Launching a new SUV that stands out from the crowd is no mean feat, and the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross is one such car. With its sporty coupe-like profile and unusual rear, complete with split-screen spoiler, there’s no mistaking it.
It’s a good car too, but I can’t help feeling that it could have made much more of an impact if things had been done differently.
Mitsubishi has chosen to go to market with just one engine for the Eclipse Cross – a 1.5-litre turbo petrol.
It’s a decent unit too, but there’s no diesel alternative, and more puzzlingly, no plug-in hybrid.
Diesels are in the doghouse at the moment, so I can kind of understand that, but not everyone has been put off and it’s still a large chunk of the market.
However, considering Mitsubishi has had such a success with the game-changing Outlander PHEV, the omission of a hybrid is surprising – especially when you consider the Eclipse Cross’s rivals.
Yes, it’s competing in one of the hottest sectors out there, so it will have the Nissan Qashqai, Seat Ateca, Mazda CX-5 and Kia Sportage (amongst others) firmly in its sights.
The good news is that the 163bhp four-cylinder is well up to the job. Unless you try to drive it like a hot hatch, it’s refined and responsive, and there’s plenty of mid-range torque.
You can choose between a six-speed manual gearbox (front-wheel drive versions only) or a CVT automatic. And don’t groan, because this is one of the best CVTs out there, offering ‘stepped’ ratios to make it feel like a regular automatic. Personally I’d go for the impressive CVT, because the manual isn’t the slickest box out there.
Depending on whether you choose a 4×4 version or front-wheel drive, or an automatic or manual, 0-62mph acceleration ranges from 9.3 seconds (2WD auto) to 10.3 seconds (2WD manual), while top speed is 124-127mph.
The only slight disappointment is the fuel economy, which is officially between 40.4mpg (4WD auto) and 42.8mpg (2WD manual). In the real world that means around 35mpg. CO2 emissions are 151-159g/km.
The ride is on the firm side, but it’s comfortable, and despite its height, the Eclipse Cross stays admirably flat when cornering at speed.
Inside, the driving position is high, so there’s good visibility – it’s just a shame about that horizontal bar right in your line of vision on the rear screen. The Hyundai Ioniq and Toyota Prius still persist with this design element, while thankfully Honda has scrapped it for the latest Civic.
The Eclipse Cross is well built and the interior is the best I’ve seen on a Mitsubishi. Not only does it look fresh, but it feels classy thanks to plenty of soft touch plastics. A clear 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen is standard across the three grades (2-4), though there is a top spec First Edition at launch, limited to 250 examples.
Apple and Android smartphone mirroring is possible, which is just as well because the system does not come with a built-in sat nav. Look to the right of the gear selector and there’s even an Audi-esque touch-pad controller which can be used to access the touchscreen functions.
There’s plenty of space for adults front and rear (though headroom at the rear is snug for taller people) and lots of storage space. There’s a slide-and-recline adjustment for the 60:40 split rear seat on all models for added comfort, while the luggage capacity in the boot ranges from 341 litres to 448 litres, depending on the position of the sliding rear sets. Flip them down and there’s 1,122 litres of space available.
Priced from £21,275 to £29,750, the Eclipse Cross is competitive and well equipped with tinted rear windows, cruise control, DAB radio, plus safety kit including automatic emergency braking (AEB) and lane departure warning, as standard.
Move up the trims and other goodies including front and rear parking sensors, keyless start, automatic headlights, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats and heated power-folding mirrors are available.
For me, the sweet spot in the range is the Eclipse Cross 3 Automatic 4WD at £25,530. Mitsubishi’s been making 4x4s since 1936, so it’s a capable car in more challenging conditions too, while that extra AWD traction is also very noticeable in normal driving conditions.
Awarded a maximum five stars in crash tests by Euro NCAP, it’s a safe option too, while a five-year (62,500-mile) warranty will give buyers that extra peace of mind.
Verdict: The Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross is a welcome addition to the highly competitive compact SUV sector. Stylish, safe, well built and offering an engaging drive, it should be on your shortlist if you’re looking for something a little different. Now Mitsubishi, bring on that PHEV version…