In danger of being left behind
ON the recent launch of the new Skoda Karoq I suggested to my co-driver, Top Gear veteran Sue Baker, that any newly launched SUV had to “be great” or it simply wasn’t worth considering.
Such is the ferocity of the competition for sales in the sector which is expected to boom as UK car sales continue to falter that pretenders will simply be left in the shadows.
With Mitsubishi poised to launch its striking Eclipse Cross onto the market in January 2018 there is a sense that the humble ASX might be left in just such a situation.
A year after a range update the ASX wears the bold chrome grille of the Japanese brand’s then new “Dynamic Shield” styling language fairly confidently.
The brightwork is in-line with other sector inhabitants like the Audi Q5 and Mazda CX-5 and adds a little premium polish and presence.
Elsewhere, the wedgy styling of the ASX communicates a built-for-purpose, fuss free approach giving it a fairly square-set stance not unlike that of the similarly priced and pitched Suzuki Vitara.
Prices start at £15,999 but at £20,565 my ASX 3 1.6 Diesel 2WD test car sits in the range’s midpoint.
The 1.6-litre turbodiesel engine delivers 110bhp and 199lb.ft. of torque to claim a conservative-sounding 11.2 second dash to 62mph and 113mph top speed.
Claimed fuel consumption of 61.4mpg impressed, though, and I exceeded an indicated 54mpg with ease during my time at the wheel.
The ASX’s CO2 emissions claims stand at 119g/km.
While the engine pulls more strongly than its claims suggest, it is noisy as the revs rise and a notchy six-speed manual gearbox lacks a little polish.
From the off the suspension of the ASX felt overly firm.
It’s a complaint I’ve aimed at the Vitara at times — in which the rear end often feels over sprung — but where the Suzuki exhibited a direct helm as a result, the ASX feels less keen.
The steering felt progressive and predictable but the firm suspension manifested itself in the occasional uncertainty on broken tarmac where the car could be thrown off-line or skitter a little mid-corner.
There’s a sense that it has been tuned with a degree of dynamic flair in mind, but is just a little too unforgiving.
Interior space is a positive. That square-set stance delivers a decent-sized cabin and a 442-litre boot which is ample for most family activities and over 100-litres ahead of the aforementioned Suzuki.
Like its Japanese rival, however, the ASX shows its budget status when it comes to the lack of tactile materials.
Despite some fairly dull-looking plastics and a shiny leather steering wheel, build quality feels fairly sound, though, and the level of standard equipment will impress.
The basic Mitsubishi ASX 2 includes 16-inch alloys; front fog lamps; air conditioning; Bluetooth phone connectivity; a USB port with iPhone compatibility; a leather-trimmed steering wheel; multifunction colour instrument display; electric windows and tinted rear windows among its standard fayre.
As tested here, in ASX 3 trim, two-tone 18- inch alloys; automatic climate control; keyless entry and engine starting; cruise control; xenon headlamps; DAB radio and Bluetooth music streaming; heated front seats and a reversing camera are all part of the package.
In terms of equipment and practicality — that engine was impressively frugal — the ASX is right on the money, then.
Aligning it with the Suzuki Vitara is an admission that it will not form an automatic choice for everyone, though.
With the pool of great SUVs growing ever larger, Mitsubishi’s rival to the likes of Nissan Qashqai and Seat Ateca, will struggle to emerge from the shadows.
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