Car reviews - Mitsubishi - Eclipse Cross - Exceed AWD
Standout styling, cabin presentation, packaging, powertrain smoothness, handling, performance, economy, warranty, features
Room for improvement
High pricing, gawky looks from some angles, Exceed’s firm-ish ride, Oz-spec’s downgraded performance on 91 RON
Mitsubishi delivers a compelling if expensive small SUV with the Eclipse Cross
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11 Jun 2018
MITSUBISHI is on the brink of small SUV domination with the Eclipse Cross – a striking and capable alternative to the Nissan Qashqai that absolutely ticks most boxes with verve.
The only thing holding it back is unexpectedly high pricing, which sees the Japanese newcomer overlapping with larger rivals from the next class up.
To the diamond brand we say, please reconsider the positioning, because in Exceed AWD guise, this is an easy and likeable SUV.
Price and equipment
Throughout Mitsubishi’s part-glorious, part-frustrating history, it has followed European practice by not immediately replacing new with old.
So, for example, Sigma overlapped with the Magna. The same applies today, with the model designed to replace the ageing ASX, the Eclipse Cross. But why would Mitsubishi discontinue its overachieving cash cow, especially when the former vies with the Mazda CX-3 for small-SUV sales leadership?
Designed with an eye on European buyers, the newcomer has grown into a larger and more refined alternative to the Nissan Qashqai, though a tape measure will reveal that the ASX, Eclipse Cross and Outlander all share the same 2670mm wheelbase.
Fun fact. This also means all sit on the GS platform – an international co-op component set that debuted a dozen years ago, and must surely be one of the most widespread ever. Other subscribers include the Chrysler Sebring, Citroen C4 Aircross, Dodge Caliber, Dodge Magnum, Dodge Journey, Fiat Freemont, Jeep Patriot, Mitsubishi’s Delica MPV and Lancer, the Peugeot 4007 and Proton Inspira. Does anybody even remember most of these?
But wait. Before dismissing the Eclipse Cross as a tired ASX rehash, much work has been carried out to eradicate the noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) endemic in many of the aforementioned GS users.
For instance, attention has been paid to making the body as rigid as possible, with extra bracing for the front struts, cowl top, spring housing, rear roof and upper corner rails, and aided by significant high-strength tensile steel applications. More sophisticated shock absorbers are employed for the revised MacPherson strut-style front and multi-link rear ends, while NVH-isolating springs and damping material has also been deployed.
Pricing is a sticking point, as Mitsubishi has instead elected to slot the ASX underneath as the value leader, explaining the latter’s enduring popularity. A base ES will arrive shortly from about $27,000, but for now the cheapest Eclipse Cross starts at – ahem – $30,500 before on-road costs for the front-drive (2WD) LS. Forget the CX-3. That’s CX-5 Maxx money.
Standard equipment includes forward collision mitigation (including autonomous emergency braking), lane-departure warning, auto high beam and seven airbags, as well as climate-control air-conditioning, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, privacy glass, 7.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system with a nifty touchpad controller and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility, DAB+ digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity, two USB ports, leather-sheathed steering wheel/shift lever, electric park brake, keyless entry and push-button start and 18-inch alloys.
Our $38,500 (plus ORC) Exceed AWD features blind-spot warning, lane-change assist, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, surround-view monitor and a ‘mis-acceleration mitigation system’ that prevents accidental excessive throttle inputs while stationary or at low speeds, along with dual-zone climate control, a split-pane sunroof, head-up display, leather, powered driver’s seat, heated front seats and four-wheel drive offering selectable Auto, Snow and Gravel modes.
Strangely, though, embedded satellite navigation isn’t available.
While the Eclipse Cross’ striking exterior styling might be divisive, its interior look and layout is among the company’s best effort in decades.
Wide-opening doors front and rear really help with entry/egress, as does the high hip-point seating, on cushions that are nicely padded and supportive over longer distances. Forward and rear vision is fairly commanding, boosted by massive exterior mirrors, a split-glass tailgate and the 360-degree camera standard on the Exceed.
The handsomely layered dash is a bit of a treat, highlighted by brand-typical attention to detail as far as button and switch placements are concerned. The instrumentation dials would rival a Volkswagen’s for clarity, though buyers do need to step up to the Exceed for an auxiliary digital speedo, as this isn’t available in the LS.
A handsome leather wheel matches the rest of the dash with piano black gloss contrasting with the lashings of matte chrome elsewhere, and there’s a rich assortment of storage areas up front, including a huge double-decker glovebox.
There’s space aplenty for taller occupants’ legs and feet, helped out by a rear bench that divides and slides for added room, as well as backrests that recline for all passengers – 16-32 degrees via eight reclining steps, according to the press blurb, and that’s handy for loftier hairdos that might otherwise scrape the ceiling. Why don’t all SUVs do this?
On the other hand, for a $40K vehicle, we’d expect rear-seat air vents and USB outlets, while the centre-bench user has to put up with a roof-mounted three-point seatbelt. Fiddly. And the boot blind does much to cheapen the otherwise high-quality feel with its vocal creased flimsiness.
Depending on where the rear seats are positioned, cargo capacity varies from 341 litres to 448L, though at the latter setting, the rear seat legroom rating is at kid-in-grade-3 level. A space-saver spare wheel lives beneath the high floor, making it higher than expected, while there’s no cover for the gap that’s left when the rear seats are slid at their most forward position.
