Road tests / 7 September 2018, 2:15pm / Jason Woosey
Johannesburg - Continuous improvement is by all means a great thing, but let’s face it - Mitsubishi’s ASX has probably had more facelifts than Nicole Kidman.
First introduced abroad in 2010, and launched in South Africa a year later, the ASX is now the oldest vehicle in its class, although even that is hard to define. The ASX is closer in size to a Rav4 than it is to an EcoSport, although it’s still somewhat smaller than the former. Measuring 4365mm in length and 1810mm in width, it has a similar footprint to Nissan’s Qashqai.
But it’s also starting to feel somewhat dated and we feel for the Japanese company here - it certainly isn’t extending its product cycles for the sake of being difficult. Before joining the Nissan-Renault Alliance in 2016 it was running out of money and lacked the resources to invest in new vehicle architectures. Of course, all of that is set to change - Mitsubishi now has access to more modern vehicle platforms and eventually there will be a new ASX, likely sharing its underpinnings with that aforementioned Qashqai.
But until then, the best Mitsubishi can do is apply some Hollywood style botox to what it already has, and that is exactly what it has done to the ASX, once again.
The 2018 changes only affect the range-topping GLS CVT model, which gets some added chrome in the form of a new central grille louvre up front and a garnish joining the tail lights.
It also gets revised front and back bumpers - with additional honeycomb up front and a beefier looking diffuser at the back because in its next life it really wants to be an Evo. Smart looking ‘diamond cut’ 18-inch alloys round off the exterior perk-ups, along with daytime running lights and an LED rear foglamp.
The subtle revisions continue inside in the form of red stitching on the seats and swankier trim materials for the central dash panel, power window panels and the centre console, which has also been redesigned. However, this is the one place where the ASX really can’t hide its age as the interior design looks dated.
Sure the materials are of a decent quality and overall build quality feels rock-solid, but you still feel like you’re in an older-generation vehicle.
There is also a touchscreen infotainment system, but even this looks a little dated and aftermarket if we have to nitpick, and there is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto compatibility.
Also lacking are modern driver assist items available in many rivals, such as lane departure warning and city emergency braking.
However, the ASX does pack a lavish list of standard luxuries, particularly in GLS form where leather seats (heated upfront), a full length panoramic glass roof with adjustable mood lighting, automatic climate control, key-less entry and start and HID headlights are all part of the deal.
Interestingly the GLS CVT is the only model in the ASX range to feature traction control, although all versions do at least pack seven airbags.
Spec is one thing, but how does the ASX compare to its rivals?
This is where it gets tricky. For starters it’s smaller and less modern than the other vehicles in its price range and although rear legroom is passable, the boot seems rather small by class standards and the full-sized spare wheel makes it particularly shallow.
The GLS CVT’s official list price is R434 995, but at the time of writing Mitsubishi’s SA website was listing a special price of R399 995. But given that you’d more than likely get discounts on its rivals, our inclination is to use the former figure to compare apples with apples. And that really doesn’t make the ASX look very good - given that you can get a well equipped Mazda CX-5 2.0 Dynamic auto for R424 000, a Kia Sportage 2.0 EX auto for R443 995, a Peugeot 3008 1.6T Active for R414 900 or a Nissan Qashqai 1.2 Acenta Plus auto for just R408 500.
Even the engine is outdated by class standards. No turbo, no direct injection - just an old-fashioned normally aspirated 2-litre unit, producing 110kW and 197Nm and offering reasonable but ultimately very average performance. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for something solid and low-risk in terms of expensive components going bust on you then perhaps this is a good and safe option.
The range-topper featured here gets an enhanced CVT gearbox complete with a six-step ‘sport mode’ designed to mimic normal gear changes. However in its default guise it still has that droney CVT sensation that many motorists don’t appreciate, and it can get a bit noisy in the upper reaches of the rev range.
The ASX GLS is solid and well equipped but those factors alone are not enough to redeem it at this price level. Fact is, rivals at similar money are more modern, spacious and technologically advanced, ultimately making it less competitive in this segment.