27 Apr

There was a time when only the Pajero was synonymous with Mitsubishi. It was, to my mind, the most memorable vehicle from that stable. Later, we saw the big and butch and extremely capable Triton bakkies, and also the Outlander, and the Lancer.

But always, as far as I was concerned, the hugely efficient Pajero was the flagship of the range.

It’s been a while since anything new or revolutionary has arrived in the Mitsubishi showrooms, so the ASX was highly anticipated. Was it worth the wait? From a suburban driver/parent’s point of view, yes. Perhaps from a critical boy racer’s viewpoint, no.

But then most suburbanites don’t ever push the red needle way past the legal mark, not will many of them attempt to shunt the ASX to its limits on a Gerotek test track. It’s a compact crossover vehicle (ASX stands for Active Smart Crossover), which will comfortably and luxuriously (lovely leather upholstery in the model I drove) propel you around the city and on the occasional light bundu-bashing foray. It’s got the height and ground clearance (195mm) to get you over minor humps and bumps, the spaciousness to accommodate a small family, the luxury to keep you feeling cosseted and comfortable, and is economical enough, both in price and in fuel consumption, not to break the bank or have you needing to flog the family silver to pay for it.

Beautifully shaped and small enough to be manageable for nervous drivers yet big enough not to feel like a cramped small car, the ASX ensures peace of mind travelling with the family, thanks to its range of safety features.

Because of its 2.0 litre (110kw, 197Nm of torque) CVT motor, the Mitsubishi’s emissions are reduced and the fuel consumption manageable (about 7.5 litres per 100km).

Driving it was a pleasure: comfortable, acres of driver visibility, and an enlightening experience, compliments of the panoramic roof’s uninterrupted view of the stars. The roof also has subtle LED blue lighting and a retractable one-touch cover.

There’s keyless smart entry, heated front seats, rear park distance control, seven airbags, traction control, hill start, active stability control, and a collapsible steering wheel, as well. Incidentally, the ASX scored the maximum five stars on the EuroNCAP safety rating charts.

Interestingly, when the company was founded back in 1870, it started life as a shipyard, of all things, and started development of the Model-A passenger car only in 1917.

The first sedan car rolled off the production line, such as it was, way later in the 1960s, when Mitsubishi developed the compact four-wheeled Mitsubishi 500, and then the mini car Minica, as it was called. Until then it had specialised in cargo carriers, industrial engines, aircraft, a bus (Fuso) and even a little scooter, called, enchantingly, the Silver Pigeon.

The decade also signalled the company’s vision for the future, when it went on to launch its Colt series, the first cars from the stable to compete in international rallies. I had an uncle who owned a Colt Galant, and a pretty nifty car it was for its time, too. Looking at it now, however, it was as ugly as sin . . .

Economical, spacious and comfortable - what more could you ask for?

Then came the 80s and the exceptionally appealing Pajero was unleashed on to the market, where it became one of the company’s flagship products. It was tough, luxurious, hardy, and carried with it a certain amount of snob appeal. About a year after launch Pajeros were entered into the legendary Paris-Dakar race for the first time, and won the unmodified production class title, finishing first and second in the marathon race. They also scooped the best team award for the triple crown.

The ASX is a welcome addition to the range, and in a market that is increasingly seeking this type of vehicle in preference to a standard sedan, there should be a good demand for it. However, it’s a competitive category and others in the class are equally attractive and well-specced.

The crossover is available in three models. All are fitted with the 2.0 litre petrol engine and range in price from R280 000 to about R320 000. It comes with a three-year/100 00km manufacturer’s warranty, and a five-year/90 000km service plan.

Story by Peta Lee

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