Still, the Eclipse Cross comes across as one of the roomier and more versatile small SUVs out there. That Mitsubishi does offer such a richly equipped version with AWD for under $40,000 means there’s now more choice for buyers who don’t necessarily want the bulk of a medium alternative.
Engine and transmission
The GS architecture might only be a comprehensive revamp, but the powertrain certainly is not.
Dubbed 4B40, Mitsubishi’s 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine makes its debut in the Eclipse Cross. Driving all four wheels via a continuously variable transmission (CVT), it has been detuned to run on standard 91 RON unleaded, delivering 110kW of power at 5500rpm and 250Nm of torque at 2000rpm. Euro-spec cars on premium juice manage 120kW, for a 0-100km/h sprint time is 9.8 seconds.
Despite the wick turned down a bit (as well as a 1555kg kerb weight), performance is one of the newcomer’s strong suits, with lively off-the-line acceleration and a hearty mid range for fairly brisk throttle response. The turbo’s contribution is instant and welcome. Relaxed open road refinement is another positive attribute; ASX owners could only dream of such peaceful progress.
Additionally, the Eclipse Cross’ CVT displays little of the lag or drone that such gearboxes are infamous for – it instead works away quietly unless the pedal is prodded hard. Despite the auto’s sequential gate and standard paddle shifters, drivers cannot hold a gear, rendering these quite pointless. Best just to leave the transmission in ‘D’.
Along with a lusty exhaust note and commendable smoothness, another upshot of downsizing to a turbo and CVT is low fuel consumption, with a 6.5L/100km combined average on offer. That’s still about half a litre worse than the Euro version, by the way, so maybe Mitsubishi should consider offering this expensive machine the stronger engine tune.
Australians ought to feel a bit ripped off over this. The lack of manual availability is also a wasted opportunity given how strident the 1.5 turbo is.
Ride and handling
Dynamics enthusiasts should find something to like in the way the Eclipse Cross corners and holds the road, thanks to a helm that walks a fine line between weight and response.
An electric rack and pinion system, there’s certainly enough response and feedback for the driver to feel connected, yet in tight parking situations, there’s ample manoeuvrability on offer, making the Mitsubishi seem agile and easy to place.
At speed, there’s little rack rattle, even over bumpy bits, and while lifting mid-turn can result in the tail tucking in a bit for a pleasing amount of play, the stability and traction overlords gently intervene to keep things from going pair-shaped.
However, there is a small price to pay for such athleticism, and that’s slightly firmer-than-expected suspension over larger speed humps. The wheel travel simply isn’t as long or loping as the current cushy class leader (Peugeot 2008). At least the Toyo Proxes R44 225/55R18s are pretty muted on the open road.
Like many of the better Mitsubishis, the Exceed AWD is a fast and surefooted performer, backed up by exceptional all-weather grip and strong brakes to boot.
Safety and servicing
The Eclipse Cross scores a five-star ANCAP crash-test rating, aided by its AEB and other safety features fitted as standard equipment.
The small SUV comes under Mitsubishi’s five-year/100,000km warranty, and requires servicing every 15,000km or 12 months. A capped pricing schedule is promoted on the company’s website, beginning at $300 for the first visit.
The more time we spent with the Eclipse Cross, the more we liked it, thanks to the appealing interior, spacious practicality, eager performance, involving dynamics and low running costs.
Not really putting a foot wrong as an overall package, it feels more than a generation ahead of the ASX, and is a fine all-rounder – something that almost no small SUV has been able to achieve.
Speaking of which, we’re also fans of the comparatively compact dimensions, that don’t really impact on interior space unless pitted directly against similarly priced wagon-like SUVs like the Honda CR-V and Holden Equinox.
Which brings up our biggest issue. For a small SUV, the Eclipse Cross’ pricing is dangerously close to larger alternatives, with the Exceed AWD shadowing the larger CX-5 Touring AWD.
As a result, we question Mitsubishi’s positioning strategy, particularly as sat-nav and rear air vents aren’t even offered at this level. Across the entire range, we expected the newcomer to be around 10 per cent cheaper.
Nevertheless, as perhaps the last true Mitsubishi before the next generation vehicles switch to shared Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance platforms, the Eclipse Cross is a likeable swansong. Just haggle hard and don’t pay over the odds for one.
Mazda CX-5 Touring AWD auto, from $38,590 plus on-road costs
Just updated with more power, Australia’s best selling SUV impresses with its looks, practicality, performance and dynamic panache, yet is also efficient and well kitted out. A bit more refinement and suspension suppleness would elevate the Mazda to premium status.
Toyota C-HR Koba AWD auto, from $35,290 plus on-road costs
Quirky to look at, involving to drive, and comfy to ride in, the C-HR has spunk and personality to go with its accomplished and smooth dynamics. A bit more oomph would be appreciated, and it isn’t cheap, but Toyota can’t sell enough and we can understand why.
Nissan Qashqai Ti CVT 2WD, from $37,990 plus on-road costs
Not all-wheel drive, the Qashqai nevertheless provides another well-sized ‘in-between’ alternative, with good looks, comfy seats and driving ease all big selling points. But the 2.0-litre engine feels dated and sluggish in this company.
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