MALIBU, California — I’m one of those annoying car geeks who got a little shirty when Mitsubishi announced that they were recycling the Eclipse name for a compact crossover. Still, I figured that if the 2018 Eclipse Cross showed enough of that ol’ Mitsubishi handling magic—the same juju that made the Lancer Evolution one of my favorite cars—I might be willing to give it a pass.
For my Quick Take of the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, I made sure to take it to some of my favorite curvy roads. How’d it do?
[SFX: SAD TROMBONE]
There are a lot of things to like about the new Eclipse Cross—well, a few, anyway—but its ride, handling, and overall driving experience are not among them.
This is a shame because the engine is pretty good. For those unaware, the Eclipse Cross is home to a new 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 152 hp and 182 lb-ft of torque on tap, backed by a continuously variable automatic transmission and (optionally) paired with Mitsubishi’s Super All Wheel Control all-wheel-drive system. On paper it isn’t that quick—our colleagues down the hall at Motor Trend timed it to 60 in nine seconds—but it packs an impressive, albeit noisy, mid-RPM punch.
No, it’s the ride and handling that let the Eclipse Cross down. I’d like to describe the Eclipse Cross’ ride as soft and floaty, but I can’t. Floaty it is, but soft it isn’t—it kicks hard over bumps large and small, the body resounding with clunking noises that are hallmarks of cut-rate engineering. Steering feels no better than the Outlander Sport I tested a couple of months ago. Like its smaller, cheaper, and woefully outdated sibling, the Eclipse Cross wanders to-and-fro on the freeway and offers little steering feel in the curves.
Several of my fellow writers complained about body roll, but having pushed the Eclipse Cross as hard as I dared on the canyon roads of Malibu, I can confidently say that body roll is the least of its problems. The steering is lousy, grip is almost laughably light, and the tires scream like Clarisse’s lambs long before there’s anything to complain about. Hit a bump as you turn in and the Eclipse Cross will bounce like a pogo stick through the entire corner; hit a mid-corner bump and you could well be looking for a change of underwear.
Don’t get me wrong—I wasn’t expecting the Eclipse Cross to keep pace with a Porsche 911, but I did expect a decent ride and some modicum of composure when the pavement turns crappy. The Eclipse Cross delivers neither. It’s fine on mirror-smooth pavement but a hot mess everywhere else.
Does any of this matter given the Eclipse Cross’ target audience? Maybe not. But Automobile is an enthusiast publication. I’m an enthusiast. If you’re reading this review, and I think there’s a high probability that you are, it’s likely you’re an enthusiast as well. And if you’re looking for a crossover that’s rewarding to drive, you’re better off with a Mazda CX-5. Hell, you’re better off with a Honda CR-V. It’s not much fun, but at least it doesn’t go teats-up when the pavement turns bumpy.
All if this is a shame, because if you take driving dynamics out of the mix, the Eclipse Cross has some serious potential.
Styling-wise, I’m on the fence. The Eclipse Cross is like an optical illusion: It looks wonderful from most angles but painfully awkward from a few. Things are better on the inside, where Mitsubishi seems to have exorcised the cheap, tinny feel that afflicts the smaller Outlander Sport. The seating position is good and, split rear window notwithstanding, it’s easy enough to see out of. Our top-of-the-line SEL tester had a dual-pane sunroof with nice opaque blinds, but I was disappointed not to see the Outlander Sport’s wall-to-wall glass roof.
My biggest complaint about the interior—and it’s a biggie—is the stereo. Like the awful unit found in the Honda Civic, the Eclipse Cross’ touch-screen stereo has no proper volume knob. Worst yet, the touch panel that controls volume and power seems to have been positioned as far from the driver as possible. (There are volume buttons on the steering wheel, but no mute button.) Along with the touchscreen, the Eclipse Cross’ stereo has a touch pad on the center console, but it isn’t really a touchpad; it’s more of an over-hyped left-right-up-down button.
This seems like an incredibly complex control system considering that the Eclipse Cross can’t be had with a built-in navigation system, relying instead on standard-fit Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. That’s all well and good, but the advantage to a built-in system is that it works even when your cell phone has no coverage—you know, those times when you’re lost in the middle of nowhere and could really use directions back to somewhere.
As far as being a crossover, the Eclipse Cross does quite a good job. The back seat is roomy, if a bit stiffly padded, with decent head- and leg-room. It slides fore-and-aft so you can trade passenger space for cargo space or vice-versa. This is a brilliant feature that I think every small crossover ought to have. The only trade-off is that sliding the seats forward leaves a gap lower than the trunk floor, but I can live with that.
One last feature worth mentioning is the Eclipse Cross’ yuge warranty: 5 years/60,000 miles bumper-to-bumper and 10 years or 100,000 miles of powertrain coverage. My experience is that Mitsubihis are built pretty well, our test car’s intermittent tailgate rattle notwithstanding. Still, if you’re on a five-year payment plan, it’s nice to know you won’t have to foot expensive repair bills before you’ve paid the damn thing off.
Mitsubishi dealers are becoming rather hard to find nowadays, but if you manage to unearth one, you’ll find Eclipse Crosses listing as cheap as $24,425. Aside from the small wheels (which, at least, are alloys), the base model car doesn’t look all that base-ish. Our top-of-the-line SEL tester, which included all-wheel-drive, the Touring package, extra-cost Red Diamond paint, and a few accessories, listed for $32,310. That’s less than you’d pay for a loaded Mazda CX-5, Honda CR-V, or Hyundai Tucson, but more than I’d be willing to pay for a CUV with no built-in nav and crappy driving dynamics, no matter how good looking it is from the proper viewing angles.
I came away from this review feeling rather frustrated. I had high hopes for the Eclipse Cross, and not just because of the name. Stupid stereo aside, Mitsubishi has done a good job with packaging, and the engine has real promise, but the driving dynamics are pretty terrible—and I’m not talking not-fun-to-drive terrible, I’m talking really-unpleasant-on-anything-but-glass-smooth-pavement terrible.
I will give Mitsubishi credit for one thing: They gave me so much to complain about that I never even had time to contemplate whether they should have resurrected the Eclipse name.
2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross Specifications
|PRICE||$24,425/$32,310 (base/as tested)|
|ENGINE||1.5L turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4/152 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 184 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm|
|TRANSMISSION||Continuously variable automatic|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV|
|EPA MILEAGE||25/26 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||173.4 x 71.1 x 66.3 in|
|0-60 MPH||9.0 sec|
|TOP SPEED||118 mph|