The ‘individualistic’ crossover that’s almost entirely unremarkable.
The term ‘crossover’ is a particularly difficult one to really integrate. It came about only because car companies wanted to stay away from the rough-and-ready stigma that plagued ‘old’ SUVs and preferred to lean on the established brand value in hatchbacks. They wanted you to think of it as a hatchback on stilts, a ‘cross over’ or hybrid between a hatchback and an SUV, with only the plus points of both.
Of course, a long time has passed since people had to be convinced that SUVs are competent, practical family cars. Mitsubishi knows this, and that’s why it’s turned itself into an SUV/ute company. As a result, its old Eclipse sports car just had no place in the lineup, and so it’s ‘crossed over’ into the realm of SUVs, and transformed into the Eclipse Cross.
Designed to take on other compact SUVs like the Mazda CX-3, Toyota C-HR, Hyundai Kona, Suzuki Vitara, and even the Kia Sportage, the Eclipse Cross packs a healthy, unique dose of individuality which the competition also sells in different interpretations. There’s no denying that the Eclipse Cross is a good looking thing, but it also promises decent practicality and even alludes to an engaging drive.
With one engine, one gearbox, two trim levels and the choice between front- or all-wheel drive, the Eclipse Cross at least makes the buying proposition pretty simple. Is it all that Mitsubishi claims it to be, or is this a crossover the world could have done without?
“The styling is robust in the lower half, reflecting Mitsubishi’s 4x4 heritage, but it has a more dart-like upper profile than its boxy rivals. It’s the first complete work of Tsunehiro Kunimoto since he arrived as Mitsubishi’s chief of design. He joined from Nissan three years ago.” — TopGear
If the Eclipse Cross debuted 5-years ago, we’d have summed up this segment by exclaiming ‘Wow!’ and left it at that. The Eclipse Cross is sharp, angular and aggressive, and is perhaps the most out-there interpretation of Mitsubishi’s design language we’ve seen in the past few years. Sure their cars have always generally been handsome, but this is seriously, seriously pretty.
We love the slim headlights, joined together to form something of a kabuki mask. We love the rakish roofline which manages to mimic coupes enough to get away with calling itself a ‘coupe roofline’ but without noticeably compromising rear headroom. And we love the split tailgate with the lightbar-connected taillights that make it very, very noticeable at night. It’s a small, stylish crossover which would have been able to make it stand out in the market half a decade ago.
But in today’s compact crossover space, looking different isn’t enough. Cars like Renault’s Captur, Mazda’s CX-3, and Toyota’s C-HR all offer a ‘unique design’ that interprets individual dynamism in its own way. As a result the Eclipse Cross ends up rather drowned in a sea of sharply-styled, aggressive-looking crossovers, with the roofline drawing parallels with the C-HR and the colour looking suspiciously like the CX-3’s ‘Soul Red.’
Ironic that in striving for individuality they’ve all ended up looking the same.
Engine & Drivetrain
“… importantly, this car premieres a brand-new engine for the company.” — CarAdvice
Mitsubishi decided that for the Eclipse Cross, it would be best to offer the market one kickass engine that’ll do everything, offering great torque & fuel economy, and enough power and refinement to make minced meat of motorway journeys. And on the surface, the sole 1.5-litre mill does just that.
The four-pot is turbocharged, so it puts out a pretty healthy 110kW and 250Nm. Power goes to either the front wheels or all four depending on spec, but fuel economy is claimed to max out at 7.5L/100km (though realistically, expect about 8.5L/100km). Transmission duties are handled by a sole CVT automatic which in theory will keep the turbo-petrol mill on song better than a standard automatic would, while also letting the engine slow to a purr when taking it easy on the motorway.
Compared to some of the naturally-aspirated competitors on the market (and even some turbo competition), the Eclipse Cross seems pretty competent. Add to that the availability of all-wheel drive on the top-spec Exceed AWD model and it’s clearly got an advantage in the segment. But numbers don’t always tell the full story, as our ‘Behind the Wheel’ portion will reveal.
