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