First Drive: Mitsubishi ASX 4 2.2 Diesel AWD Auto

IT’S STILL easy to be reminded of chunky Shoguns and rapid Lancer Evolutions when thoughts turn to Japanese car maker Mitsubishi.

Back in 2010 the firm introduced a compact SUV in a bid to grab some of the action in, at the time, an evolving market sector.

Fast forward to today and the ASX has been given a subtle makeover and costs a little less than before, as it attempts to take a slice of the increasingly popular compact ‘soft-roader’ SUV market.

At launch the ASX’s appearance aped that of the now departed Colt supermini, but the slightly angular look does much to give the ASX an ‘edge’ amongst the more rounded competition.

It’s the same inside, with the ASX’s cabin clearly at the more durable end of the scale, although active families will no doubt approve of the tough cabin plastics and their bash-proof qualities.

That’s about as rough and tumble as the ASX gets, however. Mitsubishi’s latest updates include a greater level of sound proofing to boost cabin refinement, while the standard specification has been given a welcome uplift. There’s now Bluetooth connectivity across the range, for example.

Furthermore, along with the existing 1.6-litre 115bhp petrol and 1.8-litre 114bhp diesel engines, Mitsubishi has introduced a six-speed automatic transmission option tied to the larger 2.2-litre 148bhp from its Outlander model.

This flagship combo also comes with full-time four-wheel drive – an option on the 1.8 diesel – while the rest of the range ships in wallet and city-friendly front-wheel drive.

On the road the 2.2-litre ASX proves to be a brisk and refined performer. You sit higher than in a conventional family hatchback but there’s very little in the way of pitch and roll when on the move.

Visibility is, as you’d expect, good for a lofty SUV like the ASX. With weighty steering and a responsive auto gearbox, confidence levels are high regardless of the conditions.

Leave the all-wheel drive system alone and it’ll direct power quickly to the wheels that need it most, although you have the option of locking the split equally fore and aft if you need more traction. All in all the ASX easily punches above its weight on the road and off it.

Keen to boost the car’s appeal in an increasingly crowded marketplace, Mitsubishi has both simplified and enhanced its trim levels.

The three-model line-up is now better equipped, with all models receiving air-con, alloy wheels, remote central locking and seven airbags.

Move up a grade and you gain larger alloy wheels, climate control, parking sensors, keyless ignition, cruise control plus auto wipers and headlights and heated front seats.

The flagship ASX, which includes the 2.2 diesel and auto gearbox, adds a panoramic glass roof, sat-nav, leather and a reversing camera.

As before, the ASX boasts a spacious cabin with ample space, while the low load lip and folding rear seats allow for large and bulky items to be transported with ease – ideal for active families.

While the changes might be subtle, Mitsubishi’s engineers have focused on the things that matter. A more refined cabin ambience and, whether you tow or drive mainly in the city, the inclusion of an auto gearbox are both welcome attributes.

Lastly, price reductions plus a welcome uplift of the standard specification ensure that Mitsubishi’s ASX is easily capable of taking the fight to the competition.

FACTS AT A GLANCE

Model: Mitsubishi ASX 4 2.2 Diesel AWD Auto, from £23,899 on the road.Engine: 2.2-litre turbo diesel unit developing 147bhp.Transmission: 6-speed automatic transmission as standard, driving all four wheels.Performance: Maximum speed 118mph, 0-62mph 10.8 seconds.Economy: 47.8mpg.CO2 Rating: 153g/km.

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