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Car reviews - Mitsubishi - Eclipse Cross

Our Opinion

We like
Solid standard features list, value for money, appealing cabin layout, sharp steering, ride quality
Room for improvement
Firm seats, average rear seat space, head-up display reflects on windscreen, no power tailgate

Gallery

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Mitsubishi logo30 Jan 2018

By TIM NICHOLSON

Overview

THE Eclipse Cross is the fifth SUV in Mitsubishi Australia’s line-up and it will neatly slot in between the slightly smaller ASX and the mid-size Outlander – vehicles with which it shares a platform.

Mitsubishi is pitching it against larger fare in the small SUV segment and smaller models in the mid-size SUV segment.

Bold styling, generous standard equipment levels and competent ride and handling qualities means it has a good chance of appealing to Aussie crossover buyers, but can it steal sales away from more established nameplates?

Drive impressions

The launch of the Eclipse Cross marks the end of an era, as well as a new beginning for Mitsubishi Motors.

It is almost certain to be the last model solely developed by Mitsubishi, given that any future models are likely to be joint developments or platform sharing arrangements with the company’s new owner, the French-Japanese giant, Renault-Nissan Alliance.

But it is also set to signal a renewal of sorts, acting as the catalyst for a rebranding for Mitsubishi Australia, according to the company’s local president and CEO John Signoriello.

The Eclipse Cross is also stepping into the hot small SUV segment and is being pitched as a rival for larger offerings such as the strong-selling Nissan Qashqai and the freshly launched Jeep Compass.

It will also have to compete with a model from Mitsubishi’s own stable – the mechanically related ASX that just happens to be the best selling model in its segment and the fourth best-selling SUV in Australia overall last year.

So no pressure then...

Fortunately for Mitsubishi, the Eclipse Cross is a different enough beast compared with the ASX to capture its own audience.

With its sharp edges, ‘Dynamic Shield’ front fascia, angled split tailgate and coupe-like silhouette, the Eclipse Cross certainly turns heads and looks less polarising in the metal than it did in those first press images from last year.

In saying that, it definitely won’t be to everyone’s taste.

For now the range starts at $30,500 (plus on-road costs) for the front-wheel-drive-only LS and moves up to the FWD Exceed for $36,000, before topping out at $38,500 for the all-wheel-drive Exceed.

Later this year the line-up will grow with the addition of a base ES variant but pricing hasn’t been confirmed. It is likely to come in under $30,000.

We spent a very brief stint behind the wheel of the LS, with most of our test drive spent in the Exceed AWD.

There is not a huge difference in the cabin of the LS compared with the flagship Exceed, but the latter replaces cloth trim with leather and a couple of buttons – including the Super All-Wheel Control button – are missing from the LS.

The Eclipse Cross cabin features lashings of brushed aluminium, piano black panels and soft-touch materials that all help to elevate the look and feel above that of the ASX.

Contrast stitching on the leather trim is a nice premium touch and the Eclipse Cross has a lovely new three-spoke leather steering wheel.

The seats are on the firm side, like many Japanese cars, but they are supportive and have the right amount of bolstering. The top-spec variant has a power-operated driver’s seat, but the passenger side is manual.

It has a well-designed and neat dashboard layout that is topped by a 7.0-inch touchscreen that’s simple to navigate. The screen is linked to a touchpad located to the right of the gear shifter that allows users to navigate the display screen menu with their fingers rather than reaching forward to touch the screen directly.

Given the frustrations we have experienced using a similar system in Lexus’ current crop of models, we were sceptical this would work well, but Mitsubishi’s version is much more user friendly and has the right amount of touch sensitivity.

The head-up display only offered in Exceed variants is handy, but it is one of those old school units with a pop-up plastic display and the whole unit reflects onto the inside of the windscreen at the driver’s line of sight. It’s not dangerous, but it’s annoying.

Visibility out the front and to the sides is excellent in the Eclipse Cross, and despite the unusual split glass tailgate, vision out the back is more than adequate.

A couple of misses for the SUV include no electric tailgate, even in the top-spec version, and a super annoying beeping noise when opening the tailgate when the engine is running. I am sure it is there for safety reasons but dial it down a bit Mitsubishi. The seatbelt warning chime was similarly grating.

Storage up front is ample, with a neat split glovebox, heaps of room in the central compartment and other nooks, while in the rear storage – map pockets on the seatbacks and bottle holders – is just adequate.

Still in the rear, there are no air vents, the seats are firm back there and the sunroof impacts headroom, but there is enough legroom and loads of toeroom.

Cargo space changes depending on the positioning of the second row. When the seats as in their regular position it is 341 litres, increasing to 448L when the seats are in a slightly forward position. If the second row is completely folded there’s space for 1122L of cargo.

Unusually this is lower than the ASX (393/1193L) even though the Eclipse Cross is 50mm longer, and well off the pace of the Nissan Qashqai (430/1585L).

However, the space is more than fine for daily use, and there’s plenty of room for a few big bags or cases.

One key difference between the Eclipse Cross and its mechanically related ASX sibling is the powertrain. The new model benefits from an all-new 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol unit pumping out 110kW at 5500rpm and 250Nm at 1800rpm.

Its power matches the 2.0-litre naturally aspirated unit in the ASX but torque is up 53Nm, and it is punchier than the Qashqai’s 106kW/200Nm 2.0-litre petrol engine.

The new Mitsubishi engine is not exactly a firecracker from a standing start, with the turbocharger and continuously-variable transmission combining for a bit of initial lag when accelerating.

However, once up and running, there is a decent well of torque for overtaking in a hurry, which we had to do a few times to get in front of some leisurely drivers on our trek down to the southernmost tip of Tasmania.

The engine noticeably loses power when encountering even a slight incline, so best to keep that foot on the accelerator, or engage cruise control.

The CVT does not drone as much as other units, including the one on the Qashqai, which is hopefully a sign that car companies are finally putting effort into making these transmissions more appealing.

While initially feeling a touch top heavy, the Eclipse Cross proved to be a fun car to drive on twisty roads.

While some bodyroll was evident, it handled sweeping bends and tighter turns admirably, which could have been helped by the Super All-Wheel Control four-wheel-drive system.

This system improved traction on a particularly unpleasant section of unsealed road – about 20kms worth – when we switched to the ‘Gravel’ setting from ‘Auto’. A short stint on a sandy road also failed to undo the Eclipse Cross, with no slipping or sliding.

The suspension tune is geared for a sportier ride, but the spring and damper settings make for a comfortable overall ride experience, even on corrugated roads.

The electric power steering is on the sensitive side, but is sharp and direct and the lighter feel is more appealing than some unnaturally heavy units in other cars.

Road noise is evident, but noise insulation measures make for a generally quiet cabin.

Overall, the drive experience is on the sporty side, while maintaining a focus on comfort.

The Eclipse Cross feels far more sophisticated than its ageing ASX sibling and takes the fight right up to the Qashqai, which has recently benefited from a mid-life facelift that improves what was already an impressive crossover.

Mitsubishi has the ingredients right for the Eclipse Cross. Bold and unique styling? Check. Lots of standard gear and up-to-date technology features? It’s got them. Value for money and a comfortable and useable cabin? Yep. An engaging drive experience? Absolutely.

It is a new nameplate in a very busy segment and trying to distract buyers from the likes of the Qashqai, not to mention the other impressive offerings, and its own stablemate, might be a challenge.

But Mitsubishi has been here before. It wasn’t that long ago that the ASX was an unknown and now it is the top-selling small SUV in Australia.

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