With Triton and Outlander hogging much of Mitsubishi’s limelight this year, you would wonder if the Japanese brand had anytime to focus their intentions on others in the range. Well, you would be wrong, for their immensely popular and ASX small SUV has undergone some fresh changes for the 2020 model year, so have their tweaks raised the game for the ASX? Let's find out.

Right away it becomes obvious the new ASX is few steps ahead over the previous gen styling wise. Take the new headlight and wrap around front grill for example. Bringing the new car into line with the Eclipse Cross and new Triton, ASX looks a darn sight better than before. Whereas the previous gen looked a tad awkward with its lopsided angles, the clean-cut flowing lines make the ASX look decisively better around the chops.

The range consists of the three spec levels with things kicking off with the $29,990NZ 2WD Petrol LS. Move up you have the mod range XLS at $31,990NZ and the range topping VRX with all the fruit comes in at $34,990NZ. Under the bonnet for the LS and XLS is a 2.0-litre DOHC MIVEC four-cylinder petrol engine with 112kW/200Nm mated to a six speed CVT auto, which returns 7.6L/100km in fuel consumption and 176g/100km of emissions.

My test car, the top end VRX, gets the beefier 2.4-litre MIVEC petrol four pot with 125kW/226Nm of torque, which means 7.9L/100km respectively. It might not sound like much but you also get the advantage of shift paddles for the six speed CVT.

All models come standard with 18-inch alloys, LED headlights with daytime running lights, rain sensing wipers, auto climate control, smart phone link display audio system, keyless entry and reversing camera.

The XLS gets a boost of safety kit including forward collision mitigation braking, blind spot warning with lane change assist, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert, automatic high beam headlights and rear parking sensors.

Upgrading to the range topping VRX gets you the bigger engine for starters and the same kit as the LS and XLS, but the addition of a panoramic sunroof, leather trim with heated front seats, black integrated roof rails, keyless entry, chrome exterior accents and a six speaker sound system.

Sitting inside, you get the sensation of sitting on the ASX rather than in it. Lankier folk may find it a squeeze due to the nature of the seating position but you do get generally good all-round visibility. Cycling through the infotainment menu, things are easy enough to interpret but to be honest, don’t feel as polished as the system in the previous car.

The reversing camera is something else which doesn’t feel as polished as before, sure it can display a clear enough image, but it certainly doesn’t look as sharp with some objects looking rather blurred. Though if you get the XLS you get parking sensors as mentioned previously, it just would be nice if you could have a better-looking view of what you need to avoid when reversing.

Boot space is rated at 393L which isn’t too bad, drop the rear seats and this increases to 1193L for the LS and XLS, and 1143L for the VRX. The ASX has always been on the compact in terms of size but the level of space for storing stuff deserves to be commended.

On the move in the VRX, the MIVEC 2.4L four pout was actually quite a surprising unit, and by surprising, I mean in terms of get up and go. Sure, it’s no hot hatch but those 125kW are used well. Give the ASX half throttle and the numbers climb a bit quicker than first expected.

With a turning circle of 10.6 metres, you can negotiate your shopping mall car park or local cul de sac with relative ease, plus the fact that you sit quite high, which some tend to like, means you have a decent view of your surroundings.

The 18inch alloys with 225/55/18 rubber make for a comfortable ride, with most of the bumpy bitumen peppering Christchurch roads able to be devoured well. Leave town and into the great wide open, the ASX also does well as a long-distance cruiser. With reduced wind noise and tyre roar, you can quite easily soak up the miles.

While there are a few aspects which fall short of expectations, the new ASX overall still manages to be a better proposition than the generation before it. Despite the blurry rear-view camera, the ASX is still great value and while the VRX has a very good engine, the XLS would be my pick for it has more than enough kit for $3k less than the VRX. All in all, the ASX, thanks to better looking chops, comfort, and driveability, is still worth a look.

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A few niggles here and there but still a SURPRISINGLY LIKE-ABLE package

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