Blood Diamond

AutoTrader NZ
Published 3 September 2020

Talk about zero to a hundred in the blink of an eye. No, not the ASX sorry; I mean the bulging segment it finds itself a player in. Not since the advent of the SUV-for-all in the 1990s has a single type of car created such a wedge in the market in such a short space of time.

And despite the braying laughter that early adopters like Nissan (Qashqai: successful) and Volkswagen (CrossPolo; less so) had to put up with five or so years ago, now everyone wants a slice of the crossover pie. It tastes like profit.

The ASX is Mitsubishi’s crossover model and it’s a decent stab at the segment too. It’s not new as such; the production ASX made its debut a couple of years ago as a global model overhaul of the RVR we see here as a grey import nameplate and the ASX was a Mitsubishi concept car as early as 2001. But we’re testing the 2WD Sport spec model here as a late addition to the line-up.

The ASX is nicely proportioned; with a true-to-type raised ride height (sitting 1,615mm high in comparison to the 1,515mm tall Lancer Hatch), a roomy interior offering for both front and back seat occupants and the signature stub grille up front, giving it the subtle sporty face of higher priced halo product like Outlander and Lancer Evolution.

Don’t get too hung-up on the ‘Sport’ part of its moniker though; it’;s not really sporty at all. Yes, it does shift along briskly enough, with an eager throttle response despite the elastic feel to the CVT transmission (there are six ‘steps’ mimicking gears that you can shift through with the solid-feeling paddle shifters on the steering column if you so wish). But ‘Sport’ is just the thing that designates it higher on the spec ladder than the entry-level LS, and that’s where the word association game ends.

In front-driver guise, as tested here, you wouldn’t really even lay claim to it being as sure-footed off the tarmac as its 4WD siblings, of which there are three versions all featuring Mitsubishi’s very capable On-Demand All Wheel Drive system.

Still, the 2WD Sport fits into the urban setting for which it was primarily created with ease and will feel as nippy as need be in the concrete jungle. In fact it performs that crossover trick of feeling like a small car when you’re driving it very well; approaching obstacles like judder bars gingerly, it’s only when you float over them without worry thanks to the higher ground clearance that you’re instantly reminded you’re not in a standard hatchback here.

The Mitsi also uses its internal space well. Being of a boxier design than a rival like the well-established Nissan Qashqai, it boasts better total cargo space (1,158-litres versus 860-litres) with the rear seats folded down. And that’s despite the Qashqai, at 4,330mm, being longer than the ASX (4,295mm). There’s a chink in the armour for the ASX here though, as with the rear seats in place (ie. how most of us will use its boot most of the time), the Qashqai beats it by __mm.

If you’re wanting leather trim rather than the 2WD Sport’s cloth, you’ll need to go to the last page in the ASX brochure and order a top spec 1.8-litre diesel 4WD Sport, although you’ll be paying $47,990 for the privilege. Cloth aside, the cabin still feels well-appointed in that toned-down Mitsubishi way. You’ll find keyless entry and start, a six-disc stereo with auxiliary and USB inputs, Bluetooth hands-free, steering wheel-mounted cruise control functionality, reversing sensors, Hill Start Assist, tinted privacy glass in the rear and ISOFIX child seat anchor points too. Driver and passenger seats are manually adjusted but they’re comfy and there’s plenty of knee and shoulder room in the back too.

The Qashqai might be the unlikely superstar of the affordable crossover segment, but when you weigh it all up, the ASX is definitely a worthy adversary.