Mid-range response; safety & equipment; rear-seat flexibility; AWD option
Not quick; mute steering; high-speed damping; axle tramp on dirt
NO ONE ever said mediocrity had to be an impediment to prosperity. Well, at least no one at Mitsubishi ever said it. Thereís not a standout performer in Mitsuís now-eightstrong model range, yet the company finished 2017 in fifth position on the sales chart, much to the chagrin of sixth-placed Ford.
All of which bodes well for Mitsuís latest addition to its SUV line-up. The Eclipse Cross squeezes between the ASX and Outlander; a pricier, more designled alternative to the former; more compact and affordable than the latter. Itís no gifted athlete, but it does get enough of the fundamentals right and has sufficient showroom sheen to elevate it above mediocrity.
The line-up is contained to just three variants sharing the new 1.5-litre turbo four and CVT with eight ratio steps.
The Eclipse Cross lands early scoring shots for design, packaging and presentation. The coupe-esque profile and slightly sloping roofline doesnít unduly compromise rear headroom, while the rear bench slides fore and aft by 200mm and offers useful backrest rake adjustment. Up front, the seats are supportive, storage is well considered, and the instruments clean and attractive.
More credits quickly amass when sampling the engine for the first time in urban driving. This is Mitsuís debut installation of the new 1.5 turbo, and itís a decent little unit. The tune sensibly favours torque, rather than power, so it boosts up early, delivers a mostly satisfying swell in the mid-range, and remains unobtrusive until wrung past 5500rpm. The target market wonít go there, and neither did we, much, as power trails off quickly in the last 500rpm before the 6000rpm redline.
As for the CVT, itís less objectionable than most of the other hamster-wheels that populate this class. It doesnít banish the slippy, droning syndrome in the upper mid-range, but it does at least allow you to take instant control via a pair of column-mounted paddles, and the eight Ďratioí steps go some way to mimicking a conventional auto in its manual mode. The ratio spread is useful, too, with the tall end dropping revs to 2000rpm at the freeway limit, making for unstressed cruising.
Claimed consumption is 7.3L/100km; we saw an indicated 10.8 over 500km of fairly vigorous driving. Overall, itís a powertrain that easily has the measure of the atmo offerings in rivals such as the Nissan Qashqai and Honda HR-V.
Dynamics are less of a clearcut thumbs-up. The steering has an on-centre softness and vacancy clearly aimed at drivers who want their SUV to feel sneezeproof at the straight-ahead, but the result is a fairly lifeless wheel that needs a crank of lock before providing any sense of connection.
The chassis tune favours urban ride comfort, which is welcome, but the downside is significant roll into roundabouts, and high-speed damping that impersonates a bed salesman demonstrating partner disturbance on a budget Sealy.
But will buyers know Ö or care? Of course not. The equipment level, even at the LS entry point, is high, the safety story strong in Exceed, the connectivity boxes ticked. Teamed with the rakish, slightly blinged-íní-creased styling, the requisite elevated driving position and the option of all-wheel drive for a reasonable premium, and itís quickly evident thereís nothing mediocre or ill-considered about Mitsubishiís business plan.
Rear seats are adequate for three teens, with reasonable head and leg room. Plus, three heads back there may distract you from the fact that the rear vision is compromised by the split-glass design of the tailgate.
Trackpad provides control of the multimedia system if you prefer not to poke at the touchscreen. We prefer to poke at the touchscreen, although frontseat passengers may wish for a conventional volume knob.
Luggage space can be increased from 341 to 448L by using the rear seatís 200mm of fore/aft sliding travel. Seat back is split 60/40; folds nearly flat, while a space saver spare hides under the boot floor.
Entry point to the threemodel Eclipse Cross range is the front-drive LS, which includes 18s, AEB, lane-departure warning, auto high beam, wipers and headlights, and DAB radio for $30,500. The mid-spec Exceed (also front-drive) adds dual-zone climate, leather, heated and powered front seats, head-up display, LEDs and a safety suite, for $36,000. The range-topping Exceed AWD asks another $2500 over this for the addition of all-wheel drive and a threemode terrain selector.
Hyundai Kona Elite AWD $32,000
Packs a noticeable performance advantage over Eclipse Cross thanks to option of boostier 1.6 turbo. Also provides AWD for less money, if you need that. But refinement levels are lower, and the cabin feels less upmarket.
Toyota C-HR AWD $30,990
Here the performance pendulum swings the other way: C-HR is less powerful and slower than the Mitsu, and slightly smaller, with inferior rear-seat accommodation. But it counters with greater refinement and a persuasive value equation.