Car reviews - Mitsubishi - Eclipse Cross
Smooth and quiet on the move, ride comfort, nimble handling, cabin quality, decent up-front storage
Room for improvement
Safety tech is old-gen and not range-wide, tight rear headroom, no rear air vents, space saver spare tyre encroaches on boot, high fuel consumption
Mitsubishi goes to great lengths with thorough facelift of Eclipse Cross small SUV
4 Dec 2020
MID-LIFECYCLE vehicle updates tend to involve redesigned front and rear bumpers, changes to headlights and tail-lights, and an interior refresh usually involving a step up in onboard technology and equipment.
But after three years on the market, Mitsubishi has gone to town on its Eclipse Cross small SUV, increasing its length by a substantial 14 centimetres – now a true segment-straddler as it is longer than some medium SUVs – as well as overhauling the rear end by ditching the split rear windscreen.
More conventionally there is a front-end makeover and revised interior, but as facelifts go, this is about as comprehensive as they come.
The Eclipse Cross was already a good car – If you could live with the looks – and we are pleased to report that Mitsubishi has made it even better.
First Drive Impressions
Since the Eclipse Cross launched three years ago, a proliferation of distinctive-looking new competitors has perhaps softened the impact of this Mitsubishi’s edgy coupe-like styling.
To our eyes, the changes wrought in this update have given the model a more mature and resolved appearance, probably helped by an improvement in proportions yielded by its 140mm increase in overall length.
It is unusual for cars to change so dramatically in size without going through a full model redesign – restyled bumpers can add or remove a couple of millimetres here or there usually – but the revised Eclipse Cross has gone from being a 75mm shorter than a Hyundai Tucson – which occupies the smaller end of Australia’s medium SUV segment – to being 65mm longer.
Truly practical players in the small SUV segment are rare and buyers would usually be better off with a small hatch. Rivals with a usable balance of interior and boot space include the Honda HR-V, Kia Seltos, Nissan Qashqai and its Renault Kadjar twin while others tend to have good rear legroom but a tiny boot, a big boot but little legroom or a small boot and no legroom.
We suspect the reason the Eclipse Cross has remained in the small SUV segment comes down to width. At just 1805mm across it is a smidge narrower than its properly small SUV sibling, the ASX, and packs 45mm less girth than the Tucson.
Overall, we are pleased to report that Mitsubishi has convincingly improved what was already a good car for those who didn’t mind how it looked.
Starting from the front of the cabin, a new 8.0-inch touchscreen is better in both size and operation. Mitsubishi has also sensibly decluttered the centre console by ditching the poorly executed trackpad style controller and moving the touchscreen so it is easier for the driver to reach.
Unless you get the top-spec Exceed there is no sat-nav but the basic functionality is good, it is responsive enough and most owners will probably use the Apple CarPlay or Android Auto smartphone integration for all their media and mapping needs.
Once adjusted to the brightest setting to combat Australia’s harsh sunlight, image quality is clear and crisp and the reversing camera image usefully fills the display – although remains a little low-res with only static guidance lines. Even on the second-lowest trim level we drove, audio quality from the six-speaker stereo is decent (for reference the base ES has just four speakers while the Aspire and Exceed get a 510W setup with heaps of speakers).
With more and more models including the full suite of active safety and driver assistance technologies from base variant up – else fail to get five ANCAP stars – it is a shame Mitsubishi has exploited the lack or requirement to re-test the Eclipse Cross by making buyers choose a more expensive version to get it all.
The lane departure warning and forward collision mitigation tech on our LS test model did feel a couple of generations old, too, and the auto emergency brake deployed for a harmless cloud of dust on the motorway during our time with the car.
It’s also a shame there is still no digital speedometer – you need the Exceed’s head-up display for that – and the instrument panel is pretty old-school in general but the rest of the forward cabin feels modern, uncluttered and attractive.
Several rivals are disappointingly drab in this regard, so Mitsubishi earns points for going the extra mile. We didn’t mind the look or feel of upholstery used in this lower-spec Eclipse Cross either.
There is a sense of solidity about the cabin and even on the LS we drove, most touchpoints for front occupants have a pleasant surface free of cheap-feeling plastics. Most controls are logically laid out and inoffensive to use, echoing the pleasant smoothness and consistent control weights of the steering, pedals and gear selector.
Storage up front is excellent, too, with a large two-tiered glovebox and beneath the armrest, a deep centre console bin with felt-lined sunglasses tray that won’t scratch your lenses. Door bins are massive and will hold your chunky refillable drinks container plus plenty more besides, while the central cup-holders are suitable for anything from a small latte to a jumbo slurpee.
Talking of jumbo, unless your smartphone is massive there is plenty of room for a pair of devices in the tray beside the two USB and 12V power outlets directly below the air-conditioning controls. It is great to see automatic climate control available range-wide, with the top two trim levels featuring dual-zone climate systems that help keep the divorce lawyers at bay.
