Take the all-wheel-drive system from the Mitsubishi ASX compact crossover and what do you have? The answer is multi-choice:

A. A Lancer sedan with a wagon-esque body?

B. A hobbled version of the real thing?

C. Some cash in hand and little in the way of a disadvantage?


The correct answer is - all three. Roughly similar in size to a Lancer, the ASX is, thanks to its body shape, more useful and possibly better-looking.

In some situations, lacking drive to the rear wheels as well as the front could be a disadvantage. There are genuine advantages to having all wheels driven, just ask any Subaru salesman.

On the other hand, electronics such as stability and traction control go some way to giving two-wheel-drives some of the sure-footedness in challenging road conditions that was once the preserve of an all-wheel-drive. Think of the ASX 2WD as on the way to being a 4WD, without the added expense.

A 2WD ASX starts at $36,690 for the LS specification; however many opt for the $40,590 Sport that Driven's been testing, which has more good stuff like alloys, keyless entry, reversing camera and a nicer interior.

The all-wheel-drive equivalents are $39,690 and $43,500; or splurge on the 1.8 diesel manual at $47,990.

The difference of around $3000 between the 2WDs and 4WDs is a price I personally would be happy to pay. But then, living in a double-income, no kids, no mortgage household, what's a few thou' here and there?

Unfortunately, many in the ASX's catchment are not as fortunate, what with another 24 years of indebtedness to the bank and expensive-to-run youngsters. Surely you could buy a small motorbike for the price of a good stroller these days?

So $3000 can be a saving worth making. Even as one who would buy the all-wheel-drive version, I have to admit that for many owners, it's not essential. Most of us really don't need to go around wet roundabouts at the speed limit, or dart off down some bush track to see where it goes.

The ASX's stability control provides a measure of traction management that makes it way safer, in the wet or on loose surfaces, than anything without an electronic minder.

So without the AWD, we're still left with a competent, compact, nicely styled, relatively roomy crossover that's good for so many things - except that it doesn't go very quickly.

The 2-litre four-cylinder engine produces 112kW and 200Nm of torque, but the torque doesn't peak until 4200rpm. It drives a constantly variable (CVT) automatic, with six choose-able "shift points".

This powertrain works hard to provide sparkle, despite the ASX weighing a reasonably trim 1450kg.

But it's fine for cruising the suburbs with reasonable economy - I got 9.5 litres per 100km overall.

What it lacks in punch is partly compensated by crisp handling from the independent suspension; in fact, I'm surprised that Mitsubishi has not developed much more sporting versions.

But here's the thing ...

The trouble with the ASX 2WD is that it's only $2300 less than the base 2.0 Outlander, the next up in Mitsi's crossover/SUV range. And with this Outlander comes a third row of seats.

The extra outlay buys a wagon that's a useful 370mm longer and 30mm wider, on the same 2670mm wheelbase. I wouldn't want to be a Mitsubishi salesman who has a bonus riding on every ASX he sells.