What’s in a name? So much. I’m actually a tiny bit put off by Eclipse Cross, the name Mitsubishi is using for its new compact crossover SUV. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the two words chosen, unlike when Buick named one of their mid-size sedans after Canada’s national game that actually had another somewhat raunchy colloquial meaning in French, but it sends my mind back to a better (automotive) time when personal 2+2 sports coupes like the Japanese brand’s own Eclipse, Honda’s Prelude, Nissan’s 240SX, and Toyota’s Celica, amongst myriad others, were what many of us longed to cruise the strip in on Friday and Saturday nights before autocrossing on Sundays, but now all of these low-riding, two-door hardtops are gone, leaving us with a glut of two-box sport utilities.
A few of these car-based crossovers are slightly more unusual, however, making this mostly practical market sector more intriguing than it might otherwise be, with the edgy new Eclipse Cross top of this category’s list of orthodox heretics. It’s a particularly good choice for buyers not requiring all of the Outlander’s cargo capacity yet wanting more get-up-and-go than an RVR, plus its sporty SUV-coupe design pulls some of the premium pizazz down from luxury juggernauts like BMW and Mercedes-Benz that offer similarly sized variants in their X4 and GLC Coupe models respectively. I’m not trying to say this commoner’s shuttle somehow measures up to such lofty Europeans, but it’s got a strut all its own and therefore deserves a level of respect for going its own way in a compact SUV class that’s more often than not safer than safe.
Most brands that choose to get their funk on turn to the smallest subcompact SUV category to do so, where Mitsubishi pits its comparatively conservative RVR against more unusual entries such as the Kia Soul and Toyota C-HR (Nissan’s Juke, and before that the Cube, which was the oddest of them all, laid to rest a number of years ago, the latter replaced by the more mainstream Kicks), while, size aside, the Mazda CX-3 is closer to the Eclipse Cross as far as consumer acceptability and sporty driving dynamics go, but the larger Mitsu is the only SUV-coupe in its bigger compact segment.
The Eclipse Cross reaches 4,405 mm (173.4 in) from nose to tail, with a 2,670 mm (105.1 in) wheelbase, while it stretches 1,805 mm (71.1 in) wide and stands 1,685 mm (66.3 in) tall. This makes its wheelbase identical to the brand’s Outlander that in fact measures 290 mm (11.4 in) longer overall, while its width is a mere 5 mm (0.2 in) thinner and height 25 mm (1.0 in) lower to the ground. This means it’s about the same size as the Outlander other than length, which combined with its sloped rear roof section, makes for a much more exciting looking SUV.
As for styling, the Eclipse Cross wears Mitsubishi’s bold new “Dynamic Shield” design language rather well, better in my opinion than any other model in the lineup, other than the new 2020 RVR that takes this look to new heights. The drama continues around both sides where sculpted cutlines emerge about a third of the way through the front doors before slicing through the handles and meeting up with the lower edge of an even more enticing combination of LED tail lamps, these visually tied together by a narrow strip of lighting that separates two panes of back glass in similitude to Honda’s 2nd-generation (1988-1991) CRX or more recent (2011–2016) CR-Z, plus the Japanese brand’s defunct mid-size (2010–2015) Crosstour, although these three Hondas never included the Eclipse Cross’s light strip. Additional body sculpting along the rocker panels bends upward before rounding the rear fenders, these matching the Eclipse Cross’s muscular front fender design with a slight nod to the past (2004–2011) Endeavor mid-size crossover SUV, a long-term tester I had the pleasure of living with for more than a few months way back when.
Framed behind a sharp looking set of standard 18-inch alloy rims on 225/55 all-season rubber is a fully independent MacPherson strut front suspension and multi-link rear setup incorporating stabilizer bars at each end, all of which combines for ample grip to keep its 1.5-litre turbo-four in control. The diminutive engine, good for 152 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, sends its output through an innovative continuously variable transmission (CVT) complete with eight forward gears, or should I say simulated gears, shiftable via two of the best magnesium column-mounted paddles in the business.
