What is a crossover? At what point does a vehicle cease to be a crossover and become an SUV? The lines are becoming blurred. Originally, in my view, the crossover was a funky, chunky, higher-riding motor based on the underpinnings of a regular car from the maker’s range. These days though, whilst retaining that mid-size crossover profile, some seem to be more than capable of taking on the tougher jobs.
Take the Mitsubishi ASX for example. DriveWrite has spent a week enjoying the features of a range-topping ASX 4 with the 2.2L diesel engine straight out of the Outlander SUV. Buyers can content themselves with a 1.6L petrol engine and basic two-wheel drive, or they can select a 1.8L diesel with two or four-wheel drive. I haven’t sampled those two engines but it seems to me that the best choice of power plant has got to be the gutsy 2.2L 4WD six-speed Auto tested here.
On The Inside
The interior exemplifies the no-nonsense headline statement. This fully loaded model is priced at a hugely competitive £24,649 but buyers should be aware that this means there are few fripperies available. There is a lot of plastic on display in the roomy cabin but that’s never really been an issue to me. For this money you can’t expect your ride to be fully lined and cosseted in the soft skin of a Beluga whale. You do however get leather seats at this level that all passengers felt were supportive and comfortable. Front riders particularly found that the seats had just the right amount of lumbar support, something that is often overlooked.
As duty driver I was well impressed. Lumbar and lateral support were both just about perfect for me and, as a taller person, there was ample support beneath the DriveWrite thighs. Couple this with electrical adjustment (driver side only), plus steering wheel reach and rake and I found the ASX to be a relaxed and enjoyable drive. There are some controls on the steering wheel for convenience and the dials and the user-variable dashboard information is clear and easy to read.
There’s plenty of room for all and the interior will accommodate five people without issue. With cubby space and bottle holders in plentiful supply the ASX feels like a much bigger car – just like an SUV in fact. Our version came with an infotainment system that Mitsubishi call ‘Intelligent Motion’. This is housed in a piano black central console that, when the sun gets on it, sparkles. I’m sorry, but I really don’t approve. To me it smacks of unnecessary gimmick.
The Kenwood info screen is small by today’s standards – not that it bothers me – and the Garmin sat-nav was familiar and worked well. All the usual suspects were on board. DAB radio, Bluetooth, air-con plus many other features, all found through a set of scrolling colour pictograms that each accessed the various menus. It’s unusual but I found it to be relatively straightforward to find what I needed. Aux and USB are secreted in the central storage box / armrest and via Bluetooth the sound system isn’t at all bad; not that I heard many of my tunes because passengers find my musical tastes questionable and odd. Philistines.
Overall, I liked the inside of the ASX. It’s plain and blessedly free of trinkets (except for those sparkles), yet was well made, solid and very comfortable with a generous, well shaped boot with extra storage under the floor as the car comes with a puncture kit rather than a spare wheel. If you fancy it, and I do, there’s the option of an electrically operated panoramic sunroof.
On The Outside
The Mitsubishi ASX follows the usual design characteristics that define what a crossover is. It’s an attractive shape that doesn’t require fancy add-ons to look good and the optional ‘protection pack’ (£249) adds to that overall impression. The rear hatch is wide and makes loading luggage and the like easy. Again, it gives the impression of being bigger than it actually is and parked next to (deliberately) a couple of its competitors this sense of size is reinforced.
On The Road
The aforementioned interior comfort was augmented by a comfortable and mostly smooth ride. The focus clearly is on comfort and, at speed, there’s some lean into corners but you can’t have it all ways. These days I seem to be writing this all the time but, for me, the steering is too light. Are car manufacturers assuming that our couch-potato nation all have arms like pipe-cleaners? I’m all for relaxed driving but I also crave that additional and elusive ‘feel’ that lets you know what happening beneath the wheels.
Reinforcing that SUV feeling, there’s the switchable four-wheel drive. The car runs routinely driving the front wheels only which makes sense, but a large centrally placed button offers the option to switch to auto 4WD whereby drive is sent variously to whichever corner or corners that need it most, as and when. For truly treacherous surfaces 4WD can be locked in. The Mitsubishi ASX gives the impression of having at least some SUV ability. I suspect it would make a very good tow car that offers at least a modicum of off-road ability.
The big 2.2L diesel is gruff on start-up and remains that way under acceleration. When I set off on the first drive I was a bit concerned that response from the throttle was a bit lacklustre. Once rolling however the Mitsubishi ASX 4 feels much more urgent and responsive as the revs pick up, helped by the excellent auto gearbox that does a fine job of adapting the way it shifts to suit driving style. Once the revs rise above around 1500 there’s a great whoosh from 280 splendid torques and suddenly you’re motoring at the legal limit. Fantastic, although CO² emissions of 153g/km is the penalty. There’s the option to switch the gearbox to paddle operated manual mode but, once I tried it, I didn’t bother again because the auto did very well left to its own devices. Overall, I achieved around 37mpg on average which is pretty good considering I was making use of that mid-range push. Mitsubishi say 48mpg is possible and, had I paid attention to the handy driver’s eco-readout on the dash, I may well have got nearer that figure.
Everybody mentioned how much better the car felt once on the go. Mrs DriveWrite went so far as to say that the faster we went the more settled the car seemed to become. Certainly, thanks no doubt to improved soundproofing, there was surprisingly little external noise. Our experience seems to go against some colleagues’ viewpoints but the fact is that at seventy the only real noise came from the big tyres as would be expected. The engine was hushed and there was negligible noise from around the large door mirrors.
The Mitsubishi ASX 4 as tested is a good all-rounder. I took the trouble to read some owner reviews – these being the ones that really count – and the consensus was positive. The price is competitive and the car is practical, well equipped, easy to drive and has a well controlled ride that feels solid on the road. All versions come with a host of safety features that result in a Euro NCAP five star rating. The crossover sector is becoming crowded with many offerings from car makers around the world. The Mitsubishi ASX isn’t necessarily the cutest but it is a worthy no-nonsense alternative. I liked it a lot.Geoff Maxted