to that capability.
Standard Aspire equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, a chrome exhaust tip, front fog lights, leather seat trim with heated front seats and power adjustment for the driver, leather-look door trim and privacy glass, a 6.1-inch touch screen.
Others include Bluetooth hands-free telephony with voice control, iPod connectivity, a new steering wheel with audio controls, rain-sensing wipers, dusk-sensing headlamps and a smart key with one-touch start. A spare wheel found under the boot floor is for temporary use only.
Safety equipment includes seven airbags, traction and stability control and a five-star ANCAP rating. All passengers get lap-sash seat belts and adjustable headrests.
For some conscious drivers, occasionally, they may sense a small eddying on a steady throttle, as if the CVT is reluctant to decide on the right gearing position. When this happens, then there are six pre-determined ratios that can be selected via the shift lever or steering wheel-mounted paddles to make its response better.
On coarse surfaces, tyre roar plenty of rattle and bang on rougher roads is easily noticeable. In this case, there is a tendency for the rear-end to get a little lively on bumps despite re-tuning of the rear suspension. The driver would notice a kick and reaction movement from the steering column over bumps and when accelerating.
A close look at the ASX shows that the most obvious change is up-front where there is a revised grille and bumper which gives a hint at the company’s new styling language. Mechanically, the main emphasis has been on refining the relationship between the continuously variable transmission or CVT and the 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine by attempting to deliver acceleration and engine revs more in line with vehicle speed.
The model on test drive is the all-wheel drive Aspire petrol, which adds a panoramic sunroof and a 4×4 ‘Drive Mode Selector’ selector that allows driver to restrict drive to the front wheels, activate all four wheels, lock drive in place, or cede control to an Auto-mode which decides which wheels should be driven and when.
To be blunt, ASX dynamics feel like unfinished business. Front-seat passengers undoubtedly get the best deal in the ASX. The seats are big and supportive and there’s plenty of storage including large bins and bottle holders.
But these seem not really feel inspiring despite new chromed accents for the air-conditioning dials and combination cluster meter. The driver gets a reach and rake adjustable steering wheel, sizeable left footrest and sliding centre armrest. Big external mirrors are a good feature, while the semi-SUV ride height also helps the view out.
Above all, driving the ASX Aspire AWD did not in any way showcase any sense of disappointment at handing it back to Mitsubishi. It’s basic transport, but considering you are facing an on-road price beyond $35,000 it does not seem to be enough car for the money not when you can buy an orthodox small car like for much less and get a much better drive.