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Mitsubishi ASX


After a forgettable 2009, Mitsubishi New Zealand really can’t bring the new ASX to market quick enough

Compact SUVs seem to be on everyone’s lips right now and this ASX – a sort of cross between the medium Outlander SUV and the Lancer compact hatch, but with a style and practicality all its own – seems pretty good.

It has to be. Nissan’s Qashqai is the benchmark for this end of the market and though Mitsi has sharpened the pencil enough to match the Nissan’s competitive price point, it also has to fight off competent Korean entrants to the Compact SUV segment in the Hyundai ix35 and new Kia Sportage.

The ASX range starts with the two-wheel drive LS petrol model at $35,490. Along with the high seating position a lot of buyers are looking for, for that money you’ll get niceties like a leather steering wheel and gear knob, seven airbags and a five star ANCAP safety rating, tinted rear glass, full MP3 compatibility, cruise control and a willing 2.0 litre, 112 kW / 200 Nm engine running through a CVT transmission. Spend another $2500 and you can throw in on-demand all wheel drive, climate control and a full-size spare.

Alternatively, if four-paw grip isn’t needed, but a few additional creature comforts are, the two-wheel drive version is also available in a more attractive Sport specification. This looks the part with alloy wheels, fog lights and chrome body work, and the interior brings a keyless operating system, climate air, steering wheel audio controls a colour LCD info display, improved upholstery trim, a rear seat armrest, Bluetooth hands free, rain sensing wipers, high intensity discharge headlights, paddle shifts for the transmission and a reversing aids.

No surprise the Sport’s really the draw card of the range for private buyers, a reality not lost on Mitsubishi who unjustifiably sting you an extra $500 dollars for all wheel drive on this model over the LS model.

At the top of the tree is the all-wheel-drive-only Diesel Sport model. $45,990 ensures you can benefit from the latest Euro 5 compatible diesel technology and a competent 1.8 litre, 112kW / 305Nm engine, so long as you don’t mind stirring your own gears, it isn’t yet available with an automatic gearbox.

On the road it’s obvious the ASX range shares the best bits from the Lancer and Outlander models and impressively few of either model’s foibles really. There is a marked improvement in road noise over the Lancer and the clever electronically selectable all wheel drive a-la Outlander offers a definite traction advantage on wet or icy roads and it receives a tilt / telescopic adjustment steering wheel. Mind you, everyone else has offered those for ages.

It’s all packaged with easily manageable handling characteristics that – particularly in four wheel drive mode – affords the ASX a steadfast feel about it.

You could also take it off-road, slightly, if you wanted, but let’s not kid ourselves. Still, at least you get the option for all wheel drive; the same can’t be said about the Qashqai.

The brief launch drive around the Awhitu Peninsula didn’t completely win me over to the ASX, first impressions, I still see the Nissan product – and it’s attractive pricing – as a huge hurdle for Mitsubishi in this part of the market. Maybe the longer test bookings I have for both vehicles in coming weeks will tell a different story, ‘til then I’ll bite my tongue.

Still, Mitsubishi claim over 50 percent of ASX buyers will be between 50 and 69; I’m a few years from that demographic yet, so perhaps the looks, practicality (luggage capacity is yet to be announced, but looks acceptable for the class) and the all important ride height you don’t need to hoist yourself out of will swing in the ASX’s favour. Mitsubishi NZ’s 2010 prospects just got better, it’s the right car for the right segment at the right time.

Find a Mitsubishi dealer near you.

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