Fast looks but this SUV fails to live up to the exterior hype
Listening to criticism can be a difficult experience.
Some relish the opportunity to get better, others find it all too confronting. Mitsubishi’s futuristic-looking Eclipse Cross wasn’t panned, but neither was it embraced.
Designers and engineers listened and have made some pivotal changes to the SUV. Models released since December have greater proportions, a bigger boot and improved infotainment.
Nothing has changed under the skin, but engineers have tweaked the performance.
Base model pricing starts from $30,490 drive-away, although for improved safety and all-wheel drive you have to dig deeper into the pocket and from $36,990 there is the LS version which is under our microscope.
Futuristic external lines pointed to a design revolution when the Eclipse Cross was first launched here in 2017.
Open the doors and it’s trademark Mitsubishi. Strong equipment levels were a key selling point from day one, and standard is an eight-inch touchscreen with smartphone mirroring apps Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 18-inch two-tone alloys, climate controlled aircon and paddle shifters on the steering wheel.
LS variants pick up all-wheel drive, push-button start with a smart key, leather-wrapped steering wheel and a six-speaker stereo.
The headline value act for Mitsubishi is a 10-year or 200,000km warranty. That’s the best you can get with the likes of Kia, MG and SsangYong offering seven years. But there is a catch — you have to maintain servicing with a Mitsubishi dealer otherwise the warranty is halved.
Services are required annually or every 15,000km, with capped price servicing available for 10 years. The first five maintenance visits are $299 each which is at the lower end of the cost scale. The average price over the decade is $379.
Palette options are two shades of white, red, blue, silver, grey and black. Metallic and pearlescents cost $740 extra, while prestige paint is $940.
All 2021 models have a single rear window design (rather than a split set-up with a quirky spoiler in the middle) and a bolder shield bumper design with LED headlamps.
Being one rung up from the base model ES (which only comes with autonomous emergency braking to help avoid frontal collisions), the LS has some key extra features. Among the upgrades are a lane departure warning system which beeps at the driver if they wander close to painted lines without indicating, rear parking sensors and automatic high beam to avoid blinding oncoming traffic.
The best kit, inclusive of adaptive cruise control to maintain preset distances from other vehicles, blind spot warning, lane change assist that can actually help steer in highway conditions and a 360-degree camera view, is on Aspire and Exceed models. The Aspire is $500 cheaper if you settle for front-wheel drive, but to get all that kit and have all-wheel drive the on-road price rises to $43,990.
Among the criticisms of the previous model were the positioning of the touchscreen and the Lexus-like touchpad controller near the gearstick. Thankfully, both have been addressed.
The touchscreen is now closer to the driver for easier access and finding your way through the various menus is simple and fast. Using the smartphone apps provides a modern edge to a system which ultimately feels and looks dated in its basic guise.
Mitsubishi recognised its touchpad was useless and removed it completely … if only Lexus would do the same.
New models also come with greater proportions and the Eclipse Cross becomes a genuine family hauler. Longer by 140mm, the boot space has expanded more than 60 litres while rear legroom has also improved.
Functionally everything works well, with dual cupholders in the console, allocations for bottles in each door, and storage locations in front of the shifter as well as the console.
Two USB inputs are available upfront, although rear passengers miss out and they also have no aircon vents. Absent from the boot is a 12-volt plug — there is just one in the console.
Small furniture and sporting equipment can be handled courtesy of 60-40 folding rear seats.
Across the Eclipse Cross range it’s the same engine and gearbox combination, a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo which has unchanged performance attributes of 110kW and 250Nm.
Engineers worked on the benign steering feel and handling characteristics, and the result is a mild improvement.
While smooth and confident with easy acceleration inputs, the Eclipse Cross is a cruiser and isn’t a sporty performer like the external design indicates.
The LS boasts all-wheel drive and uses a combination of electronically controlled systems to regulate braking and torque. In the main it all works cohesively, although ask too much of the engine and the continuously variable transmission slurs and battles to keep up with driver expectations.
Changes of direction has the cabin rocking with reasonable lean in the bends if pushed hard, although on the highway or around town the Eclipse Cross feels well-planted and assured.
Yet the exterior lines garner more excitement than the SUV delivers.
Plug-in hybrid variants have been launched in Japan with an all-electric range of 57.3 km, and it’s hoped they will reach Australia later this year. Our experience in the Outlander PHEV has been positive, and this could literally provide the spark that will provide the extra pizzazz for the Eclipse Cross.
Peace of mind comes via Japanese build quality and a decade-long warranty. The design will never get old during its tenure.
Hatchbacks, sedan and wagons are old-school, this is a cutting-edge SUV that isn’t boxy or boring.
Mazda CX-30 G25 Touring $43,010 D/A
Hefty step up in price with all-wheel drive. More elegantly designed than rivals, while cabin style and finish are a cut above. It drives with finesse, with a 139kW/252Nm 2.5-litre 4-cyl. Its 6.8L/100km return is good.
Skoda Kamiq Monte Carlo $36,990 D/A
Leading the segment for dynamics, this variant has arrived boasting a long list of extras over the base model. While only available in two-wheel drive, it’s powered by a 85kW/200Nm 1.0-litre 3-cyl turbo, with a solid safety list but only a five-year warranty and consumption of 5.1L
While the looks are special, the driving experience remains mediocre. The Eclipse Cross is capable and smooth with welcome improvements, but we’ll have to wait for the PHEV to add some extra firepower.
AT A GLANCE
Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross LS
PRICE $36,990 drive-away (alluring SUV deal)
WARRANTY 10yr 200,000km w’ty (best); $1495 5yrs (cheap)
ENGINE 1.5-litre 4-cyl turbo, 110kW/250Nm (servicable)
SAFETY 5 stars (2017 test), 7 airbags, AEB, lane departure warning, auto high beam, rear park sensors (underdone)
THIRST 7.7L/100km (7,4L on test)
SPARE Space-saver (now par)
BOOT 405L/1172L (improved)