Smaller is BIG in SUVs

Mit­subishi’s com­pact SUV brings a new 1.8-litre tur­bod­iesel en­gine to the sta­ble, re­ports PETER BARN­WELL.

The Weekend Post - Motoring - - Front Page -

AF­TER re­cov­er­ing from the ces­sa­tion of lo­cal pro­duc­tion a few years ago, Ade­laide-based im­porter Mit­subishi is on a roll with a swag of pop­u­lar mod­els driv­ing record sales.

This is set to con­tinue with the ar­rival of the ASX Sports Util­ity Ve­hi­cle.

Small would seem to be the new big as Mit­subishi widens its net to cater for ever more niches in the mar­ket, a ploy that has proven suc­cess­ful in sales terms to the point where Mit­subishi is once again nip­ping at the heels of the big boys.

ASX is ex­pected to boot up the com­pany’s sales ap­pre­cia­bly dur­ing the last half of the year and even more when sup­plies im­prove in 2011.

It’s a cross be­tween Lancer small car and the com­pact Out­lander SUV. In fact, ASX is on the same plat­form as these two and has un­der­pin­nings from both with the all-wheel drive sys­tem, sus­pen­sion and brakes from Out­lander and the petrol 2.0-litre en­gine and CVT trans­mis­sion from Lancer.

De­spite hav­ing more com­pact di­men­sions than Out­lander, ASX ac­tu­ally shares the same wheel­base.

An at­trac­tive new­comer to the Mit­subishi fold, ASX ush­ers in a new 1.8-litre turbo diesel en­gine that is likely to fil­ter through into other mod­els in this ca­pac­ity or slightly larger. It passes strin­gent Euro 5 emis­sions reg­u­la­tions.

The diesel fea­tures vari­able valve tim­ing, called MIVEC in Mit­subishi speak, and marks the first time such as sys­tem has ap­peared in a diesel pas­sen­ger car in this coun­try.

The en­gine is force-fed by a vari­able ge­om­e­try turbo for max­i­mum ef­fi­ciency that sees it ca­pa­ble of re­turn­ing 5.9-litres/100km econ­omy. That’s bet­ter than any­thing ASX diesel might be up against.

There are three mod­els: 2WD, AWD and AWD As­pire start­ing in price from $25,990 rang­ing up to $36,990 for the top line model.

A cou­ple of op­tions are avail­able but gen­er­ous stan­dard equip­ment across the range in­cludes cli­mate con­trol, al­loy wheels, sta­bil­ity con­trol, seven airbags, cruise con­trol and rake and reach steer­ing wheel ad­just­ment.

Op­tion pack­ages are also avail­able. The 2WD (front wheel drive) model is only avail­able with the Lancer 2.0-litre petrol en­gine and ei­ther a five-speed man­ual or CVT auto trans­mis­sion. The CVT has six steps mim­ick­ing a six-speed auto.

Both AWD mod­els are avail­able with the tur­bod­iesel with a six-speed man­ual. Opt for the 2.0-litre petrol AWD and it’s CVT only.

The petrol en­gine is good for 110kW/197Nm while the diesel cranks out 110kW/300Nm.

No au­to­matic is of­fered with the diesel but one is un­der devel­op­ment that should ar­rive within 18 months. Petrol econ­omy rates a cred­itable 7.9-litres/100km. ASX is half way be­tween a wagon and a hatch but of­fers ad­e­quate room for five in­side and a de­cent boot ex­pand­able with fold­ing rear seats.

It’s a small ve­hi­cle but has a com­fort­able ride and tidy dy­nam­ics.

The styling has fam­ily Mit­subishi cues in­clud­ing the jet fighter grille, bold high­light lines along the sides, arch­ing front guards (in plas­tic) and at­trac­tive Al­fastyle tail lights.

Ac­cess is easy thanks to the 195mm ride height that is get­ting up to­ward the Out­lander.

The in­te­rior has a soft feel with pleas­ing shapes and easy to use con­trols. The AWD of­fers dial-se­lect 2WD, 4WD and 4WD lock modes.

On a good long drive of ASX last week, we can re­port there is plenty of pep from the diesel apart from im­me­di­ately off idle. It is smooth and quiet and does in­deed use min­i­mal fuel.

The petrol is sim­i­larly com­pe­tent and eco­nom­i­cal. We’d buy the petrol auto prob­a­bly in 2WD which is tipped to be the biggest seller.

Taller driv­ers would be ad­vised to for­get the op­tional panoramic sun­roof.

It’s easy to drive with elec­tric power steer­ing and a high seat po­si­tion af­ford­ing ex­cel­lent for­ward vis­i­bil­ity but the wide B pil­lar could be an is­sue when chang­ing lanes.

The car is easy to park, load and drive ev­ery day. It is great for a wide range of ap­pli­ca­tions when you don’t need a larger SUV and want some­thing more prac­ti­cal than a sedan or hatch­back.

High ex­pec­ta­tions: With three mod­els in the ASX range, prices start from $25,990 up to $36,990 for the As­pire model.

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