Final Position: 10th
5 0 5
Plus & Minus
Metal for money; exterior redesign; spacious cabin
Outdated generally; thirsty; NVH
The numbers are impossible to ignore. Launched in Australia when Kevin Rudd was our PM the first time around, the ASX’s popularity knows no limits. A decade in, its gap ahead of the second-placed Mazda CX-3 is wider than ever. The Lancer-based crossover has increased sales when most of the rest are falling.
Such success needs to be acknowledged, not least because nobody – including us – has given the ASX much slack. We cannot recall any other vehicle that has become more popular after so many years with so little change. That’s a glowing testimony to the fundamental strength of the concept right there. Respect.
The ASX’s appeal is obvious. Clearly, the looks resonate; perhaps more than ever with the recent, muscular makeover. It’s better than any late-stage facelift ought to be. Chunky 18-inch alloys and generous dimensions draw the eye in, too. Aussies love to feel as though they’re receiving a lot for their dosh, so again, the ASX stacks up. AEB is standard, while a $2500 pack brings goodies like lane-departure and blindspot warnings, rear cross-traffic alert, reversing sensors, auto high beam with dusk-sensing headlights and rain-activated wipers. Nice one, Mitsubishi.
Inside, however, the cracks are showing. Piano black accents, silver splashes and knurling of the controls attempt to lift the ambience, but cratchy plastics abound and the front seats lack support. The harsh light of 2020 sees all.
On the other hand, the large 8.0-inch touchscreen is a boon, especially with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, even if the resolution and graphics are a bit Windows 95. Ergonomics are sound, rear-seat space is on par for the segment and the 393L boot offers decent capacity.
ASX is also a mixed bag under the bonnet. While the XD facelift offers a 123kW/222Nm 2.4-litre petrol engine from the larger Outlander, the ES retains the 110kW/197Nm 2.0-litre four that’s been around since John Howard was PM. Now paired with a CVT, the latter’s performance is actually not too bad. In normal mode, it scoots away with a fair amount of enthusiasm, while a well-judged Sport mode does a surprisingly effective job in accessing some useful mid-range grunt. She ain’t that slow.
However, though resulting in decent oomph, pushing the throttle to the firewall results in higher doses of engine noise/vibration/harshness than we’re prepared to ignore nowadays. Worst on test by far. Refinement doesn’t play much part in it.
Additionally, our ES proved to be the thirstiest of our group, returning a double-digit average. So, while flooring the pedal produces results, there’s a price to pay at the pump.
The news doesn’t get any better dynamically. Granted, we understand how most drivers will appreciate steering that is undemandingly light and easy but lean on the handling even just a little, and the ASX’s helm feels numb and lazy.
There is precious little finesse in the crossover’s ability to deal with bumps without amplifying them inside as well. Over even moderate undulations, the suspension is jittery and prone to lateral movements. And grip is comparatively poor, the ES’s stopping distances proving disappointing. The multi-link rear end advantage seems completely squandered here.
Finding reason for the ASX’s popularity is as perplexing as it is perfectly clear. Pricing, space, size, proven mechanicals, great warranty and low-price servicing are hard to ignore. But while an ASX’s numbers still add up in isolation, compared to nine of its closest rivals in an ever more competitive segment, the cracks are becoming too wide to mask.
Mitsubishi ASX ES specs
Engine: 1998cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v
Power: 110kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 197Nm @ 4200rpm
Dimensions (L/W/H/W-B): 4365/1810/1640/2670mm
Cargo capacity: 393L
Tyres: Bridgestone Ecopia 225/55R18
Economy: 10.4L/100km (tested)
0-100km/h: 9.7sec (tested)
80-120km/h: 6.6sec (tested)
100-0km/h: 41.3m (tested)
ANCAP rating: 5 stars