A mid-cycle refresh is common occurrence in the automotive industry; a point in time where car manufacturer upgrades and updates their models to better compete against newer competition.
For the new model year, Mitsubishi Motors Philippines has upgraded one of their most important models: the Mitsubishi ASX.
Mitsubishi's compact crossover, or Active Sport Crossover (X-over?), has been in the market for a while now. In all honesty the model itself has had an uphill battle when it was originally launched, as it came up against larger new generation models like Hyundai Tucson and the Kia Sportage, among others. It was also tough on the ASX (known as the RVR and Outlander Sport in other markets) that it was smaller than most, even against the then phased-out Outlander. Perhaps this upgrade and update can bring back the luster to the ASX name.
Visually speaking, the 2015 ASX is a mild facelift of the previous model. Mitsubishi have reworked the headlamps, grille, lower bumper and other details for a more premium look, and have even fitted LED daylight running lamps and HID headlamps for this variant: the GSR. Mitsubishi fans would note that the GSR nomenclature was previously used to denote the Lancer/Mirage GSR coupe that was phased out in 2001 as well as the entry-grade Lancer Evolution X GSR.
The new ASX measures the same as before, but now weighs in at just 1350kg, 15kg lighter than the previous model. A new feature present in the 2015 ASX is the panoramic glass roof that is available for the GSR model.
Mitsubishi gave the ASX GSR an almost all-black dashboard and a new design 3-spoke leather steering wheel; if it looks familiar, the reason is that it's very similar to the Mirage's wheel. Audio switches and cruise controls have also been integrated wheel for easy adjustments while an LCD multi-information display shows various important information for the driver. For entertainment, the ASX GSR is fitted with a 6.5-inch touch screen LCD screen with navigation and DVD playback to keep the passengers entertained over long, relaxing drives. A good option to keep in mind if you have kids is to fit a pair of headrest monitors to keep them busy in the back seat. By the way, that rear seat is quite spacious too, and folds down flat to maximize cargo space.
Powering the ASX will be the 4B11 2.0-liter MIVEC engine that produces 150 PS at 6000rpm and 197 Nm of torque at 42000rpm. Technically the engine is a carryover, thought it is matched with an enhanced version of Mitsubishi's CVT for better fuel economy and acceleration. Paddle shifters are mounted on the steering column if the driver opts to change gears themselves; despite being simple, Mitsubishi's magnesium alloy paddles are still my favorite out of all the paddle shifters in the market.
In urban and developed areas, the ASX GSR settles down into a comfortable daily driver. There's no need to use the paddles, as the crossover is easy and smooth to maneuver. The 5.3 meter turning radius means the ASX very nimble in tight city streets, and the visibility offered by the driving position actually makes it much easier to negotiate around 90 degree turns than most crossovers.
The majority of our time with the ASX was spent on provincial highways and expressways between the metro and the cliffside getaway known as Thunderbird in Poro Point, La Union. On the open road the ASX performs flawlessly. There are quite a few detractors to the use of CVTs, but the ASX's improved 'gearbox' gets the business done more smoothly and more quietly than before. A quick fuel economy check after an expressway stint yielded 13.7 km/l with two people on board and at an average speed of 95 km/h; good figures as the CVT can the revs down around the 2000 rpm mark at a steady cruise.
Once out of the long straights and onto the winding passes in the Agoo area, the ASX GSR is fun and composed. Body roll is kept in check; Mitsubishi still has plenty of the handling expertise that we know them for. The brakes are strong and a good match for the weight, and the transmission is fun to play with through the paddles. 150 PS is a decent figure for the 2.0 engine, though don't expect Evo-like acceleration just because there's a GSR badge at the back.
For safety the ASX GSR comes with dual stage airbags for the driver and the passenger, ABS, EBD, brake assist and a brake override system; the last one is to prevent cases of unintended acceleration. The OEM driver's mat is also mounted and hooked onto the floor to prevent it from crawling and interfering with the brake and accelerator pedals. Also of note is that MMPC has omitted the 4WD powertrain in favor of only front-wheel drive; mind you the 4WD system is a nice touch to have in slippery conditions, but the FWD works just fine. You won't really go off-road with this now would you?
We found the ASX to be a great all around crossover; which is really what it's supposed to be. Crossovers are designed to be practical, spacious and usable vehicles that marry the comfort of a car (by using a monocoque/unibody) with the wagon-style body (as with SUVs). The 2015 ASX GSR scores well, especially given that this new and improved model retails at PhP 1,248,000 and is manufactured in Japan but not covered by JPEPA.
Can the ASX GSR take the competition head on? For sales, we'll have to wait and see how the market responds. It's still smaller by the class standards, but overall, Mitsubishi has a solid model that gets its priorities straight.