Team Y tests the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross – a fresh new version of an old favourite and finds it on the sharp side, both inside and out.
The car that built the core foundation of a whole generation of car lovers globally: that’s what makes the Mitsubishi Eclipse a desirable and formidable sports car.
Sleek, powerful and well-engineered; the coupe took over everything from the tuner market to the (then budding) gaming industry by storm. Second only to the Toyota Supra from the same era, the generic four-cylinder howl from the Eclipse stood as a signature from which Mitsubishi built its base.
But all good things come to an end. The Eclipse was silently killed by the brand sometime in 2011 due to poor sales and a possible lack of brand loyalty. This, despite all Nissan’s rivals shying away from the sports car market.
Last year we’d heard speculation surrounding the Eclipse re-entering the market – but not in the way you’d have imagined.
Four doors, a tall body frame, four-wheel drive and five seats would be added to the new car to form an Eclipse Cross. Yes, the iconic Eclipse was to be transformed into a small SUV.
Fast forward a few months and here we are with the all-new entrant in the ever-growing sphere of utility cars.
We won’t lie: the chuffing exterior is quite striking from the front.
There are sharp lights packed with LEDs and daytime-running lights, an angular grille broken up by chrome and just the right kind of glossy black panels to keep it elegant-looking. There’s also a footprint larger than the ASX that we tested a while ago. It all combines to give the Eclipse Cross a fresh new look.
The posterior may split ends but it harks back to the 1990s, with the dual rear windshield and the light bar that runs from end to end. We grew to like it as we went along – and noted some nods of approval from some passers-by, too.
To round things off, then, the new Eclipse is more crossover than an actual Eclipse – but it’s arguably one of the finest-looking SUVs out there.
The interior is functional with myriad buttons and knobs that control everything from the safety functions (pre-crash braking, heads-up display, lane-keep assist, and blind-spot monitoring) to the AC. There’s none of that touch-activated control nonsense to distract you while driving.
Even the 7-inch touchscreen running Mitsubishi’s own user interface software is on point with the perfect mix of simplicity and functionality. Minimal menus and simple fonts make using this a breeze. However, there are some tacky sounds activated by the push of buttons that you’d want to turn off.
Much of the interior is crafted in plush leatherette surfaces with soft-touch plastics comprising much of the dashboard. Everything looks and feels in place: even the seats are at the right height with excellent levels of adjustability. Lumbar support is great but side bolstering is kept to a minimum – perhaps to accommodate drivers of all ages.
The attractive exterior – complete with the curves and the sloping roofline – comes at the expense of reduced head-room. But, there’s plenty of space for three grown adults in the back and an additional 341 litres of boot space.
While the latter is impressive for the stylish SUV that the Eclipse Cross is, the figures are still a far cry even from its smaller sibling, the ASX. Though, it’s fair to note that levelled 60-40 split seats do add an additional 107 litres when folded down.
Partly keeping in line with the Eclipse’s tradition is the powertrain, which comprises a turbocharged engine. It’s a little but forcefully-induced 1.5-litre engine producing a respectable 148hp and 250Nms of torque and mated to a continuously variable tranny (CVT).
The duo is quite capable too, pulling up to speeds of 100kph and above in under nine seconds. That, coupled with the 1.5 tonne weight and the four-wheel-drive system makes this quite sprightly on its feet.
Torque kicks in bountiful at about 3,000rpm but soon runs out of steam, relying on the power to then unravel the rest of the performance from the engine. This should fare well when you’re heading off-road although we didn’t test it for long enough to head out of the city and into the mountains.
Cornering dynamics are respectable with body roll kept to a minimum; it creeps in only if you push past the 60kph mark when taking tighter corners. Still, grip is admirable at all times and we didn’t dare push it hard enough to see if understeer emerges when playing with the wheel like a hooligan.
The highway is really where the SUV belongs. It remains unfazed by winds and holds its pace at speeds of above 120kph without breaking past the 3,000rpm mark.
It also maintained a steady mileage of 14kms per litre during the length of our drive, which also included constant flooring of the gas pedal to test out the acceleration figures.
This could partly be due to the CVT, which tinkers just enough to keep the revs to a minimum while still spiking the revs within the power band when required.
Its characteristics are in line with the CVTs we’ve tested over the years. The ‘rubber-band effect’ is in plentiful supply but still well-concealed if you make use of the paddle shifters which (minimally) alter ratios when used. On the upside, the first two ratios do offer engine braking if things get a bit out of hand.
Owning an Eclipse Cross may not seem much like buying into the heritage of the brand that the Eclipse nameplate has forged in this market.
But, changing times require swift action – and there’s no denying that the Eclipse Cross will inevitably pen down sales numbers that its sports car cousin could never do.
It’s well-specced with a flurry of safety features, rides better than most SUVs, looks great and above all plays to its strengths as a light off-roader.
And if that isn’t the recipe for a successful family vehicle, then we don’t know what is.
• Engine: 1.5-litre turbocharged in-line four-cylinder
• Transmission: Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)
• Power: 148hp
• Torque: 250Nms
• All-wheel drive
• Heads-up display
• 18-inch alloy wheels
• 7.0-inch infotainment screen
• Forward collision mitigation
• Lane departure warning
• Rockford Fosgate premium sound system
• Traction and stability controls
• Parking sensors
• Reverse camera
• Cruise control
• Steering-mounted controls
• Blind spot monitoring system