When we tested a top-spec, two-wheel drive Mitsubishi ASX last year, we concluded that it was a really useful, usable vehicle.
This years winter weather has put extra focus on the abilities granted by an extra pair of driven wheels, so we were keen to see whether a four-wheel drive ASX would be even more useful than its front-driven counterpart - and whether economy would suffer.
Predictably, the weather cleared up a few days before the ASX arrived, but crossovers have to work all year round anyway. Does the ASX still deliver, given a second look?
The ASX comes under criticism from some for looking a little dull, but were as much fans of our black test car as we were of last years silver example.
Okay, so given the visual clout of more recent cars like the MINI Countryman
or Nissan Juke
, the ASX doesnt stand out, but next to direct rivals like the Nissan Qashqai
theres little to complain about. It remains awkward-looking around the rump, as if the designers simply sliced the clay model aft of the rear wheels and attached features to whatever remained, but the deep front grille and defined lines down the bodywork given the ASX a dynamic look.
In the metal, its also pleasingly compact. You never fear for those sharp lines in car parks or tight streets, and short overhangs front and rear make sure its untroubled by kerbs and speedbumps, too.
One final note in the Mitsubishis favour is that theyre still a rare sight on the roads. If youre tired of seeing Qashqais everywhere, what better reason to pick the ASX as your own family vehicle?
Little has changed in here since we last tested the ASX, though in 3 specification our car lacked the satellite navigation system and leather seats of our previous test car. The lack of leather or sat-nav proved little hardship in reality, as the interior remains a comfortable, if unexciting place to be.
Space front and rear cant really be faulted. The driving position has decent adjustment and even over longer journeys the seats proved supportive. Front and rear passengers were comfortable too, and the 442-litre boot is more than up to the task of taking large items.
You benefit from a slightly raised driving position over regular cars, which is all part of the appeal of crossovers like the ASX - theyre easy to get into and out of, and you feel less intimidated by larger vehicles.
Good build quality helps here too. Several plastics are below the standard youd find on rival crossovers like the Peugeot 3008 though. Its all sturdy, but does feel a little cheap. The leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearknob are more pleasant, and minor controls are well-placed and easy to fathom. The dials and central information display are easy to read.
As alluded to, the snow disappeared before we could really put the Mitsubishis four-wheel drive system to the test. Winter tyres are still the preferred method for getting about in snowy or very cold conditions, but when extra traction is essential, its still worth looking to all-wheel drive models like the ASX.
When not tackling slippery inclines or muddy fields, the ASX acquits itself well. The ride quality is pretty good for a start - more compliant than the Peugeot 3008 we tested a few weeks back. Minor lumps and bumps are easily dealt with, though larger undulations do send the car bouncing around a little, suggesting the chassis is rightly set up more for comfort than handling.
That isnt to say it isnt a competent handler, though. Wed have preferred a slightly quicker steering rack to make lighter work of city driving, but theres decent grip on offer. Steering feel is also better than the aforementioned Peugeot.
The ASX remains refined at most speeds, wind and tyre noise less audible on the motorway than the slight diesel rattle generated in front of you.
Mitsubishis 1.8-litre DiD turbodiesel engine isnt the most refined unit weve ever tested - in fact, its closer to the bottom than the top - but for a relatively small capacity engine it has plenty of punch, particularly through the mid-range.
It actually feels quite old-school, with little happening below around 1,500rpm, then the whump of 221 pounds-feet of torque, and then very little again towards the 4,000rpm red line. Kept within this narrow power band you can make rapid progress.
Noise may be intrusive for some. Grumbles and rattles are almost constant, though never truly loud. An audible whooooo sound from the engine bay made us think Mitsubishi offers a pet owl as standard equipment, but in reality its more likely to be the turbocharger
As a side-note, the ASX has a gearchange indicator for economy. Wed normally suggest you follow it, but a little technique helps here. Up a gentle incline, you may see better economy on the instant display a gear lower than the car suggests. The moving instant economy display is probably more useful than the gearshift indicator, so thats what wed use! Also economy-related, our car lacked the clumsy stop-start system on last years 2WD test car - we didnt miss it.
Value for money
The ASX remains good value next to its contemporaries. Our four-wheel drive test car comes in a few hundred less than the 2WD Peugeot 3008
we tested a few weeks back, and a four-wheel drive Qashqai is also a few thousand more.
Both feel a little more sophisticated than the Mitsubishi, and at the same price point each offers a little more equipment than our 22,749 test car, but the ASX is still competitive.
Also, on price, wed be prepared to forego the leather trim, reversing camera and sat-nav system of the ASX 4, save a little money, and go for the ASX 3 with 4WD. Mitsubishi itself expects a quarter of ASX customers to want both, and pay a full 25,895 for the ASX 4 4WD. On finance, the difference is probably minimal.
Did four-wheel drive affect our cars economy? Not notably. Mitsubishi seems to have cured the hugely optimistic trip computer we noted last year - it showed between 40-45 mpg over most of our test, and our own data backed this up. Whats more, thats only a few mpg shy of the 2WD version, and similar to our figure in the Peugeot 3008
. Official combined mpg is 54.3.
Were awarding the ASX the same score as in our previous test. It makes more sense in 4WD form than in higher-spec 2WD form, particularly if youre looking for a car to get you through the traffic chaos of winter, and loses that cars intrusive stop-start system.
Its still a little unrefined though, and still lacks the quality feel of some rivals. It also has a new rival this year, which encroaches on its strong value - the Dacia Duster
. A top-spec 4WD Duster barely breaks the 15,000 mark, which hangs the sword of Damocles over cars like the ASX
What the press think
The ASX gets solid reviews in the wider press. Its no game-changer, it feels a bit cheap inside and theres no automatic gearbox option, but the low running costs, good real-world economy and spacious interior all win fans.