This past summer, for the first time in 99 years, a total eclipse of the sun swept coast to coast across the United States. This fall, for the first time in five years, Mitsubishi’s Eclipse model name reappeared in the form of the all-new CUV Eclipse Cross. Where the sporty Eclipse coupe left off in 2012, the 2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross hopes to capitalize on the sporty heritage of its namesake.
Mitsubishi offers four trim levels of its latest CUV offering. Wedged between the more-expensive Outlander and slightly smaller Outlander Sport, the front-drive Eclipse Cross ES starts at $24,235. All-wheel drive is standard on LE, SE and SEL trim levels. Our SEL tester with the Touring package came with a panorama sunroof, every safety feature under the un-eclipsed sun, like adaptive cruise control and blind-spot assist, and a sticker of $31,335.
Only one powertrain is offered, but it’s a good one. Mitsubishi gets it right with a zippy 1.5-liter turbocharged mill under the compact ute’s hood. Finding power up hills above southern California’s Malibu coastline was easy. Where other CUVs like the Nissan Rogue Sport and Honda HR-V have lackluster oomph, the Eclipse Cross successfully backs up its sporty heritage claims, and with enough gusto to tow 1,500 pounds with the optional trailer hitch. Bravo.
A CVT with eight preset ratios in manual mode is the only transmission available. It behaved well enough, distributing the engine’s 152 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque well without that rubber-bandy feeling typical of CVTs.
However, the engine, er, eclipses the suspension tuning and steering. The soft-feeling suspension detracts from the power the turbo-four puts down. Driving at only moderate speeds around the twists and turns of the Santa Monica Mountains, significant body roll plagued the crossover. Even slightly stiffer suspension settings could make performance improvements without sacrificing ride comfort.
While the steering wheel was a perfect size for my hands, the steering feel of the Eclipse Cross is too vague. What the driver puts in isn’t what the steering puts out—it requires more effort than you’d expect. If sporty was what Mitsubishi was after, it could have capitalized more on that fun little engine with more responsive steering.
While executives at Mitsubishi claim tuning settings in the pre-production models used for this test drive are what will appear in final production models, these two quips could potentially be addressed even after the vehicle goes on sale in March of next year.
In the me-too universe of the CUV category (what’s a word for beyond saturated?), designers at Mitsubishi made bold choices with the exterior of the Eclipse Cross. From its front “dynamic shield” styling to its muscular fenders and high hip point, the Eclipse Cross is a fine-looking CUV. A cut line that extends upward from the midline to its haunches gives the mini ute an assertive wedge shape. An awkwardly positioned high-mount LED stop light feature cuts across the tailgate, splitting the rear window in half, not unlike the Toyota Prius or Honda Crosstour. Personal preference will ultimately dictate a potential owner’s tolerance for the infringement on visibility.
Being five-feet five-inches tall, most driver seats take me an inordinate amount of time to set up for correct ergonomics and comfort. Adjusting the seat and steering wheel in the Eclipse Cross took me about 30 seconds, which lead me to ask larger men on this drive how comfortable it felt for them. Unanimously the result was not quite as perfect, the seat feeling on the small side for a larger driver. Perhaps this is a calculated risk taken by Mitsubishi, believing its primary customers will be women.
The rest of the cockpit is set up intuitively enough. Accompanying the 7.0-inch infotainment display is a touchpad placed conveniently in the center console. Tantamount to a laptop mouse, it makes for easier screen command operation while driving. The effort to find a happy medium between the all-knob interiors of the past and the 100-percent space-aged screen options of tomorrow is appreciated. However, the absence of the volume knob is a miss. Perhaps Mitsubishi will take a page from Honda’s new CR-V and find a way to re-implement it sooner rather than later.
Efforts to make the Eclipse Cross appear more expensive than it is are appreciated. Piano black and carbon-fiber-looking fit and finishes appoint the interior. The SEL adds upgrades such as heated front and rear leather seats in addition to a handy, if a bit large, retractable heads up display screen.
Cargo space and back row legroom are good in the Eclipse Cross, though it’s an either or scenario. The rear seat allows eight-inches of fore and aft movement depending on where you need it more, hauling stuff or people room, and is a smart use of compact space. The rear seats also recline, a feature normally reserved for more high-end automotive fare, but adjustments are more easily made when a passenger is out of the vehicle as the adjustment mechanism is on the top of the seats closest to the doors.
With the launch of the Eclipse Cross, Mitsubishi also jettisons Mitsubishi Connect, a package of both safety and remote services operated through an app on Smartphone devices. In a demo of the app, graphics appear simple and operation straightforward. Features include safeguard services such as roadside assistance and stolen vehicle assistance, with remote services that include a car finder and parental controls that enable Mom and Dad to create geo-fenced areas and curfew alerts. Service is free for the first two years on the SE and SEL, after which the subscription costs $228 per year.
For a company looking to reinvigorate their brand, only time will tell if the Eclipse Cross will help Mitsubishi become a player again in U.S. markets. At least no one will have to wait until 2045, when the next solar eclipse cruises all the way across the U.S., to find out if it works.
2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross Specifications
|ON SALE||March 2018|
|PRICE||$24,235/31335 (base/as tested)|
|ENGINE||1.5L turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4/152 hp, 184 lb-ft|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD/AWD SUV|
|L x W x H||173.4 x 71.1 x 65.3-65.5 in|