Fed up with the weather, fed up with the fast deteriorating condition of our roads, fed up with paying too much in running costs for even a family sized car and fancy getting better value for money motoring?
The answer could be to be buy one of the latest generation of capable but less taxing ‘crossover’ cum soft SUVs. For little more money than a well equipped C-segment family hatchback, the same-sized modern ‘crossovers’ are better able to cope with bad weather and bad roads than a conventional passenger car.
One such ‘crossover’ is the Mitsubishi ASX just arriving in its lower CO2 136g/km emitting 2013 model year line-up with prices ranging from £15,499 to £25,985. There is the choice of either a 1.6-litre, 115bhp petrol engine with 2WD and a 5-speed manual gearbox or a 1.8-litre, 114bhp turbodiesel engine with a 6-speed manual transmission with 2WD or 4WD drivetrain options. Depending on the engine chosen there are Attivo, ASX2, ASX3, ASX4 and Black levels of specification. Mitsubishi expects to sell around 4,500 units of this model range in the UK this year and I think it would be more if there was an automatic transmission option. Drivers of diesel SUVs in particular like automatics.
I’ve just had a spell in the 1.8 diesel ASX3 4WD variant, logically the best seller in the range priced at £22,749 but as is the norm in a very competitive market the price will be negotiable as will the finance package interest rates.
The ASX competes in a fast growing market segment led by the Nissan Qashqai followed by the new Ford Kuga with the very good Hyundai ix35, Kia Sportage and Peugeot 3008. There is also a healthy expansion of baby ‘crossovers’ here or on their way based on ‘supermini’ platforms. These include the established and best selling Nissan Juke, the recently arrived Vauxhall Mokka with the Peugeot 2008 out this year as well as the Ford EcoSport based on the latest Fiesta platform and the Renault Captur. There is no likelyhood that sales of 4x4s/SUVs and ‘crossovers’ will slow down in the UK with new models coming thick and fast and motoring conditions getting more extreme; come snow, flood or potholes they are here to stay.
The Mitsubishi ASX is targeted predominantly at family buyers and an increasing number of business users who want or need to upgrade from a C-segment hatchback but not find themselves burdened with increased ownership and tax costs. Customers with towing requirements will be drawn in too and it’s the sensible vehicle for anyone with a sporty, outdoors approach to life.
For 2013 the latest ASX five door, five seater ‘crossover’ still uses Mitsubishi’s Lancer Evolution C-segment rally-bred platform. Apart from the engine CO2 changes, revisions for 2013 include the new-look front grille, softer impact absorbing front end, colour-coded bumpers, a new-look premium audio system, updated steering wheel design, a very easy and logical push button 4WD mode selector (where applicable), new seat fabric design, central door locking, traction and stability controls, alloy wheels and a revised multi-link rear suspension.
Each ASX model has a 5-Star Euro NCAP rating courtesy of an array of improved on-board safety features. These include Mitsubishi’s RISE system which displaces any impact away from the passenger compartment, electronic brake distribution and emergency stop signal system backed up by seven airbags.
In addition, the ASX is not short of specification including air conditioning and electrically operated windows and door mirrors. The ASX3 gains automatic headlights and wipers, cruise control, Bluetooth, rear parking sensors, steering wheel controls, keyless start and 17-inch alloys. The higher spec’ ASX4 adds a high-tech Kenwood Multimedia Unit and a handy reversing camera. Price tactical variants, Attivo at the bottom end of the range and Black at the high end, have their own specific levels of kit which vary depending on the current sales promotion.
Mitsubishi in recent years has sent out a strong ‘green’ environmental message although it still produces heavyweight and tough 4x4s like the Shogun and L200 pick-ups. The ‘greener’ Outlander SUV has just gone on sale and a plug-in petrol/electric hybrid version is due soon. The ASX uses Mitsubishi’s technology of emissions and fuel improving functions under their ClearTec banner. The ASX comes as standard with electric power steering, regenerative braking energy capture, low rolling resistance tyres, low viscosity oil, LED lighting and weight reduction measures such as the new composite front wings.
On paper it all looks good for the new ASX and it doesn’t look too shabby in the flesh either. It’s got a very roomy interior thanks to its long wheelbase design with ample room for five passengers. The rear seats split and fold easily and have a ski-hatch load through section. With all five seats in use the boot offers 442-litres of space and this goes up to 1,193-litres with the rear ones folded. On the puny side is the maximum braked towing weight of 1,400kg, the result of its lightweight construction as towing weight is based on the kerb-weight of the vehicle, however the Nissan Qashqai is no better in terms of load-lugging.
The interior is smart enough but some of the plastics feel and look a bit low-rent. The handling is very capable, sharp and agile but the suspension, although durable, does not absorb the shocks of potholes or vibration and noise intrusion from broken tarmac surfaces. In most ways the Hyundai ix35 2.0-litre CRDi 134bhp, 236lb ft of torque mid spec 4WD model is a smoother riding vehicle with a higher grade of interior feel trim but it costs £2,000 more to buy and it has higher CO2 emissions at 154g/km.
The ASX 1.8-litre 114bhp, 221lb ft of torque engine with 4WD emits 136g/km of CO2 so the new VED road tax is £125 whereas the ix35 is £175. The ASX will officially return 54.3mpg, the ix35 47.9mpg, so the Mitsubishi ‘crossover’ is cheaper to buy and run, if a little inferior in the comfort and interior quality departments. The Hyundai has a five year unlimited mileage warranty, the Mitsubishi has three years of unlimited cover. For owners who tow the ix35 top spec models have an auto gearbox option and the braked towing weight is 2,000kg, both things the ASX cannot compete with. The ix35’s 2.0-litre CRDi’s engine has extra power and torque and are significant advantages even if it means paying a bit more to buy and run it over the ASX.
MILESTONES. 2013 model year Mitsubishi ASX3 1.8 turbodiesel 4WD. Price: £22,749. Engine/transmission: 1.8-litre DI-D 4-cylinder direct injection turbodiesel, 114bhp, 221lb ft of torque from 1,750rpm, 6-speed manual, electronic on demand all wheel drive system with 4WD auto/lock modes. Performance: 123mph, 0-62mph 10.0 seconds, 54.3mpg (47.4mpg on test), CO2 136g/km, VED road tax £125, BIK company car tax 21%. Insurance group: 18E. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,295mm, W 1,770mm, H 1,625mm, boot/load space 442 to 1,193-litres. Warranty: 3yrs/unlimited mileage. For: Low emissions, good real-life fuel economy, solid build, durable, high spec, smart styling, roomy, brisk acceleration above 2,000rpm. Against: Engine lacks low down grunt, low-rent interior plastic trim, suspension fails to absorb noise and impacts from even small potholes, braked towing weight too low, no auto option. Miles Better News Agency