For a car company with only six models (if you exclude the commercially-orientated L200 pick-up) on the UK market, Mitsubishi certainly has a strong commitment to the 4x4 sector. Three of the six are either four-wheel-drive, or available in four-wheel-drive.
The one that most people will be familiar with is the Mitsubishi Shogun. Known as the Mitsubishi Pajero or Montero in some markets, the Shogun has been around for years, in various forms. During that time it has built up a worthy reputation as a tough off-roader that can happily tackle the sort of conditions that most drivers would think impossible.
But such is the appeal of off-road vehicles that many manufacturers have seen the value of ‘crossover’ models that project the image of an outdoor, adventurous lifestyle, while being more practical and more affordable than specialised 4x4 machinery.
Mitsubishi have two models that might loosely be defined in this category, the Mitsubishi Outlander and its smaller definitive ‘crossover’ sibling the Mitsubishi ASX.
For this test I am going to look at two of these three – the Mitsubishi Shogun SG4 and the Mitsubishi ASX 4.
The Mitsubishi Shogun will be very familiar to anyone who has had even a passing interest in off-road vehicles over the past few decades. It presents the familiar Shogun design cues and the tough, no-nonsense looks. After all, this is not a car appealing to the fashionista, but to those for whom green wellies, or hiking boots, are the norm.
This is a time-honoured workhorse and some of aspects of the driving experience remind you of that.
As soon as you open the door, it announces its Japanese heritage with one of a multiplicity of chimes – so many in fact that I lost interest in trying to work out what ‘bing’ or ‘beep’ meant what.
You climb up into the driver’s seat. It may look a little bit dated, but it is a comfortable and commanding cabin. These days we are so used to cars that start on the touch of a button, or first twist of the key that the Shogun SG4 surprised when it needed a second flick of the key to fire into action. The noise level from the 3.2-litre diesel is a little more intrusive than we are used to these days, but some might argue that is in keeping with the ‘workhorse’ style.
Unlike some other off-roaders at the ‘serious’ end of the 4x4 market (yes I am thinking Land Rover) the Mitsubishi is not permanent four-wheel-drive. You can choose to cruise around with just two driven wheels, to reduce fuel consumption and improve performance, or you can select either normal four-wheel-drive, or low-ratio for the real off-road stuff.
For a vehicle that is quite clearly aimed at real mud-pluggers, it is perhaps surprising that the Mitsubishi SG4 comes, as standard, with an automatic gearbox. But it works well and fitted in with the unhurried capability of the test car. Not that you would want to hurry on the B-roads with this car. There is a bit of lean on corners and the steering with these tall off-road tyres is never going to be as sharp and responsive as a hatchback or saloon.
I rather liked the honest approach of the Shogun. It doesn’t try to be too stylish, or the last word in refinement. It just tries to be a good, sturdy go-anywhere vehicle that very substantially undercuts obvious competitors like the Land Rover Discovery
Mitsubishi Shogun SG4
Combined fuel consumption 33.2 mpg
CO2 emissions 224 g/km
VED band K
0-60 11.1 seconds
Max speed 111 mph
Boot capacity 1790 litres (rear seats folded)
The Mitsubishi ASX, on the other hand, is designed to be a family vehicle that just happens to have the looks and (on some models) the ability to drive off the black stuff.
There are five models available, three of which are front wheel drive and will appear to those who like the off-road looks, but don’t need the actual four-wheel-drive hardware with its extra cost and weight.
The two ASX 4 models have four-wheel-drive as standard. Again, like the Shogun you can select two or four-wheel-drive to suit the conditions – it is just a matter of pressing a button beside the gear selector.
The platform used for the ASX is the same as Mitsubishi uses for its bigger Outlander and that means good interior space and also short overhangs front and rear to aid off-road driving.
I expect the Mitsubishi ASX 4 will appeal to families for its practicality. There really is good space for four, or maybe five, plus their luggage and, should you have to traverse an unsurfaced track or a ploughed field to get to your destination, flick the ASX into four wheel drive and you should get there no problem.
My test car was the more powerful of the two Mitsubishi ASX 4 models, fitted with the 2.2-litre 110 bhp diesel mated to a five-speed automatic gearbox. It is certainly a punchy engine and, on my first day which was wet, I found the ASX quite prone to spin its wheels on the exits of greasy roundabouts – prompting me to select four-wheel-drive for greater traction on slippery surfaces.
The 2.2-litre engine actually puts out 110 bhp, but the performance is accompanied by a subdued but discernible diesel sound track.
Looking back as I handed over the keys, it is hard to say that the Mitsubishi ASX 4 made a strong impression in any particular aspect. It’s not particularly stylish, nor particularly fun to drive, suffering a bit from rather numb steering, a bit of roll in the corners and a lack of lateral support in the seats. The ride quality, however is good.
But, the Mitsubishi ASX 4 is practical family transport that is easy to drive and competitively priced. It is also reasonably refined and has good space for your passengers.
Factor in Mitsubishi’s reputation for reliability and its keen pricing compared to obvious competitors like the Nissan Qashqai
and it becomes a more attractive proposition.
Mitsubishi ASX 4
Combined fuel consumption 48.7 mpg
CO2 emissions 153 g/km
VED band G
0-60 10.8 seconds
Max speed 118 mph
Boot capacity 416/1193 litres (rear seats up/folded)