How long is it since you sat behind the wheel of a comfortable five seater car that was using 4.5L per 100km while driving it at 110km/h?
For me, it was many, many years. But then I had not previously driven the frugal ASX (Active Smart Cross Over) with it’s powerful 1.8 litre turbo diesel.
That’s the Mitsubishi ASX 1.8 litre diesel. It’s a cross over, an SUV, a vehicle that thoroughly blurs the boundaries between four wheel drive and conventional vehicles and which we Aussies love. And while not having the low range capability of a ‘true’ four wheel drive the ASX still features all wheel drive (which can be locked), there’s reasonable ground clearance, a high ‘command’ style driving position and a powerfully resilient diesel engine that seemingly combines the impossible: namely power and economy.
Based on the lengthy wheel base of the larger Outlander, the ASX features innovative and attractive styling which sees the rear overhang of the parent vehicle much reduced, roof line lowered, enhanced and stylish wheel arches with the traditional Mitsubishi Lancer/Outlander grille retained. Styling wise, the ASX is smarter looking than its big brother the Outlander.
The ASX comes with two power options, a 2L petrol and the 1.8L diesel as reviewed. There are also several spec levels. The top of range all wheel drive Aspire has a host of bells and whistles, including a leather rimmed interior, a 7” screen communications system with sat-nav and reversing camera, plus a magnificent Rockford Fosgate seven speaker sound system. Park it under a bat colony with the doors open and the sub woofer pumping and the furred fruit burglars will depart for the next post code pronto!
Luxury versions aside, the standard ASX as reviewed is by no means a poverty pack car thanks to the standard equipment that includes seven air bags, electronic stability control, hill descent control, climate control air conditioning, multi-function trip computer that shows the magical fuel consumption figures when cruising, blue tooth phone connectivity and the usual brilliant Mitsubishi headlights.
The standard version is available in both petrol two wheel drive and all wheel drive as autos, while the reviewed diesel comes with all wheel drive on demand and a six speed manual gear box. A diesel auto is planned and I’ll predict this is one car that will not sit for long in the show room given the popularity of diesel autos in general.
Whereas some diesel engines make their presence felt via rattles and clatter from start up, this is not the case with the very smooth 1.8L turbo unit in the ASX. The engine feels as though it is punching well above its weight being seriously quick off the mark and providing plenty of handy torque from around 1800 rpm onwards.
Actual performance figures are 110 kW of power, 300 Nm of torque, which is a lot of twisting power from a 1.8 litre engine. This impressive performance comes courtesy of variable valve timing, a genuine first for a diesel engine in this class, and variable turbo geometry. There’s a feeling of real get up and go from the ASX that makes it a very enjoyable unit to drive.
The six speed gear box is a light shifter and reasonably quick at that. My fuel tests, backed by actual fill to fill readings over a mix of city and country driving, showed city work of around 4.8-5.5L per 100km,and highway cruising of 4.5-4.8 per 100 depending on how hilly the going was. Like I said, power and economy rarely go together but they combine well in this little Mitsubishi.
Sitting behind the wheel of the ASX, the driver notices a combination of function and practicality about controls and features which impresses. A clear uncluttered dash design, controls easily identified and sorted into groups and a smart but conventional instrument panel complements the leather wrapped steering wheel that is adjustable for reach and rake, with various functions at the finger tips. Overall ambience borders on the luxurious with lots of dark trim broken by brushed metal highlights to catch the eye.
There’s a solid feel about the ASX diesel that the driver will soon notice. There’s the choice of either two wheel drive or all wheel drive via a console knob and for normal driving situation the two wheel drive setting powering the front wheels 98%, rear wheels 2% works fine with very little feed back and a light, neutral, but positive feel about it. Pushing the ASX into hard corners is fun, the handling entirely predictable.
I found the driver’s seat to be large enough to be quite comfortable for long trips. Leg and head room both front and rear is more than adequate (thanks to the Outlander wheel base), while finger tip radio and phone connectivity are handy.
Mitsubishi have tuned the ASX’s suspension levels more than adequately to accommodate our rough and ready roads and the feeling for both driver and passengers is that of insulation from the worst of it. Interior sound levels are low and with the high stance of the vehicle you can enjoy the view under way.
The ASX is a refreshing down sizing of the SUV concept. Whereas others are getting so much larger, this one is city friendly, yet can carry five in comfort and will traverse a muddy bush track or forest trail with ease when locked in all wheel drive. Boot capacity is 416L with rear seats up, 1193L with them down so you can stack in a bit of gear for a weekend away.
But above all, the ASX diesel is a fun unit to drive with that powerful little diesel engine and handling to match. And imagine, a Brisbane to Warwick trip for around $20.00 – now that’s brilliant.Reads: 3005