I just don’t get these weekend warriors. Why spend time punishing your body on weekends when you’ve already pummeled it enough doing a week’s stint in hell (i.e. work)? Why bike 50 kilometer trails or scuba dive in shark-infested waters (maybe) when you can simply melt into your couch with chips and a cool drink in hand? Though it sounds like it, I’m not promoting a sedentary lifestyle. I just don’t get these adventurous, adrenaline-loving folks. So, imagine my reaction when Mitsubishi launches a vehicle that’s supposedly tailor fit for the adrenaline junkie: the ASX—short for Active Sport Crossover.
At first I was puzzled; after all depending on which way you look at it, the ASX is either a Lancer EX on stilts or a 9/10 scale Outlander. In fact, the ASX does share the Outlander’s stance, styling, interior bits—indeed, its very platform. However, the initial puzzlement turns to excitement. What we have here is a stroke of engineering and marketing genius as the ASX slots comfortably in-between the entry-level crossover/SUV and top-range compact car markets.
From the outside, the ASX sure turns heads with its angry countenance first seen in the Outlander and used to such great effect on the Evolution X and its Lancer EX brethren. The beady eyed headlamps flank the gaping, jet-fighter inspired grille that lends the ASX some swagger as do the sharply creased lines that sweep up on the ASX’s sides. Unfortunately, the rear looks markedly truncated with the roofline terminating so soon behind the rear doors. Though it lends the ASX a very avant-garde look, this doesn’t do wonders for cargo space.
Inside, the Lancer/Outlander theme continues which isn’t a bad thing at all. It’s minimalist and serious. There’s no gray or beige in here, only black and slivers of silver trimmings sprinkled about. The gauges look stunning and straight to the point with the deeply dinnacled pair of tachometer and speedometer. The fuel, temperature and trip computer are displayed on a yummy multi-colored screen flanking the two main gauges. With a tilt/telescopic steering wheel (the first for a Mitsubishi), it was extremely easy to find a comfortable driving position despite the seat’s limited adjustment. Typical of crossovers, the ASX’s seats are mounted with a high hip point making ingress/egress easy while providing excellent visibility all throughout. The touch screen AVT system creates a great Star Trek-like atmosphere, at the expense of tactile operation. More than once, you’ll find yourself mis-pressing buttons.
Because of the ASX’s in-between sizing, space isn’t one of this car’s strong suits. There’s no problem with the front occupants, but the rear accommodations can barely squeeze three. The bench is quite short too and has barely enough knee room even compared to its Lancer EX brethren. The tall and shallow luggage compartment may be able to swallow regularly-shaped items such as cartons and boxes, but the 384 liters of space is still quite limited. Thankfully, Mitsubishi provides some flexibility with rear seats that split-fold in a 60/40 ratio and a rear armrest that has a trunk pass-through for long objects.
Twist the key (or press the Smart Key’s engine start button), and the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine whirrs to life to settles to a quiet and even idle. The 4B11 all-aluminum engine’s shared with the Lancer EX but loses five 5 ps for an even 150 ps rating. Revved hard, the double overhead cam engine doesn’t run out of breath thanks to the MIVEC valve timing system. However, as the tachometer spins upward past 5,000 rpm, the engine’s vocal can be coarse. There are two transmissions available a CVT or a five-speed manual depending on which variant you’re getting. If the manual sounds a bit retro these days, it’s perfectly adequate for our roads. Still, budget permitting, I’d go with the CVT. It gives a shift-shock free operation plus it’s perfectly paired with the engine and comes with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters too.
The ASX’s chassis sounds promising with disc brakes and independent suspension on all four corners. The ASX provides surprisingly good and precise manners through tight corners with only numb (comfort-oriented perhaps?) steering hampering the entire experience. Retaining the Outlander’s 2,670 mm wheelbase while trimming down weight and slicing off the rear overhangs should translates to sharper responses through sweeping roads and transition maneuvers, but the ASX behaves with heavy under steer. Understandably, it’s safer this way but can reduce the fun-to-drive factor. Nonetheless, for 99 percent of the time, it’s enjoyable and exhibits a much more comfortable ride than the Lancer EX.
There are three variants of the ASX: the GLX manual (P1,145,000), GLS CVT (P1,255,000) and GLS SE CVT (P1,498,000). Only the top-line GLS SE gets a four-wheel drive system. The system is controlled via a center console knob with three modes: 2WD, 4WD Auto and 4WD Lock. In 4WD Auto, the computer determines when to feed power to the rear wheels, while the lock mode engages all four wheels for low-traction situations. But before you decide to hit the trails, be warned that the ASX just has a modest ground clearance: 195 mm. This means the ASX is suited for at worst, light gravel or muddy driveways.
In addition to the 4WD, the top-line GLS SE has other interesting features. These include stability control, hill start assist, HID headlamps, steering-wheel audio controls and seven airbags. The AVT entertainment system not only plays CD and DVDs but provides an input for your iPod. In addition, the GLS SE is the only one in its class to offer a GPS-based navigation system as standard (it’s available as an option on the lesser variants). There’s some noticeable lag on the touch screen, but otherwise, it’s versatile. But perhaps the coolest feature is the Smart Key keyless operation system with a push-button engine start/stop button.
Although the Mitsubishi ASX is marketed as the car for adventure lovers, in reality, it’s more than that. It’s a great car for just about anyone from junkies to couch potatoes. Surely, you can opt for a more traditional crossover out there, but they’ve become larger, heavier and more sedate to drive. The ASX is certainly something different and downright stylish in this segment. What’s more, it has a boatload of convenience features which sure makes it tempting.