Mitsubishi ASX

New Mitsubishi SUV offers nimble handling and plenty of pace

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Mitsubishi has hit the ground running with the RVR which is a smart, agile, good-to-drive compact crossover, that also has good space and practicality on its side. Quality’s good and this mini Outlander scores well for comfort and convenience too. The ASX spin-off for the UK will have different engines but as an all-up package, the RVR suggests Mitsubishi could have a new hit on its hands.

Small SUVs are tipped to be big news in 2010 - and here’s why... Smaller, more efficient, yet still as practical as their full sized alternatives, they are well on the way to redefining the family car class.

And here’s Mitsubishi’s new entry into the fray. Aimed at the likes of the Nissan Qashqai and Peugeot 3008, meet the ASX: a neat and nimble new compact crossover that’ll be landing in the UK this summer. We caught up with the car at its launch in Japan, where it’s badged RVR.

Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Mitsubishi ASX

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Two engines will be offered, including a new 1.8-litre turbodiesel with stop/start and a smaller 1.6-litre petrol. Mitsubishi is promising low running costs and good fuel economy from both - a six-speed manual box will offer a choice of front-drive or all-wheel-drive transmissions while a CVT box will also be up for grabs.

On Japanese roads, the RVR quickly impresses. It looks fresh and modern, particularly from the sides and back. If we had a criticism we would pick the Evo-style ‘Jet Fighter” front end -  its omnipresence through the Mitsubishi range certainly makes it look a touch overdone.

Things are good inside though. The high-up driving position, offers a lofty view of the road. Interior finish (especially the dash) is a big step up from the cost-cutting ways of the Lancer - although Primark-level trim on this domestic RVR was nothing to write home about. Instruments and controls are nice and clear.

The little car scores well for space and all-round convenience too, in both front and back. Lift the tailgate and there’s a decent-sized load bay but the highish load sill means hauling up and stowing bulky shopping might not be as easy as it is in, say, the Nissan Qashqai.

On the road the car feels good to drive, thanks to a crisp, well balanced chassis response and quick steering making the RVR easy and fun to place in corners.

The supple ride is impressively controlled, offering a good balance between comfort and handling. Through tight bends, there’s surprisingly little body roll, and with four wheel drive providing excellent traction, the car is a delight to fling through the series of switchbacks we found on our test route. Even in two-wheel-drive mode, as here, it hangs on and on.  

Electric power steering is consistent, well-weighted and accurate - around town, the car offers a suprisingly tight turning circle - while good visibility makes parking in tight spots a doddle. We also tested the Japan only 1.8-litre petrol engine. This RVR feels faster and punchier than its 137bhp suggests while the accompanying CVT box with 6-speed manual paddleshift is unquestionably one of the best in its class. 

Gearchanges are swift, sharp and clean and while the CVT is fine for medium and city driving, there is some bottom end “drag” on the engine when you’re in a hurry. Brakes are firm and have good fade resistance.

So, as a whole, not a lot to dislike about the RVR which actually has the same 2670 mm wheelbase as the Outlander (although you’d never guess) and in principle, wears the same style chassis underpinnings too.

The key is that the RVR’s a full 345 mm shorter and 30 mm narrower, also lighter and more efficient, and with prices starting at just over £13K in Tokyo (although £18K will likely be more ballpark in the UK), scores useful points on the value-o-meter, too.

If you are looking for a new family car with a difference, Mitsubishi’s new ASX will be well worth a look.

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