The front is new but the Mitsubishi makeover is routine
In a market place brimming with new compact SUV models, the Mitsubishi ASX makes do with a fresh face and a few detail equipment and convenience improvements to keep pace.
The Model Year 17 updates for the ASX serve as a reminder that Mitsubishi stretches its model cycles with the ASX first appearing on New Zealand roads back in mid-2010.
This is a routine makeover for the ASX and one that doesn't match the scope of the MY17 update Mitsubishi recently applied to the seven-seat Outlander model range.
But the visual impact is reasonably significant with a new frontal theme design that Mitsubishi calls "Dynamic Shield" design.
A wider gloss-black grille framed by a chrome garnish and lower silver paint detailing gives the ASX a distinctive appearance while another change integrates the daytime running lights with the fog lamps.
The frontal refresh has extended the overall length by 60mm to subtly alter the silhouette.
The exterior changes don't extend any further apart from the addition of a shark-fin roof antenna.
The model line-up continues unchanged with a choice of four variants and a clear separation between front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive versions.
There's a 2.0-litre petrol engine with a continuously variable transmission for the front-drive models and the ASX 4WD gets has the 2.3-litre MIVEC diesel engine and a six-speed automatic transmission with sport mode.
Pricing begins at $36,990 for the XLS front-drive model with the high-grade VRX at $40,590.
The XLS 4WD (tested here) is $41,990 and the leather trimmed, power driver's seat, panorama sunroof, keyless start and paddle-shift equipped VRX 4WD flagship is $45,990.
The ASX belongs among the ranks of new vehicles for which diesel is the performance option. The 2268cc direct injected turbo diesel develops 112kW at 3500rpm while peak torque of 366Nm from 1500-2750rpm is the source of strong mid-range acceleration, tall-geared, open-road cruising and the ability to maintain momentum on long uphill runs.
The diesel muscle is delivered through a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission and out on the highway the accessible torque curve and smooth shifts offer a low-effort contrast to the busier character of the petrol/CVT combination.
At 100km/h the diesel engine has full torque available at a relaxed 1600rpm in sixth gear and downshifts to 2200rpm in fifth and 2900rpm in fourth.
It also produces respectable economy figures and Mitsubishi claims combined cycle fuel consumption of 6.0L/100km. My road test averaged 6.4L/100km and a 60-litre tank capacity gives the diesel model a useful touring range.
A three-mode button on the centre console controls the On Demand 4WD system and gives the driver the option of front-drive, all-wheel-drive auto or lock mode for slippery conditions.
The 18-inch alloy wheels are shod with Bridgestone Dueler H/T tyres in 225/55 R18 size and having plenty of rubber on the road is the main attribute of the driving dynamics. The spare is a 16-inch steel wheel.
Probably the strongest of the ASX driving attributes is its compact size, the visibility it offers from a raised seat position and large mirrors and its tight turning circle. It's easy to manoeuvre in the city and it slots neatly into tight car park spaces.
Mitsubishi says it has changed the shape of the rear seat with a more outer bolster support and a raised centre. There's good rear headroom and plenty of footwell space but it remains a reasonably upright sitting position.
Storage convenience is limited in the rear with no door bins or bottle holders provided but Mitsubishi has added a pocket to the rear of the front passenger seat as part of MY17 package.
The 60/40 split backrest expands the 358 litres of cargo space to 1193 litres when folded.
Up in front there is manual cushion height and slide/recline adjustments for the driver's seat but no lumbar support adjuster. The steering wheel is tilt and reach adjustable.
The XLS specification includes single-zone climate control, a reversing camera and a leather steering wheel with audio, phone and cruise control buttons that features piano black trim on the lower half of the wheel.
Power windows and mirrors, an alarm and immobiliser security system and an auto-off lights system are standard.
The centre console box has a sliding lid armrest design and a USB connection and 12-volt outlet.
The graphics on the 6.1-inch audio display have been updated and XLS models have a new seat fabric with red highlights, a larger driver's seat height adjustment lever and for those with a really keen eye-for-detail there is a new key fob. Along with the 18-inch alloy wheels the exterior is dressed up with black roof rails and black sill/wheel arches, a body colour rear spoiler and privacy glass.
Standard safety features provide the basics of seven airbags, electronic stability and traction control, hill-start assist, two ISOFIX attachments and two child seat tether points. The most recent ANCAP crash result for the ASX is a 5-star rating from 2016.
In night driving the ASX XLS has very good high-beam illumination from its halogen headlights but, in contrast, the dipped beam performance is poor.
Having a sales history that began in 2010, the Mitsubishi ASX must be nearing the end of its production life. This MY17 facelift needs to be the last minor enhancement and a modernised compact is overdue.
Engine: 2268cc 16-valve direct injection and turbocharged four-cylinder diesel