If you're looking for a Qashqai-class family SUV but want something a little different, Mitsubishi's Eclipse Cross offers an interesting alternative. Jonathan Crouch reports.
The Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross is easily the most class-competitive SUV that Mitsubishi makes. Stand-out styling, an efficient 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine and plush equipment levels are all strong points. Enough to make you look beyond the Qashqai and SEAT Ateca models that rule the mid-size volume-branded Crossover class? Quite possibly.
Many of the volume makers are pretty committed to SUVs these days, but Mitsubishi is a brand even more focused on this genre than most. Apart from the rare Mirage Juro citycar, every model in its line-up is an SUV, with none of them more important than the contender we're going to look at here, the Eclipse Cross. This was the last design that Mitsubishi engineered before it was enveloped by the Renault Nissan Alliance, which means that very probably, it will be remembered as the last car the Japanese brand developed entirely on its own. It's certainly an important model, pitched directly into the Qashqai class of family hatchback-based SUVs that have been primarily responsible for driving sales of this genre.
For the time being, there's just a single engine option, an all-new 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol unit developing 163hp and 250Nm of torque which will be available with a six-speed manual gearbox or CVT automatic transmission with a Sport mode, manual override and paddle shifters. CVT boxes end to be a bit jerky, but Mitsubishi says it's worked hard in this case to combine the running cost benefits of belt-driven CVT technology with the smoothness and responsiveness of a traditional torque converter automatic. Four-wheel drive is an option further up the range, the AWD set-up incorporating the latest generation of Mitsubishi's Super All-wheel Control (S-AWC) system that offers a choice of three drive modes - Auto, Snow and Gravel. In standard auto mode, torque is split 80:20 front-to-rear, though up to 45% of drive can be sent backwards if a lack of traction demands it. Individual wheels can also be braked if slip is detected. This drivetrain will be standard on the 2.2-litre diesel-engined variant that Mitsubishi plans to launch late in 2018. As for performance, well the manual 2WD model makes 62mph from rest in 10.3s en route to 127mph flat out. The acceleration figure improves to 9.3s on the auto model, while for the 4WD auto variant, the readings are 9.8s and 124mph.
We like the styling of this Eclipse Cross - and think buyers will too. It's the work of the company's new design chief Tsunehiro Kunimoto and is certainly more distinctive than the Mitsubishi norm. The Japanese maker claims it's a 'radically new direction' for the genre, which may be over-stating things a bit. Still, the look is sleek and not too generic, particularly nice touches including the extended wheel arches and the split-rear screen. Inside, you're treated to what the brand describes as a 'cockpit-style driving environment'; it's certainly a lot nicer in terms of perceived quality than the interiors you'll find in a first generation ASX or Mitsubishi's more expensive Outlander model. That's just as well, considering the current prevailing class standard. The raked roof and narrow side glass impinge a little on rear visibility. At the back, rear seat passengers are treated to slide-and-recline adjustment for the 60:40 split rear seat; in fact, the rear seat back has eight different recline settings and the base has up to 200mm of travel. The boot is wide but shallow, and will only take 341-litres of luggage, which is a little below the class standard. Still, it'll probably be sufficient for most likely owners.
As you'd expect, prices are class-competitive, though Mitsubishi hasn't made any attempt to offer a really basic version priced against entry-level derivatives of segment leaders like the Nissan Qashqai or the SEAT Ateca. So for potential Eclipse Cross buyers, prices start at just over £21,000 for the entry-level '2'-spec variant. Most will want to find the £1,300 premium to get t mid-range '3' trim, at which point you'll be offered the opportunity of finding around £1,500 for automatic transmission - or around £2,800 r more automatic transmission and 4WD. There's also a plusher '4' level of trim. All Eclipse Cross variants are well specified, with even the entry-level '2' version offering niceties like a rear view camera, a DAB radio with six speakers, cruise control, climate control air conditioning, 16-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass and a 'Smartphone Display Audio' infotainment set-up that's compatible with the 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' smartphone mirroring systems. There's plenty of the latest camera-driven safety stuff as standard too, including Lane Departure Warning and a 'Forward Collision Mitigation' autonomous braking system that uses radar technology to detect a risk of collision. Seven airbags, dusk and rain sensors and automatic operation of the headlamps' dipped beam come as standard too.
Thanks to Mitsubishi's new engine technology, an Eclipse Cross costs barely any more to run than a 1.6-litre petrol version of the brand's smaller first generation ASX SUV model. To be specific, we're talking 42.8mpg and 151g/km of CO2 for the base 2WD manual petrol model, those figures changing to 42.2mpg and 154g/km if you choose the auto gearbox. Choose the top 4WD auto variant and the figures are 40.4mpg and 159g/km. There's a decent five year warranty, pre-paid servicing packs are available and residual values should be strong. As you'd expect in this day and age, there's a 12-year anti-perforation warranty. And three years of pan-European roadside assistance and homestart are included in the price.
The Eclipse Cross won't trouble premium-brand SUVs in this class but it's an interesting alternative to the volume-maker contenders in the sector. Stylish looks, strong levels of equipment, state-of-the-art safety provision and a long warranty will make this Crossover stand out in the showrooms - to the point where only those who need involving driving dynamics and a huge boot will dismiss it out of hand. In short, there's a lot of potential here. In the Qashqai-class, not everyone wants a Qashqai. Widen your shopping brief and include this contender; it'll represent an interesting alternative to the segment benchmark.
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