In some ways it is surprising that it has taken Mitsubishi until so recently to launch their ASX range. With their expertise in 4x4 vehicles, a crossover of this type seems such an obvious direction to take.
Now it is here, the ASX gives Mitsubishi three options for car-buyers who want to leave the tarmac behind.
The Mitsubishi Shogun (known as Pajero or Montero in some markets) has a long-established reputation as a go-(almost)-anywhere serious off-roader. For those who want most of the off-road ability, but a more MPV/car-like vehicle, there is the Mitsubishi Outlander.
Now, with the ASX, Mitsubishi offers a crossover that is even more car-like. The ASX has been created by taking the Mitsubishi Lancer structure, giving it a higher off-road stance and engineering it to take a four-wheel-drive system. The range starts with the front-wheel-drive ASX2. The ASX3, which I tested, comes with either front-wheel or four-wheel-drive as does the top-of-the-range ASX4.
Like many cars of this type you get the choice of two-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive, with the front-wheel-drive option designed to improve fuel economy. Less common on such "soft"-roaders is the ASX’s option to lock the transmission for better off-road traction.
Second only to gongs and chimes, Japanese manufacturers love their badges and hi-tech sounding initials. So, it is with the ASX3. It comes complete with badges that announce this is not just the Mitsubishi ASX3, but it is actually the "Mitsubishi ASX3 Clear-Tec Intelligent Motion"! In a similar vein, when you turn off the ignition, the ASX also bids you farewell with a chatty "See you". Hmmm.
In design terms the Mitsubishi ASX is a touch bland. It won't win any gongs for its styling, inside, or out. Indeed the interior is more functional than enticing, with unashamed use of hard grained black plastic, with silver plastic highlights.
The ASX3 comes with an 1.8-litre diesel engine that puts out 150 bhp. It is an impressive power unit. After an initial momentary diesel grumble, it settles almost immediately into a reasonably peaceful mode. Better still, it is responsive.
You do sit quite high in the ASX. This is a car you "sit on" rather than "sit in". I felt vindicated in my unsuccessful quest to find a lower seating position when my wife (who is rather shorter than myself) immediately tried to lower the seat when she stepped in.
On the plus side, the high seats do mean there is good foot space under the seat backs for rear seat passengers, helping the Mitsubishi to score well in terms of passenger space.
There's also a good, flat load floor, if a little high to allow for the four-wheel-drive mechanism. However, there is useful storage area under the floor and also two wells behind the wheel arches which are useful for items you don't want to roll around in the back.
The problem with the high seating position is that it makes twisty roads a little tiresome. There is a bit of body roll on the ASX and with less than ideal lateral support in the seats you do tend to sway around on the corners. Other than this body roll and lack of support, the handling seems reasonably crisp and vice free.
The ASX scores on the economy front. On a 200-mile motorway dash, in front-wheel-drive, the Mitsubishi ASX3 returned an overall 52 mpg. The official combined fuel consumption is 49.6 mpg (51.4 for the two-wheel-drive version). Carbon dioxide emissions are 150 g/km, putting the ASX3 in Band F for UK road tax.
To help eke out the mileage, the ASX3 has a stop-start system which did turn the air blue on a couple of occasions until I learnt that you need to plant a very deliberate foot on the clutch pedal to restart the engine.
The price of the Mitsubishi ASX3 4WD is £22,749, with the front-wheel-drive model coming in at £20,599.