Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon is where you become acquainted with something only to suddenly you see it everywhere. Is this what I’m experiencing as drive along the Pacific Freeway between Gold Coast Airport and Byron Bay in the updated Mitsubishi ASX?
I don’t normally pay much attention to the ASX, but now I’m driving it the humble crossover has suddenly become more ubiquitous than the Toyota HiLuxes that infest these parts.
The Mitsubishi ASX is pretty popular along the NSW-Queensland border.
But when you think of it, it starts to make sense. The Mitsubishi ASX has been around for a decade and has been Australia’s best-selling small SUV for the past couple of years. It averaged about 1700 sales per month in 2019 with a lot them becoming rental cars of which there’s a plethora in this tourism hot spot. It's cheap and cheerful and well equipped for the price, which makes it well suited to the role, though it’s a little under-powered for touring around with a boot full of luggage – until now.
A recent update added a 2.4-litre petrol engine to ASX range that’s a big improvement on the smaller 2.0-litre. Only problem is it’s only available in the more costly GSR and Exceed version that are less likely to end up in a rental firm forecourt.
But it’s a facelifted 2020 ASX Exceed I find myself in heading north along the M1, overtaking all the lesser-powered ASXs up the many inclines in what seems like a mere canter.
Kingscliff beach stretches for 6km
Byron Bay beckons but first I want to check out the Tweed Area hinterland partly to see how the gutsier ASX travels in more challenging conditions, though mostly because I wanted to try-out and buy some special gin.
First stop was Kingscliff just south of Tweed Heads to have a nosey as we have friends moving up here from Melbourne. It’s not the most well-known ocean-side town in this region for us Southerners, but judging by the caravan parks along the foreshore and holiday rentals it’s certainly no hidden secret.
READ MORE: 2020 Mitsubishi ASX Exceed review
As with everywhere else between Ballina and Southport the beach is a stunning wide belt of white sand separating the town from the Pacific Ocean that stretches 6km, meaning you’ll always find a quiet spot to yourself.
We walked along the seemingly endless stretch of sand, but any swimming had to be put on hold for a lunch reservation at Husk Distillers at North Tumblegum, which is about 10 kilometres west from Kingscliff as the crow flies, but about 15km via the Cudgen Road and Tweed Valley Highway.
A chance encounter with a previous model ASX (right) shows how Mitsubishi's designers have done a nice job with enhancing its aesthetic appeal.
Irrigated farms and lush riverbanks struggled to hide the fact the area is in the grips of a prolonged drought, which was also evident in Kingscliff whose parched lawns just didn’t seem right in October.
READ MORE: 2020 Mitsubishi ASX range review
On the plus side, the weather was amazing though the blue skies would eventually give way to smoke haze from the unseasonal bushfires a little further inland.
The carpark at Husk was filling fast but luckily we had a table booked at the cellar door which, as a sign of how quickly the climate can turn around these parts, was inundated by a metre of water during construction when the Tweed River burst its banks in 2017. You wouldn’t know it now, with the classic buildings, courtyard and lawns teeming with people enjoying the fine Saturday weather reminding me of the Yarra Valley albeit with vineyards replaced by cane fields and Gin and Rum being the house specialties.
Husk was born from its owner Paul Messenger’s desire to create a Caribbean-inspired plantation distillery on his family’s cattle and cane farm and create a premium paddock to bottle agricola rum made from fresh cane juice. That was eight years ago and since then his family has ventured into the gin business with its acclaimed lavender-hued Ink Gin.
The weekend cellar door menu features a few grazing options, and we shared the Charcuterie Board that, for $30, brought a selection of local and international cold meats, served with spicy green peppers, pink sauerkraut and local artisan sourdough. Other options included an equally tempting Fromage Board ($35), and there’s a barbecue if you want to keep things simple.
As designated driver I was pleased to see there tasting paddle that for $14 brings includes three 15ml sample glasses (1.5 standard drinks) that includes the aforementioned Ink Gin, Pure Cane un-aged agricole rum (served as a mini Ti Punch cocktail), and Spiced Bam Bam agricole rum on ice with orange that lived up to its name.
They were all nice, but I can really see why the Ink Gin has been so well received with the flower petals used to create its distinctive ink-like colour giving it a fruity and refreshing smoothness.
After an enjoyable afternoon we set off and decided to travel toward Upper Duroby to take in the scenery, which provided an opportunity to see how the ASX handled winding roads. I didn’t have to drive for long to realise the change in driving dynamics the bigger engine brings to the 2020 model doesn’t extend to handling.
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The ASX soaks up bumps well, but there’s a noticeable lean when cornering quickly, while the rear-end has trouble keeping up with the front wheels during quick changes of direction, such as when negotiating S bends.
Conscious of the fact my partner had just eaten lunch and tried a couple more gins than me, and with the two bottles of precious Ink Gin moving about in the boot, I eased off the pedals and took things easy as we made our way back to the Pacific Freeway to complete the trip to Byron Bay.
All things considered, the Mitsubishi ASX makes for a good holiday tourer for a couple or even a small family. The Exceed spec beings creature comforts including broad leather-appointed seats, panoramic sunroof, in-built Tom Tom navigation and nine-speaker Rockford Fosgate premium sound system with an unexpectedly large sub-woofer mounted in the 393-litre boot.
And it has a decent 20.5cm ground clearance which makes it suitable for rougher roads.
It’s just a shame that the lower-spec ES and LS versions don’t have the bigger engine as it’s likely that’s what you’ll get next time you hire a small SUV on your next holiday.