Unmistakable in a crowd

From the August 2019 print edition

The Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross is an SUV with an unusual number of unique qualities. Some of these are very positive. Others fall more into the compromise category.

Images: Stephanie Wallcraft

On the upside—especially as far as a business-related purchase is concerned—Mitsubishi Motors Canada’s 10-year, 160,000km limited warranty is a compelling value proposition that’s difficult
to ignore.

Plus, four-wheel drive is standard at every trim level, including the base model with pricing that starts at $29,953 with freight and PDI. This could make it a cost-effective way to access Mitsubishi’s well-regarded Super All-wheel Control system for use in remote or weather-prone areas. However, it should be noted that while the brand’s other products allow for manually selecting either two- and four-wheel drive, the Eclipse Cross stops short of that, offering only a drive mode selector for auto, snow and gravel. This could make it a less fuel-efficient choice for heavy highway use where full-time, two-wheel drive might be preferable. The Eclipse Cross is rated by Natural Resources Canada at a combined fuel consumption of 9.3 L/100km. A highway drive from Toronto to Detroit and back netted an observed 8.5L/100km—which is certainly acceptable, but there are quite a few competitors that could do better.

The GT trim as shown on this test unit adds a heated steering wheel and a pair of sunroofs, while the infotainment system is laid out as though it was designed for a right-hand-drive vehicle.

A single powertrain configuration is available, a 1.5L turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 152hp and 184lbs-ft of torque between 2,000 to 3,500rpm, matched with a continuously variable transmission. In entry-level models, this power output is similar to the rest of the compact SUV segment. Those opting for a more expensive trim such as the GT tested here will find that similarly priced units from other manufacturers offer more powerful engines, such as the 2019 Ford Escape Titanium’s 245 hp 2.0-litre and the net system output of 219 hp in the new Toyota RAV4 Hybrid.

Drive feel is an area where opinions may become split. The Eclipse Cross’s suspension, while smooth in application, does tend to transfer some of the road’s movement into the cabin, meaning that vertical motion through bumps persists and some lean is permitted in curves. Some drivers don’t mind this, while others find more comfort in a vehicle that stays relatively flat.

Value adds on the base model include standard 18-inch alloy wheels, heated and power-adjustable front seats and side mirrors, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality. Stepping up to the GT trim as shown on this test unit adds heated rear seats and steering wheel and a pair of sunroofs that serve to brighten up both rows of the cabin. A power liftgate is not available.

The infotainment system is interesting in that it’s laid out as though it was designed for a right-hand-drive vehicle as one would own in Japan but wasn’t converted for export. The on-off button and volume control functions fall on the screen’s right side, which could make them difficult to reach for shorter-limbed drivers. The volume is controlled by touch buttons rather than a dial, and the steering wheel controls are button-based as well. This means that multiple taps are needed to turn the radio up or down, which could potentially become an irritant for some users.

The Eclipse has a spoiler that splits the rear window, creating a divide.

But perhaps the most distinctive trait of all is the Eclipse Cross’s styling. Unlike many other modern crossovers that can be difficult to tell apart at a glance, the Eclipse Cross’s highly angular appearance and stance are unmistakeable in a crowd.

One of the results of this dramatic look is a spoiler that splits the rear window, creating a divide similar to that found in a Toyota Prius or Hyundai IONIQ. Some people don’t mind it, while others find it difficult to adapt to the visual distraction it creates. This comes very much down to a matter of personal preference.
If the prospect of Mitsubishi’s 10-year limited warranty seems especially appealing, then the Eclipse Cross could be the optimal choice regardless of its quirks. Apart from the Mirage subcompact car, the company has a stated goal of becoming SUV-focused, which means it’s unlikely that options such as the Lancer sedan will return any time soon. With 40mm less in length and 45mm less in height, the subcompact RVR may be too small for some applications, while the Outlander’s five-plus-two passenger dimensions may be too large, as much as the plug-in hybrid powertrain is proving to be an appealing alternative for efficiency-minded buyers.

The Eclipse Cross takes up the middle ground as a five-passenger SUV that’s competitively packaged and has a warranty that could well be worth the investment down the road.