To understand how significant the ASX is to Mitsubishi, you only need look to the UK sales charts, where Nissans Qashqai has been sitting pretty since it was launched.
Nissan has dominated the sector 2007 and Mitsubishi is aiming at the same audience with the ASX. So what can Mitsubishi offer to its customers that its Japanese rival cannot? Weve been driving one for a week to find out.
We were a little concerned when we found out our car would be delivered in Cool Silver. Would the ASX fade into the background in such a common shade?
The concern was unfounded. As you can see from the images, silver works quite well on the ASX, ideal for picking out the sharp creases and bulging arches down the side, and accentuating Mitsubishis aggressive Evo-style grille. It looks squat and purposeful on the 17-inch alloys of our top-spec ASX 4 model, with short overhangs and darkly tinted rear windows adding to the sporty appearance.
The rear is perhaps less successful - a little bland and awkward compared to the rest of the car. The ASX is no design classic, but we reckon it just has the edge on the Nissan Qashqai for looks. Wed certainly recommend choosing the higher-specification ASX 3 and ASX 4 versions though, or at least upgrading the alloy wheels on lower-spec models, as 16-inch wheels look lost in those large arches.
If youd like to stand out further, Mitsubishis Kingfisher Blue paint would be the shade to go for, but colours like silver and black look a little more sophisticated.
The ASX will be bought, first and foremost, as a family car. That means a practical interior is a must, and for the most part the ASX doesnt disappoint.
Our top-spec ASX 4 came with leather upholstery, which undoubtedly lifts the interior ambience over regular cloth trim, and the touch-screen infotainment system helped here too. Lower-spec models arent quite as nice inside, but the basics are right - comfortable seats, plenty of space and a usefully-sized boot. The rear seats split and fold 60:40 to expand luggage space from 442 litres to 1193 litres. They dont fold completely flat, but at least theres no step from the load bay to the seat backs.
In terms of interior design, theres little to excite, but once again the basics are all there. The driving position is good - youre seated higher than you would be in regular cars, the driving position isnt offset, and theres plenty of adjustment in the steering wheel. Wed have liked the drivers seat to go a little lower, but we still found it comfortable on 200-plus mile journeys.
Most of the materials youll touch regularly on the interior felt good - particularly given the leather trim - and only panels lower down on the doors and dashboard felt a little nasty.
The dials looked good and were easy to read, and the touch-screen infotainment system was easy to use. Our only nit-pick was with the iPod connection - the connector itself didnt attach to our iPhone very well, meaning as we drove along we occasionally lost sound from all the speakers on one side of the car - quite irritating.
Mitsubishi markets the ASX as a sporty vehicle - ASX stands for Active Sports X-Over (crossover). Handling should therefore be a priority. As a family vehicle, ride quality should be even more of a priority. Does it strike a decent balance?
Yes, as a matter of fact. Okay, so you wont be out-handling hot hatchbacks, but although theres some roll to be had in harder cornering the ASX hangs on gamely and changes direction without too much protestation. The steering feels weighty, and although theres not a lot of feel its decently accurate. It could be improved further than having a quicker steering rack, as you always seem to have to use a little more lock than youd want to in tighter corners.
It does make the car feel stable at speed though, and whatever speed youre doing the ride is very good. 17-inch wheels are no longer large by modern standards, and this means Mitsubishi has fit some usefully tall tyres under those arches. They take the edge off smaller bumps, while the suspension deals with the rest. It could do with tighter damping to prevent it pitching as much over speed bumps, but thats a small price to pay for a ride that shrugs off most of what city streets can throw at it.
Wind and tyre noise are fairly low at higher speeds too. Visibility is good, and the reversing camera on the ASX 4 certainly helps with parking.
Our car had the 1.8 DiD turbodiesel engine. Its the first diesel to use variable valve timing, the idea of which is to give a good mix of low-revs torque and high-revs power, while using less fuel everywhere.
Well cover economy in the value for money section, but everywhere else the engine seems to succeed. Performance felt strong, and we can certainly believe the sub-10 second 0-62mph time quoted by Mitsubishi. It also pulled well from low revs - often lower than youd expect too, judging by the eager gear-change indicator. Itll happily potter around at 30mph in 5th gear, and you can get away with 6th gear any speed beyond 40mph.
