First drive: 2014 Mitsubishi ASX
What is it?
It's the car the ASX should always have been. When Mitsubishi's attractive little ASX appeared in 2010, it quickly became a top-seller in the fiercely competitive C-segment bagging 8,000 sales in its first year. And although it was built with some decidedly low-rent plastics, it was a good-looking and well-packaged offering. But within six months, ASX sales slumped to 3,000 a year due to a dreadful exchange rate and Mitsubishi had no option but to push prices up. Now the exchange rate is much stronger and Mitsubishi has given the ASX a much-needed mechanical and visual overhaul to make the car more desirable than ever. It now comes with a 2.2-litre diesel engine mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox, better interior fixtures and specifications, and new suspension.
What's under the bonnet?
Up until now, the ASX has only been offered with a 1.6-litre petrol and a 1.8-litre diesel. By not offering a larger diesel engine, it closed Mitsubishi off from a lucrative 19 per cent of the crossover market. So the company has poached a 2.2-litre diesel lump from its larger Outlander SUV and plopped into the little ASX. It's a good engine – punchy and torquey, the unit delivers 148bhp, 380Nm of torque and return 48.7mpg on the combined cycle. Most rival manufacturers only offer a 2.0-litre diesel in this class, and the ASX's extra 200cc is very welcome – especially as it's more economical and kinder to the environment than most rivals' 2.0-litre units. The 2.2 only comes with Mitsubishi's switchable four-wheel-drive system and automatic gearbox; the latter cleverly learns the driver's driving style to aid comfort and driver enjoyment.
What's the spec like?
As the 2.2-litre diesel only comes in the range-topping ASX 4 trim level, you get some tasty treats. For £23,899 it comes with a full-leather interior, heated seats, an electrically adjustable driver's seat, a reversing camera, sat nav with Bluetooth and, new for 2014 models, a panoramic glass roof with LED mood lighting. As part of the model-year changes, the interior plastics are far nicer and softer to touch too, and there's some extra sound deadening to make the cabin just that little bit quieter.
There are loads, but the ASX's chief competition is the Nissan Qashqai, Hyundai ix35, Kia Sportage and the similarly proportioned Skoda Yeti. You wouldn't be disappointed with any of these cars, but the bog-standard Mitsubishi is cheaper than the Nissan, Hyundai and Kia starting at £14,999 making it a strong contender but expect to sacrifice the luxuries.
What's it like to drive?
Manufacturers always boast of the improvements they make to their cars every year, but normally it's very hard to notice the changes. Not so with the ASX – if you've driven one you'll quickly become aware of how the 2014 model differs. Mitsubishi has changed the rear suspension meaning it doesn't bounce around so much like the old model did, but some features remain like the ASX's light and predictable steering – although a little more feel wouldn't go amiss – comfortable driving position and tidy handling.
The AOL Cars verdict
The ASX has always been a nicely packaged offering in this sector, but lacked a little flair. Mitsubishi has worked hard to make the car more appealing and they've done a good job – even if the changes are small. We'd go as far as saying this model, with its 2.2-litre diesel engine, is the pick of the range even if it is the most expensive. And with prices that have been slashed 10 per cent over the 2013 version, it would be hard not to consider it.
Model: Mitsubishi ASX 4 2.2 Di-D 4WD Auto
Engine: 2.2-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged diesel
Power: 148bhp, 380Nm
Max speed: 118mph