Aspire-ations not quite met with the ASX

Mitsubishi have had competitors in the 4WD and SUV market for quite some time, with the venerable Pajero nameplate being at the forefront. Of late, the smaller SUV market has exploded, with the ASX well placed to compete. Based on the Lancer platform, itself a name that has served Mitsubishi well for close to forty years, the ASX is a strong contender in a crowded lineup.

A Wheel Thing’s Japanese Odyssey spent two weeks with the ASX, the second with the Aspire. Sitting at the top of the range, the Aspire has some subtle differences over its entry level brethren. TheĀ  ride is a little tighter, firmer but still compliant over the annoyingly stupidly placed speed humps on certain residential roads. The tyres though, are a compromise for soft/off road and normal driving and sometimes momentarily skipped when in conflict with bumps and turns. It’ll understeer slightly when pushed, otherwise it’s a competent chassis. It comes with a switchable 4WD system and it’s barely noticeable that it’s front wheel drive. The steering is light, direct and reasonably communicative through the tiller. The Aspire comes with a preprogrammed 6 speed CVT transmission and it’s noticeably less smooth than the Nissan Dualis, with a sensation of something not quite aligned. There’s a lack of smoothness throughout the rev range although driveability is not compromised. It’s still flexible, quick enough, it just doesn’t feel as refined as the Dualis.

The interior had, on A Wheel Thing’s test car, a comfortable, spacious feel, with dash ergonomics of good design. A hiccup, however, with the keyless start/stop button hidden behind the left side of the steering wheel. The tiller itself is cleanly designed and laid out. The newer style 7 inch touchscreen is easy to use and sound quality is clear and defined. The seats though…..the padding provides little give and support, leaving a driver sitting on, not in. The styling of the leather is generic, with a perforated look seen elsewhere. A full length glass sunroof adds extra air to the ambience. As expected in a smaller SUV, boot space is adequate but increases thanks to the folding rear seats.

The engine is a 2.0L MiVEC unit, churning out 110kW at 6000rpm whilst the torque is usuable with the CVT, 197Nm at 4200rpm. It’s economical enough, sipping around 8.5 litres per 100 kilometres according to the official fuel figures. Naturally it’ll drain the 60 litre tank with some spirited or soft road driving.

The ASX is not a bad vehicle, not by any measure; up against itself the Aspire can be seen as its own worst enemy as there’s too much of not enough difference in areas such as trim to say one is a base model and the other luxury. The relative lack of refinement in the transmission and the flat seating also combine to “harsh the buzz”, taking the edge off is otherwise a fine vehicle to drive. Priced at mid $30K plus on roads, it’s great value.

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