“Tougher new design language,” says Mitsubishi’s comprehensive briefing document for the 2020 ASX, which arrived here last autumn.
So, it has a bit more ground clearance and some rough-tough add-ons like the practical black rubbery scuff resisters round the wheel arches and along the sills. From the windscreen forward the front is all-change. The face per se is a mass of shiny chrome-look, satin-effect synthetics and gloss black. The front wings and apron are also synthetic.
There’s a false vent behind each front wheel arch and more on the black rear bumper section. Such fakery and deceits add interest of a sorts and are familiar on far costlier cars than our ASX. For example, a Range Rover has bogus louvres on the front doors, of all places.
The ASX’s recent revamp brought chunkier styling, which is visually effective, and the return of automatic gears and 4x4 traction in the top-grade Exceed. Costing around £26,000, this well-equipped model is a value-for-money rival to the assault of SUVs and their crossover ilk from the industry.
The engine, replacing a weaker 1.6 unit, is an unblown 2-litre petrol giving a willing 150 horse power and effective torque. In the Exceed it is rated at a thirsty 34.4mpg and 185g of CO2, “thanks” to the 4x4 six-speed auto drivetrain, while the 2x4 version with five manual gears improves to 37.7mpg and 171g. Such are the realities of life after diesel power and the absence of a hybrid petrol electric system.
The two-wheel-drive ASX also has a considerable edge in acceleration, reaching 62mph in 10.2 seconds, a full two seconds quicker than the 4x4 auto. Top speed remains equal, at 118mph.
Mitsubishi makes tough utility cars. Its multi-award L200 series pickup has been a pioneer in taming the load carrier for family and leisure duties. The Outlander, renowned as an exemplar of plug-in hybrid electric vehicle technology (or PHEV) is a similarly robust larger estate car. I wouldn’t expect an ASX to break and it is backed by a five-year warranty, with a limit of 62,500 miles.
In my test rotation if followed a Nissan Qashqai, which is a similar size, which in turn followed a slightly larger Kia Sportage. The ride refinement is in reverse order, but then so is the pricing.
The ASX is lighter than the Qashqai and arguably needs some weight adding to improve the sound insulation. There’s the tyre roar and front and rear wheels plonk badly over road faults, too. It was running on classy Bridgestone Dueller tyres but they are not to blame. A smaller wheel may help but is not an option.
The Exceed is the only ASX to offer 4WD and the CVT automatic gearbox. It costs £25,945. There is a 2WD Exceed with five manual gears, for £23,095. The entry model is the 2WD Dynamic at £20,295 which may be considered something of a bargain this side of a Dacia Duster. Its standard stuff includes 18-inch alloys, LED pod headlights, LED running lights, heated front seats, a leather wheel rim, cruise control, a smartphone link with DAB, Bluetooth, Apple and android compatibility, six speakers and steering wheel remote controls. There is climate control, automatic lights and wipers, push button start and a reversing camera. That’s almost all my boxes ticked. However, the £1,800 hike to Exceed brings a long panoramic roof with side rails, leather upholstery and power for the driver’s seat. TomTom’s excellent navigation, too.
The 4x4 system (as tested) engages automatically when you start – something to rattle the neighbours. You can pick 2WD for improved economy but in the 4x4 mode it is 98 per cent to the front wheels anyway. On slippery ground it shares the power by up to half and half between the axles. The button selector also engages locked 4x4 which adds torque to the back wheels.
The interior design is a decent job, with some piano black details, a well-positioned screen but rather tiddly controls on the steering wheel. There are paddle gear changes on the steering column if these are things you need. The dog-leg shift gate between the seats also offers manual selection. You may think that if you have paid for an automatic gearbox you may as well leave it to do its job.