Why the best? Unlike most anything else in the entire industry, these longer than average paddle shifters are fixed to the steering column rather than the steering wheel, exactly like with the fabulous Evo X MR (RIP) and plenty of other Mitsubishi models, allowing accurate upshifts and downshifts even when the wheel is being turned.
This Eclipse Cross GT moved along well when pushed hard, feeling more energetic than its horsepower rating led on, without doubt due to its sizeable torque figure. Steering effort was firmer than most other compact SUVs I’ve driven, although light enough for easy daily use, while its ride quality was a bit more rigid, yet never uncomfortable. Its firm stance helped amid tight twisting curves, the Eclipse Cross feeling rock solid when getting aggressive, but this said I wouldn’t have thought it would be as good as it is when running errands around town or otherwise driving normally, as the powertrain responds like it’s in eco mode even when it’s not. Yes, you can still press the green “Eco Mode” button on the centre console if you want an even more relaxed experience, plus the fuel savings to go with it.
Unfortunately there’s no Sport mode, my right foot on the go-pedal the only way to extract all of the engine’s energy, and even with those aforementioned shift paddles the CVT isn’t the sportiest of transmissions (I’m being nice). It’s smooth, however, and therefore just what most buyers in this compact SUV class want, plus it’s very effective at moving this little utility down the road quickly while using as little gas as possible.
In the wet, much of the Eclipse Cross’s straight-line speed and cornering capability is directly due to its standard Super All-Wheel Control, those four words collectively designated to Mitsubishi’s all-wheel drive system, which is an advanced torque-vectoring AWD honed from decades of rally car racing. True, it’s difficult to accept that this “performance” SUV is now the sportiest model in Mitsubishi’s once very racy lineup that previously offered the superb Evo X noted earlier, an all-wheel drive super compact that easily out-handled the Subaru WRX STI of the era, but Mitsubishi’s focus has changed now, with practical SUVs front and centre, one of which is a plug-in electric that’s giving it a good green image if not much in the way of profits.
Rather than cry over the Evo’s demise, it’s probably best to praise Mitsubishi for the Eclipse Cross’s fuel-efficiency. It’s rated at 9.6 L/100km city, 8.9 highway and 8.3 combined, which is good when compared to the segment-sales-leading Toyota RAV4 that can only manage 10.5 city, 8.3 highway and 9.5 combined, although it’s not quite as stingy on gas as the Honda CR-V’s estimated rating of 8.7 city, 7.2 highway and 8.0 combined.
The previously noted turbocharged four-cylinder and CVT combination is identical no matter which of its three trim lines gets chosen (not including special editions), but like usual in this business Mitsubishi provided my Eclipse Cross tester in top-tier GT trim so I could experience all of its available goodies. This model hits the road for $35,998 plus freight and fees (check right here on CarCostCanada for all the pricing details, including dealer invoice pricing and rebate info that could save you thousands), and came well equipped with LED headlights, a head-up display unit, a multi-view rearview camera with active guidelines, an excellent 710-watt Rockford Fosgate Punch audio system featuring nine speakers including a 10-inch sub, a heated steering wheel, two-way heatable rear outboard seats, leather upholstery, a six-way power driver’s seat, a two-pane panoramic glass sunroof, plus more.
This top-line GT also boasts everything from the mid-range SE trim’s available Tech Package, including auto high beams, adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation with pedestrian warning, lane departure warning, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with an integrated universal garage door remote, roof rails, and a stylish silver-painted lower door garnish.
