I'VE always felt a bit sorry for the ASX - Mitsubishi's Active Sports Crossover - as it never seems to get some of the praise it deserves.
It originally arrived in 2010, part of a surge in crossovers following the almost instant success of the Nissan Qashqai. And that's one of the problems.
The market soon became swamped with motors of every ilk - the Skoda Yeti, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage and Mazda CX-3 to name but a few.
To be a success, you really needed to stand out. And, to be honest, the ASX - despite a 2015 facelift, which made it much better looking - hasn't really done that.
That's not to say it's a bad car - far from it. It's well-equipped as standard, achieves very good fuel economy in the real world and has plenty of room for five plus their luggage, even if leg room in the rear is a little tight. Crucially, as a family car, it's also crammed full of safety gadgets and technology.
Priced from Â£16,255, there are four trim levels - ASX 2, 3, 4 and 5. Even the entry level model is loaded with kit such as alloy wheels, aircon, a leather steering wheel and Mitsubishi's Active Stability and Traction Control (M-ASTC). Not forgetting cruise control, privacy glass, and Bluetooth.
Skip to the range-topping ASX 5 and there's also keyless operation, auto light and rain sensors, Xenon headlamps with washers, a reversing camera, huge panoramic roof, leather interior, heated rear seats, a hugely-uprated infotainment system with seven-inch HD touchscreen, LED mood lighting and four-wheel drive.
Under the bonnet, there's a choice of three Euro 6-compliant engines - a 1.6-litre petrol engine, a 1.6-litre turbodiesel and the range-topping 2.2-litre turbodiesel, which is matched by a smooth six-speed automatic gearbox. It officially returns 48.7mpg and I was getting nearly 45mpg.
To help achieve this, the ASX has a regenerative brake system - or Generation Control System - and the crossover was put on a strict weight loss regime to help it shed the kilos.
Mitsubishi has been making 4x4 off-roaders and pick-ups for decades and the all-wheel drive system on the ASX is an optimised version of the company's AWC (All Wheel Control) electronically controlled four-wheel-drive (4WD) system that offers the driver a choice of three modes to match traction control to the his or her preferences or to the driving conditions.
Because of Mitsubishi's strong history in the field, many of its buyers opt for the 4x4 option.
In two-wheel-drive (2WD) mode, torque is delivered only to the front wheels to enable more nimble driving and better fuel economy. In 4WD AUTO mode, torque transfer is split 50/50 between front and rear for dealing with adverse weather and dirt tracks. In 4WD LOCK mode, most of the torque is pushed through the rear wheels for improved traction on poor road surfaces.
Easy to use, the driver only needs to press a button marked ‘4WD' positioned between the front seats.
As mentioned earlier, there's a full array of safety systems fitted including ABS, Electronic Brake Distribution, Brake Assist, seven airbags, and a tyre pressure monitoring system.
The ASX's body has also been designed using Mitsubishi's Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution (RISE) philosophy.
It features strengthening in key body areas to help disperse the force of a collision should one occur. The brake pedal is designed to reduce protrusion in the event of an accident, while whiplash-reducing seating limits backwards movement of the head and neck in the event of rear collisions.
The full leather interior of the ASX 5 makes it a much more pleasant place to be than on lower spec models and comfort behind the wheel is easy to achieve because of its adjustable rake and reach and the fully adjustable driver's seat. There's a good, upright driving position with plenty of vision all round.
Practicality is a necessary and defining feature of crossovers and the ASX delivers. There are split-fold rear seats, a rear armrest with cup holders and a 26-litre underfloor compartment in the boot, which offers a capacity of 419 litres with the rear seats in position. With the rear seats folded, there's 1,193 litres of luggage space.
The four-wheel drive system gives the ASX masses of grip which means it corners well without too much body roll. Together with nicely-weighted steering, the Mitsubishi makes our more challenging rural B roads or muddy tracks a simple task. It's not the quickest beast but motors along nicely - if a little noisily - on the motorway. That said, the latest version is much improved on its predecessors.
And, while it is comfortable, the suspension can be a little firm so potholes are to be avoided when possible.