Seating and steering wheel provide enough adjustment to find a comfortable driving position – although the non-adjustable tilt of the LS we drove meant the thigh support dropped away slightly abruptly – and considering the coupe-style shape with upswept window line, outward visibility is surprisingly good.
In the rear seats, the Eclipse Cross’s lack of width is most noticeable for only those with a seriously compact pelvis would consider occupying the central seat due to the proximity and position of the seatbelt buckles.
Located flush with the seat cushion and only able to be raised a couple of centimetres proud of it, there is no flexibility to adjust the angle of rear seatbelt buckles around the body of occupants, with painful results.
Yes, we bruised our buttocks finding this out, so that you don’t have to. And our other main gripes also occupy the rear seat of the Eclipse Cross.
Despite all the changes there are still no air vents back there and there is just a single old-fashioned 12V power outlet for rear passengers instead of USB. The coupe-like roofline restricts headroom for taller passengers, although the vast amount of recline adjustment should be enough to address this for those who don’t mind travelling in a laid-back position.
Echoing the drop in materials quality compared with up front, storage for rear passengers is also a bit basic, with bottle-only door bins and a couple of cup-holders in the central armrest plus one map pocket behind the front passenger, unless you get the top-spec Exceed variant that has them on both front seats.
Also, it is a shame to see the split-sliding second row has been removed for this update. Yes, there is less reason to compromise legroom for boot space and vice versa now the car is longer, but the flexibility would still be handy for owners.
On the subject of boot space, the official cargo capacity of 405 litres matches the pre-update version’s maximum with the rear seats upright and slid all the way forwards. Not only that, but after filling it with bags we reckon the usable space is even bigger still, so that’s a win.
There is a quartet of fold-away tie-down points in the boot, one shopping bag hook and several ways to store the cargo blind when not in use. The thin carpet covering a raised carrier for the space-saver tyre feels a bit low rent, though.
We’re pleased to report that the Eclipse Cross driving experience is at least as good as ever. Mitsubishi has done such a done a great job of ride comfort, refinement and sound deadening that it shames a lot of more expensive cars.
The 1.5-litre turbo-petrol engine is quiet, smooth and flexible, making light work of urban and suburban hills while feeling relaxed at higher speeds. It is not fast but does the job and is well paired with the continuously variable automatic transmission which provides consistent and predictable power delivery for confidence pulling out of junctions or going for gaps in traffic.
If you ever need or want to – for example forcing some engine braking down steep hills – the transmission also delivers eight virtual stepped ratios when using the manual override on the gear selector or paddle shifters that look like those from Mitsubishi’s Lancer Evo X performance sedan. It is convincing enough to use and responses are admirably quick.
The drivetrain is a compelling reason to like the Eclipse Cross and we wonder why Mitsubishi doesn’t use it on more models, which make do with thrashy old-tech naturally aspirated engines.
Our LS-spec test vehicle with all-wheel drive had only 400km on its odometer so fuel consumption of more than 10 litres per 100km during our time with it was likely higher than a long-term real-world figure that owners would get. For reference, official combined-cycle consumption is 7.7L/100km for the variant tested, or 7.3L/100km for a front-drive version.
Along our gruelling chosen test route of neglected suburban streets, school run congestion, work-in-progress motorways and rough rural roads the Eclipse Cross truly impressed. Nothing we threw at it would fluster the suspension or steering, which along with the excellent quietness made this a serene car to drive.
But it is also quite good fun when you are in the mood. The steering is slick, responsive and predictable for enjoyable traffic dodging or making twisty road progress while the optional all-wheel-drive system fitted to our test car gave us great confidence when pulling out of junctions or pressing on through fast bends.
Grip is not huge when going into bends quickly and there is a little initial body-roll but the overall sense of control is impeccable and the Mitsubishi never got bounced off-line by mid-corner ruts or bumps.
The brake pedal feel is lovely and the brakes themselves are brilliantly confidence inspiring compared with the variously grabby, wooden and mushy stoppers usually found in this segment.
By using the Eclipse name and coupe-ish styling it is clear Mitsubishi wants people to think this is a sporty SUV. The outcome is a smooth, quiet, supple and comfortable daily driver that is also satisfying to drive with almost no dynamic disappointments – at least on the all-wheel-drive variant we tested.
Mitsubishi is cheating a bit on the practicality front with the sheer size of the Eclipse Cross but you are paying small SUV money for a car that rivals many medium SUVs not only on space but also big-car comfort and refinement, even on lower-spec variants such as the LS we drove.
We hope Mitsubishi can address the missed opportunities in terms of safety tech and rear ventilation on future Eclipse Cross updates but apart from that we found few downsides to the many updates.
A good car has been made meaningfully better – and bigger – in return for some modest price increases. Good job, Mitsubishi.
Model release date: 1 December 2020
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