However, the drivetrain isnt perfect, for three reasons.
The first is noise. While the engine does its job very well, its also noisier than a lot of rivals. This didnt bother us so much, but drivers used to other diesel vehicles might find it a bit agricultural despite the high-tech mechanicals.
The second is the gearshift. It doesnt like to be rushed, and its not always easy to find the right gear in some situations. Up-changes are best done smoothly and deliberately, and down-changes likewise - on occasion when slowing down we found it too easy to slot the lever back into 6th from 5th, rather than 4th as we required.
Lastly, the stop-start system, Mitsubishis Auto Stop Go. Its certainly useful for economy - something you notice when driving through London, as we did during our test. However, this system - unlike that in the Skoda Octavia we tested recently - is a little too easy to catch out. More than a couple of times we felt the engine turn off at a red light, only for the light to go green immediately. Wed press the clutch back in and the engine wouldnt re-start so soon after stopping - needing another press and release of the clutch to fire it up again. Each time it fired it did so noisily and with a shudder too, unlike the Skodas incredibly smooth system.
Value for money
The ASX is priced pretty closely to its main rival, the Nissan Qashqai. An entry-level ASX 2 with the 1.6 petrol engine costs from 16,499 and does 47.1mpg, an entry-level Qashqai 1.6 Visia costs 16,310 and does 45.6mpg.
Our ASX 4 with the 1.8 diesel engine goes for 22,745. To get an equivalent Qashqai with leather trim and all the toys, youd be looking at Tekna spec, with the 1.6 dCi engine for similar performance. This costs 24,290 and its a little slower, but does qualify for cheaper road tax and gets 62.8mpg.
Being the top-spec ASX 4, our car was particularly well-equipped - leather upholstery, a Kenwood infotainment system with satellite navigation system and a reversing camera, and an iPod hook-up were all standard. In fact, the only options were the metallic paint, and a set of fabric floor mats.
The ASX is a safe place in which to put your family - this is a five-star EuroNCAP car.
And so, to fuel economy. In a mix of town driving and country roads, we saw an average of 46mpg - roughly half-way between the claimed urban figure of 42.2mpg and the combined figure of 51.4mpg - not bad at all. On a 70mph motorway run we calculated mpg in the high 50s, which again tallied with the official extra-urban figure of 58.9mpg. The diesel ASX appears to be a car in which the official fuel figures arent just pie-in-the-sky targets.
Our only note on economy is that the on-board fuel computer is a little optimistic. For those mid-40s fuel figures, the trip display was showing nearer 60mpg, and figures in the 70s on the motorway. This is an impressively economical car, but its not magical
Lastly, our car was front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is available as an option, but frankly at a couple of grand extra youd be better off saving the money and buying some winter tyres before the snow arrives next winter unless you really live out in the sticks.
Our overriding impression of the ASX during its week in our tenure was one of a really useful, usable vehicle. We took it to London and back from Yorkshire, drove it on country roads, in cities and on the motorway, and even loaded up the boot with a couple of large telescopes in the middle of one night to go stargazing, and at no time was it insufficient for the jobs we gave it.
Unfortunately, we have to mark it down in a few areas too. The engine, while powerful and economical, may put off some people with its noise. The stop-start system can be caught out, and its too noticeable in its operation.
Then, theres your choice of cars. Most expert reviews seem to recommend the diesel, so youre looking at over 20k to get an ASX thats truly competitive, and thats in ASX 3 spec which does without some of the niceties we enjoyed in the ASX 4 (though remains well-equipped).
Wed certainly recommend the ASX, with the diesel engine - its a genuinely useful all-rounder, with very good real-world economy. But its also flawed, so try a few rivals before you make your decision.
What the press think
Reviews are mixed from the motoring press. Main criticisms are aimed at the dull cabin and the fact it breaks no new ground in the marketplace, but its equipment levels and economy are widely commended.
We think the ASX deserves a little more credit than the reviews give it, but wed echo the experts advice - test a few of the Mitsubishis rivals to make sure youre buying the right car for you and your family.
Check out our full guide to the ASX. With reviews of each engine, user reviews, photos, videos and stats.