When Mitsubishi first launched the ASX, many among us would have just tagged it as the latest of many SUV-like vehicles which can’t really handle tough terrain. True enough, after all crossovers are meant to bridge the gap between off-roaders and conventional vehicles but the general reaction to that idea is, “what’s the point?”
The ASX is exactly the kind of vehicle that makes the point. Its high-seat position, SUV- like stance and compact frame results in a car that’s enjoyable to drive. Granted, only two of its wheels are actually driven but how many of us actually need four-wheel-drive? The market has evolved in such a way that many SUVs end up spending most of their lifetime on perfectly paved tarmac and, that said, the ASX can easily drive you around town or on highways as well as a Pajero can. In fact, the ASX does a better job in some ways.
Due to its smaller frame, as compared to a full-fledged SUV, the ASX is nippy enough for small or crowded city roads. Its two-litre MIVEC engine provides sufficient power where power is needed and its delivery via the CVT transmission is decent for day-to-day driving. However, push the car harder on the straights and you will notice that it struggles a little with acceleration. Paddle shifts, which are made with magnesium no less, allow the driver to enjoy more of the car’s 197Nm of torque, which certainly helps when the CVT’s power delivery leaves the driver yearning for more.
As much as the car looks like a Lancer on high heels, it has no problems with stability. Onthe highway, the car remains planted at speed and even around the bends. The ASX handles pretty well for a car as tall as it is. This doesn’t mean that comfort is compromised. The suspension could still soak up bumps without jolting the passengers, which is a good thing as the car’s high ground clearance does give us a greater sense of confidence when approaching uneven terrain.
Mitsubishi was never a trendsetter of interior design but the lack of simple ergonomics is definitely a cause for frustration. Wrapping leather around the seats and steering wheel may be a nice touch but it counts for nothing when the plastics used are of a quality expected of a car that costs half the price. The Kenwood touchscreen head unit seemed promising at first but was a nuisance to operate. User-friendliness was completely nonexistent. The steering wheel featured buttons to operate the car’s cruise control but we believe that the buttons would have seen more touches if their objective in life was to control the audio system instead.
Visibility from the driver’s seat is exceptional, which gives respite from the car’s sub-par interior. Paired with the reverse camera, the only useful aspect of the head unit, the ASX is a joy to park and you can confidently squeeze into tight spots despite the car being slightly larger than the everyday city runabout. Another saving grace of the interior is its spaciousness. While the car looks quite compact from the outside, it has impressive legroom without detracting too much from the conventional car seating position.
At RM141,995.30, it’s priced competitively against its rivals. It may not be the newest or most advanced car of its kind in the market today but it does tick all the right boxes regarding what a good crossover vehicle should be. Its hatchback-like dynamics makes it easy to drive – in fact, fun at times. If only the cabin wasn’t as dreary as it is, what we would have is one good all-round vehicle that justifies the existence of crossovers. - Daryl Loy
1,998cc, 16v DOHC MIVEC, 148bhp, 197Nm, 6-step INVEC-III CVT
Practical and offers a nice drive but lacks refinement