The once clear-cut line between the 4×4 and traditional family runaround is becoming increasingly blurred. And now there’s another contender to add to the mix – Mitsubishi’s new ASX, with an option of selectable 4wd that makes it worthy of consideration as a rural runabout.
Based on the same platform as the Japanese giant’s Lancer and Outlander models, the ASX has been positioned to tackle the likes of Nissan’s Qashqai. Its performance isn’t quite as impressive as its rally-spec cousin, but clever engine technology makes its 1.8-litre four-pot diesel lively enough.
In fact, it’s a world first: by applying petrol engine technology to an oil-burner, Mitsubishi has created the first-ever passenger-car diesel with variable valve timing.
This means that peak torque continues higher up the rev range, closer to max power at between 2000-3000rpm. The result is not only perkier performance than a standard engine but also improved economy, according to the firm.
To this end, Mitsubishi has followed other manufacturers down the route of auto stop and go. When the ASX comes to a standstill at a junction, the engine automatically cuts out, restarting as soon as the car is put back into gear.
Great though that sounds in principle, it doesn’t react as fast as it should – boy-racer starts off the lights aren’t really going to be an option.
On the other hand, there’s a useful hill-start feature that detects slopes and holds the brakes on for a few seconds after the pedal has been released to allow the driver to feather the throttle and clutch without worrying about using the handbrake.
Four wheel drive brings some off-road-ability but no extra ground-clearance so it isn’t ever going to make a true farm workhorse. But you’ll struggle to find a more thrifty 4×4 and it’s great for carting the kids about.
Mitsubishi ASX 4×4 Tech Spec
Engine 1.8-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel
Power 147bhp @ 4000rpm
Transmission 5-speed manual with electronically-controlled 4wd
Top speed 123mph
Fuel consumption 49.6mpg (manufacturer’s combined cycle measurement)
Towing capacity 1.4t