“We’ve always found Mitsubishi interiors looked and felt rather cheap, even though they were solidly screwed together. For the Eclipse Cross, Mitsubishi has chucked away the vast majority of the old switches and stalks and started using much nicer plastics.” — WhatCar? UK
Motoring journos try to be objective but frankly, Mitsubishi interiors of old used to fill us with a sense of dread. They were cheap, plasticky, and bereft of style, with only a passing attempt to make things bearable by at least being ergonomically sensible. But Mitsubishi has improved leaps and bounds over the years, and the Eclipse Cross takes those improvements and elevates them to a whole new level.
We’d never have guessed that we’d one day liken the cabin of a Mitsubishi (a relatively-affordable one at that) to the interior of a Lexus, but we can do that here. There’s a Lexus-ness about the architecture, melding good ergonomics and adventurous design that makes it one of the prettiest cabins on the market. Though not quite as revolutionary as what was seen on the Toyota C-HR, the Eclipse Cross’ interior is at least not as dour as what you’d find on a Honda HR-V or even the Mitsubishi ASX.
Of course, this is a mass-market car and not a premium one, so some touchpoints let it down. The leather employed isn’t of the greatest grade and feels almost fake in some areas, while the use of black plastic could have perhaps been scaled down a touch. But altogether it all works. Space is at least well accounted for, with plenty of space for heads and legs up front and in the rear, though a middle-rear passenger may complain a bit (don’t they always). And if you’re taller than average, you might graze the rear ceiling.
Behind the back seats lies 341L of space, if you choose to maximise rear legroom, though you can expand that space to 448L if you slide the rear bench forwards. Drop them altogether for a trip to the furniture store and you’ve got 1122L of room with a cargo-space length of 1.4m. Downside? No full-size spare here, only a space saver, but we dare you to find something in this segment that has one of those (aside from the Subaru XV).
Behind The Wheel
“Mooching around towns or in gentle traffic, the CVT is smooth and sane. But floor it and it causes the engine to moan like a dying cow, abandoning correlation between speed and revs. For driving down twisty roads, it’s entirely critical to fix it in one of the eight virtual ratios via the paddles.” — TopGear
While Mitsubishi cabins might have once been woeful, at the same time, some of their cars delivered a peerless driving experience. During the era where they dominated rally cross, Mitsubishi cars were outstanding to drive, offering a degree of driver involvement that just wasn’t the norm in the mass market at the time.
But a few minutes in the Eclipse Cross and you’ll be reminded that those days are long gone.
It isn’t woeful, no. The little 1.5 is gutsy enough around town, and the CVT automatic does a good job at serving up the torque you want when you prod the throttle. On the motorway, that same auto becomes a friend, keeping revs low when you just want to bumble along quietly, enjoying the well-judged suspension and relative lack of wind noise. But jab the loud pedal and loud is all you get, as the automatic transmission dulls the sensation of building speed, and makes it almost unbearable with the sound of the engine protesting to being caned.
Be sensible, and the Eclipse Cross is sensible. Be a nutter and it’ll drive you up the wall.
What’s really odd is that while the overall experience up to this point might suggest that you absolutely need to take it easy in the Eclipse Cross, finding yourself in an Exceed AWD will see you able to really carve up corners. A caveat though, as you’ll need to manipulate the gearbox and its eight ‘fake’ gears to get the most out of it (good thing there are paddles).
With immense grip from the all-paw system and a CVT that imitates an 8-speeder rather well, the Eclipse Cross can be pretty fun to throw around. There’s surprisingly little body roll and the steering wheel is about as direct as most of its competitors, and while it might not be as fun as a hot hatch to whack up a mountain road, it’s not half bad. And perhaps the best part is that when you’re tired of doing that (or you’ve reached the end of said mountain road), the Eclipse Cross is happy to just calmly cruise you back home comfortably and quietly (and relatively frugally).
Safety & Technology
“The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) has rated the ASX’s safety at its maximum five stars, most recently in December 2017.” — WhichCar
Mitsubishi’s done a fine job packing the Eclipse Cross for our market, because it offers a strong array of safety & convenience kit even in base LS models that it’s sure to be a strong proposition for both young families, empty-nesters, and young’uns alike. Base LS cars come with things like AEB and lane departure warning, all-round parking sensors, and a reversing camera, as well as 7-airbags should a collision be unavoidable. It even has automatic headlights and wipers, which isn’t bad for something in this segment.