Items grandfathered up to GT trim from the just-noted SE include those paddle shifters mentioned earlier, plus proximity keyless entry and pushbutton start/stop, an electric parking brake (the base model uses a classic handbrake), a leather-clad steering wheel rim and shift knob, automatic headlamps, rain-sensing windshield wipers, two-zone auto HVAC (an upgrade from base trim’s single-zone automatic climate control), blind spot warning, etcetera for just $29,998, while items pulled up from $27,998 base ES trim include LED daytime running lights, fog lights, LED side mirror turn signals, LED tail lamps, a tilt and telescopic steering column, a colour multi-information display in the primary gauge package, the “ECO” mode mentioned a moment ago, micron-filtered auto climate control, two-way heatable front seats, plus more.
Eclipse Cross interior quality is good, including a dash completely made from a premium-like pliable composite that bends all the way down to the middle portion of the instrument panel, while nice soft synthetic front door uppers add to the luxury feel, along with even plusher door inserts just below, and a comfortable set of armrests with contrast stitching. Their orange contrasting thread matches with the seat bolster stitching nicely, while all added colour is applied tastefully (unlike some in the compact SUV category).
Mitsubishi has organized the primary instruments well, with an amply sized colour trip computer between its two conventional dials, while over on the centre stack its 7.0-inch centre display offers an upscale look. Tap, pinch and swipe finger prompts can be used in the usual smartphone/tablet-style touchscreen way, but that’s not all as Mitsubishi provides an impressive touchpad on the lower console for those who’d rather not reach all the way to the dash when entering commands. I’m impressed at this entry-level brand incorporating such a sophisticated infotainment system as standard equipment, its features and layout comparable to a number of premium SUVs on offer.
Within the bright, graphical interface is standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a big backup camera with active guidelines (my tester including an upgraded multi-view version), Bluetooth with audio streaming, satellite radio, two USB charging/connectivity ports, and more.
The Eclipse Cross’s driver’s seat is comfortable, thanks to good powered adjustability. I was able to set up an ideal driving position due to ample rake and reach via the tilt and telescopic steering wheel, but alas the seatback didn’t include any adjustable lumbar support. Still, its ergonomically shaped design provided good lower back comfort anyway, although as I’ve experienced during countless road trips, the ability to make periodic seat adjustments so as to ease acquired pain is important.
The steering wheel mentioned a moment ago is nicely designed with a reasonably thick leather rim, while the ability to heat it up was appreciated. The front seat heaters cooked up a storm too, but with just two temperature settings available I found my driver’s seat was either too hot or too cold, never just right.
The second row of seats offers up a lot of space and comfort, plus it includes a flip-down armrest in the middle that integrates the usual set of cupholders. The rear seat heaters on the backside of the front console are an easy reach, while my test model’s rear glass sunroof joined up with this SUV’s ample visibility out the rear windows for a really open and airy experience in back.
The Eclipse Cross doesn’t offer a powered tailgate, which wouldn’t matter to me personally, but something that would truly sway my vote would be more accommodating 40/20/40 split-folding rear seatbacks than the 60/40 division provided, or at the very least a centre pass-through so I’d be able to load skis down the middle while my rear passengers enjoyed those previously mentioned seat warmers on our way back from the mountain, but for reasoning that can only come down to cost savings, only a couple of mainstream volume-branded rivals offer this premium-level convenience. Then again, it’s not like this new Mitsubishi breaks rank when it comes to cargo flexibility, yet the automaker may want to reconsider this because it could be a leader and therefore garner sales it hasn’t been able to thus far.
Continuing on this practical train of thought, even this segment’s sportiest SUV has to measure up when it comes to hauling gear, so it’s good the Eclipse Cross provides plenty of luggage capacity to go along with its sizeable passenger compartment. By the numbers, the Eclipse Cross offers 640 litres (22.6 cu ft) aft of the rear seats, and 1,385 litres (48.9 cu ft) behind the front seats when the rear seatbacks are lowered, making it 26 litres (0.9 cubic feet) more voluminous for cargo than the subcompact RVR when both model’s rear seats are in use, albeit 17 litres (0.6 cubic feet) less so when those seatbacks are dropped down. Hence, the compromise of a sporty SUV-coupe compared to a more conventional crossover SUV.
