September 06, 2014 @ 02:42 PM

Mitsubishi ASX - Just a larger Lancer?

Elegant and eager... almost. By Arvind Kumar

Elegant and eager…almost. By Arvind Kumar.

The new CKD variant of the Mitsubishi ASX 2.0-litre, gives you a choice at having the 2WD version at RM114,743 and RM128,879 for the 4WD variant. That’s great value and as far as build quality is concerned; panel gaps are consistent inside and out. A five year unlimited mileage warranty is further testament to Mitsubishi’s faith in their product, and judging from the first drive, I’d believe them.

Admittedly, the moment the Subaru XV was launched, the ASX did look rather boxy and dated but the mid-life plastic surgery has provided a lifeline. Updates to the front bumper, grille, and headlamps make it look more mature and less like an angry bull. Elsewhere, more chrome frippery along the rising waistline, complemented by a sloping roofline creates an athletic and muscular silhouette.

However, rear seat occupancy has been compromised. Rear headroom has been scalped away due to the sloping roofline, although, rear legroom is very much adequate. Gaze upwards in the 4WD variant and you’ll find a clear panoramic roof, it’s a novel trick to make the cockpit feel more spacious and ambient, and it works. However, the rear door panels looks out of place as the rest of the cabin space feels of higher quality materials. 

Climb aboard the driver’s seat and the cockpit looks good. Soft touch points everywhere, leather wrapped steering wheel and classy instrumentation seem to enhance the experience. Top notch for the segment and everything appears to be well thought out. Now, grab those shiny magnesium paddle shifters and you’re ready to go.

The punch comes from the 4B11 inline four with Mitsubishi’s famed MIVEC technology, producing 148bhp @ 6000rpm and a peak torque of 197Nm at a heady 4200rpm. Want power; just plant your foot hard on the go pedal. It might be a modern engine, but still harbours old-school habits. 

You really have to wrest all 148 ponies out of the stable but is greatly rewarding when you get on the powerband. Engine noise does get slightly intrusive higher in the rev range but, under normal driving conditions, it’s refined and inoffensive.  
The engine is attached the newest generation INVECS-III CVT, which has six pre-selected faux ratios for you to play with, and play you will. Unlike other pseudo ratio-ed units, the ASX delivers a delectable thump on the upshifts and it feels great.

Downshifts are positive too, where a gentle flick of the paddles gets you into a lower ratio, the revs rise, and you get engine braking. The pseudo gear does not become elastic under stress. The ASX’s unit shifts like a proper slushbox six speeder, showing just how far along CVT ‘boxes have come.

The combination of the two means you can cruise at the speed limit at a smidge over 2,000rpm and enjoy the well-weighted steering feel. It’s calm and composed at speed yet rapid enough in traffic or during parking.
NVH levels are great, and many a time during my stint, I glanced down at the high-contrast speedometer to learn I was going faster than I thought. Road, engine and impact noise have all been lovingly filtered through well-engineered framework and choice build materials.

Safety kit is decent, two airbags upfront with an added airbag for the driver’s knee. ABS combines with EBD for safer stopping. Get the 4WD variant and ASC, hill-start assist and traction control become available too.
So yes, the ASX drives well as it should but here’s the party pooper. The suspension, it’s overcompensated. As most of these cars will see duty on busy streets and shopping boulevards, I understand Mitsubishi’s premise of making it soft and tractable, it’s just they have gone a drop too far. While the Mac-Pherson struts in front are well judged, the multi-link setup at the rear allows too much suspension travel.

This translates into a tiresome song of shake-rattle-and-roll over potholes, highway expansion joints and bumpy B-roads. It does however seem to hem the highway undulations better to allow for self-confidence at speed. Could the ride have been sharper, yes, but I’m not going to hold that against it. The ASX still combines a thrifty price; great build quality and charming looks all in a cool CKD package.

To the point
Love Eager engine, smart gearbox and good build quality
Hate Damping and suspension
(3.5/5 stars)
Not sporty, but still works

Price RM128,879.50(4WD), RM114,743.50(2WD) OTR W/O insurance
Engine 1,998cc, 4 cyl,ECI-MIVEC, 148bhp@6000rpm, 197Nm@4200rpm
Gearbox INVECS-III CVT, 6-Step Sports Mode
Performance n/a
Weight 1475kg (4WD)
On Sale Now

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