Further, all cars get 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment screens, hooked up to 6-speakers and fitted with smartphone mirroring. The former might not be a safety thing but the latter certainly is as you can get your phone’s navigation up on the big screen where it’s easier to see, something you’ll need to do in LS cars as they don’t get satellite navigation.
Move up to Exceed models and you add on kit like adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, lane-change assist, and even rear cross-traffic alert. The headlights get updated to LEDs and the rear view mirror gains a dimming function to reduce glare at night. And if you go the whole hog, you get ‘Super All Wheel Control’ with the Exceed AWD, which is like a hyper-reactive torque vectoring system which ultimately ensures that the car will maintain the driveline you desire even in more difficult conditions.
The Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, in isolation, is a pretty kickass kinda car. It’s sharply styled, it has a cracker of an engine, it offers all-wheel drive (which is nice even if it’s not really needed), and it has a practical yet stylish cabin. It’s pretty much got everything you’d want out of a cool, compact SUV.
But put it against its peers and you realise that the Eclipse Cross is merely following segment norms. Most here have AEB and standout styling and a sunroof. All-wheel drive is less prevalent but that’s understandable given that most of these cars rarely stray too far from town anyway.
The Eclipse Cross has put on a respectable showing, no doubt. We’ve waited a long time for Mitsubishi to put out something as good as the Eclipse Cross because quite a number of us have known that the company is entirely capable of doing so. It’s just not markedly better than the competition.
If you’re drawing straws, perhaps the baby Mitsubishi wins a couple of points with its turbocharged petrol engine, which makes it feel punchy in town and comfortable on the motorway. But the Renault Captur has a (slightly less gutsy) petrol mill too, and the Honda HR-V has a bigger atmo mill instead.
As we said earlier, because of the way this segment has carved itself out to be, Mitsubishi’s attempt to stand out has resulted it the Eclipse Cross getting lost in a sea of other compact crossovers that also carry the burden of helping their respective manufacturers stand out. While bigger Mitsus like the Triton & Outlander are markedly different from their competitors, the Eclipse Cross is just more of the same.
Does that make it a bad car? Absolutely not. It’s comfy, and stylish, and practical, and reliable. It’s just that so is every other crossover in the compact segment. If you must get one though, if you’re won over by that kabuki-mask of a fascia, we’d suggest getting an Exceed because it really ticks all the boxes for a relatively-small premium over the LS. As for the all-wheel drive model, we’d recommend that only if you do lots of miles as you never know when on a long-haul drive you might need a little more grip.
WhichCar — 4.0/5.0 — “The Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross bridges the gap between the ASX and Outlander. It has a stylish, roomy cabin and decent standard equipment list that includes automatic emergency braking. All versions feature Mitsubishi’s latest infotainment package, and a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine, coupled with a CVT automatic gearbox, with a choice of front- and all-wheel drive.”
Motoring — 78/100 — “With little to separate the pair in terms of size and price, the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross will face cross-shopping against its smaller sibling, the uber-popular ASX – as well as strong-selling Japanese rivals that include the Honda HR-V and Nissan Qashqai. But we reckon that style will help the Eclipse Cross’ prospects.”
TopGear — 7.0/10 — “A comfy, versatile crossover that looks distinctive enough to be recognisable in this crowded market. Better to drive than the first impression suggests, but in the 4x4 you’ve got to fight your way past an obstructive CVT.”
CarsGuide — 7.6/10 — “If the hugely-popular Mazda CX-5 barely fits your family’s needs, why would you ever go smaller? Because you can, with the new segment-splitting Eclipse Cross reminding us that practicality and overall size aren’t directly proportional.”
WhatCar? UK — 2.0/5.0 — “The Eclipse Cross is a real step forward for Mitsubishi, but it’s unlikely to trouble the best in class.”
Autocar, UK — 3.0/5.0 — “The Eclipse Cross is punchy, bold-looking and capable, but dynamically unsophisticated.”
AutoExpress, UK — 3.0/5.0 — “Mitsubishi’s Eclipse Cross is a big step forwards for the brand and worth a second look, even if it does fall behind class leaders.”