When comparing the Eclipse Cross to its bigger Outlander brother, which is closer in most external dimensions, it’s a full 328 litres (11.6 cubic feet) less accommodating behind its back row, and a whopping 407 litres (14.4 cubic feet) less so when both SUVs’ have their rear seatbacks lowered. Mitsubishi helpfully includes a removable cargo floor to expand on cargo space by unveiling a fairly large stowage compartment underneath.
On the negative, when I pulled those rear seatbacks up so they could be used again, I found their headrests almost impossible to yank up from their deep-set lowered positions. It really took all of my strength, and while I’m no Charles Atlas, the level of effort needed bordered on the outrageous. I’m sure the headrest mounts would free up in time, but this presupposes that an owner is capable of pulling them up in the first place. I recommend you find out if you can do so even before going on a test drive, and also that Mitsubishi dealers make sure their service departments check this as part of their pre-delivery inspection regimen.
Now that I’m griping, I experienced way too many annoying creaks and squeaks from the rear when underway. It’s possible this has something to do with the removable cargo floor noted earlier, but I doubt it. It’s more likely due to the fitment of the rear sunroof, or even more likely the rear seats, as some of the squeaking sounds seemed more like leather rubbing together. Therefore I’d really like to test the Eclipse Cross with its fabric seats, and find out just where all the noise is coming from.
On a more positive note, I liked having separate power sunshade controls for both front and rear sunroofs, as it allowed rear passengers more overhead light while front occupants were shaded, or vice versa.
Another thumbs up goes to the rear wiper that engages automatically when reversing if the windshield wipers are on, while the previously noted head-up display (HUD) was a helpful tool being that it provides key info directly in front of the driver where it can be seen easily without taking eyes off the road. Rather than projecting images directly on the windshield, which is the usual way an HUD works, Mitsubishi’s design is near identical to the HUD used by Mazda, in that a small transparent plastic reflector screen powers up atop the instrument hood, but the only problem with the Eclipse Cross version is that it’s somewhat distracting. It doesn’t really block the view ahead, but it kind of interrupts the mind’s eye. I did get used to it after a few days, to the point that it didn’t bother me at all, but I could understand if some others didn’t like it.
After pointing out the various Eclipse Cross positives and negatives that you may or may not agree with, I think we can all commend Mitsubishi for its industry-leading 5-year or 100,000-km basic (almost bumper-to-bumper) warranty and 10-year or 160,000-km powertrain coverage. No other manufacturer comes close to providing as much peace of mind, with the majority providing 2 years or 40,000 km less basic coverage, and 5 years or 60,000 km less powertrain warranty. This, and the fact that Mitsubishi is one of the more well respected automakers in global markets due to superb engineering and better than average dependability, makes its excellent warranty a top selling point that every consumer should factor in when purchasing a new vehicle.
Mitsubishi should also be commended for creating the Eclipse Cross’s compact SUV-coupe niche within its mainstream volume-branded class. True, the model’s year-to-date 2019 sales figure of 4,159 units (as of Sept 2019) leave it dead last in its segment, but when combining that number with Mitsubishi’s second-to-last Outlander sales of 8,568 units, its 12,727-unit overall brand impact on the compact SUV segment positions it above Subaru, GMC and Kia; an impressive accomplishment for one of Canada’s newest automotive brands (Mitsubishi Motor Sales was established here in 2002).
This, combined with the Outlander PHEV, the only plug-in hybrid in the volume-branded compact SUV segment, shows that innovation remains a key component to Mitsubishi’s continued market presence and future growth, and despite some of us lamenting the loss of performance-first models like that Evo mentioned earlier, or the Eclipse sports coupe this crossover SUV pays tribute to, we need to acknowledge Bob Dylan’s famous line, the times they are a changin, and appreciate that only those willing to adapt will survive when times get tough.
Story credit: Trevor Hofmann
Photo credit: Karen Tuggay