Johannesburg - Although it’s less than four years old in South Africa, the chassis Mitsubishi’s ASX rides on dates as far back as 2005.
But, to keep this ageing platform from growing barnacles, the crossover has been given regular updates – the most recent happening earlier this year.
As far as automotive updates go, this was a very minor one with most changes only skin deep. New 17” alloys, a centre console with a new sliding lid, and a re-sculpted front bumper with LED daytime running lights (in top models only), make up the bulk of 2015 model year renovations. The only mechanical tweakings took place inside the optional CVT automatic gearbox, which Mitsubishi says is quieter and feels less slippy now. Unfortunately we were given a five-speed manual version to test, so we can’t comment on the auto’s improved performance.
Overseas it’s possible to get an ASX with all-wheel drive but here in SA it still only comes with front-wheel drivetrains, despite local importers saying more offroad-oriented models were on their way since 2011. Size-wise the ASX is comparable to your average five-door hatch, but a tall set of springs qualifies it for crossover categorisation. Seating position is high, and you get an SUV-like view of the road but don’t go trekking off into the bush expecting miracles.
There are no fancy traction settings here and other than a generous ride height; this is an urban adventurer only.
Sadly, the ASX lags in the technology race where cutting-edge electronics and advanced engines are becoming commonplace in modern rivals. Back in 2013 a colour touchscreen infotainment interface with basic voice control was introduced to spruce up the place, but things like internet radio and self-parking systems found in newer rivals can’t be found here. To be fair, some effort has been put into things like mood light strips in the ceiling, keyless entry and start, and nine speaker Rockford Fosgate sound system complete with booming subwoofers, but these only come in some models and are all fairly easy upgrades done to make the ASX feel more current.
Strangely, safety items such as traction and stability control, also only come in higher-end derivatives, although seven airbags and ABS brakes are standard right across the range.
OLD SCHOOL ENGINE
Under the hood the ASX gets the same engine as it did from the beginning, with trivial adjustments over the years now bringing power and torque outputs to 110kW and 197Nm. Seems strange to say, but naturally aspirated 2-litre petrols, which were once widespread across almost all brands and segments, are now heading for extinction. Still this old-school mill gets the job done with reasonable, if not eventful performance. It also makes an interesting alternative for turbo-phobes still wary of mileage-induced failures. Perhaps a little heavy on fuel, though, with our onboard computer showing around 9 litres/100km.
As low-tech as the ASX is, there is a certain charm to its simplicity and driving it is a relatively fuss-free and easy experience. No complicated driver preferences. No adjustable suspension or steering settings. No cryptic labyrinths of multimedia displays. Just a simple get in and go car.
An unsophisticated option in a sea of wildly styled and more technologically advanced compact crossovers. But its relative blandness sets it apart, and there’s certainly some desirability in that – at least for some buyers.
A price range of between R299 900 and R359 900 might be a bit steep, though, considering that higher-tech competitors come at similar money.