Gareth Butterfield wonders if the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross might be the brand’s best SUV yet
THE Mitsubishi Eclipse, if you’re well-versed enough in the global car market to remember it, was a reasonably odd-looking coupe which once featured in the Fast and Furious movie, but never made it officially to Britain.
However, that’s largely irrelevant. Because the first we’ve seen of the Eclipse moniker is on this – the Eclipse Cross. It’s a bang on-trend small SUV-cum large crossover that’s been pitched squarely at the likes of Nissan’s Qashqai and Renault’s Kadjar.
And it’s a fine-looking thing. Mitsubishi has historically been known for its boxy off-roaders but this car makes a bold statement that things have changed. Its smaller sibling, the ASX, sits below it in the range, while the Outlander and then the new Shogun Sport are its bigger brothers.
And it slots neatly into the Mitsubishi line-up. The handsome, almost futuristic looks with its swoopy front end and bob-tail set it apart from previous Mitsubishis, while still bearing a few family resemblances.
Inside it’s one of the best Mitsubishi interiors I’ve sat in. Build quality and refinement continue to improve across the Japanese brand and the Eclipse Cross is its finest hour.
The plastics are nice, the buttons and switches have a pleasant feel to them and the cabin is comfortable, light and spacious. To say how compact and sleek it is on the outside, the packaging inside is excellent.
The rear seats, for example, slide forwards in either one-third, two-thirds or entirely and the rolled-up blind stores under the floor, handily. Practicality has always been a strong suit for Mitsubishi, and this newcomer doesn’t disappoint.
There’s currently only a punchy 1.5-litre petrol engine on offer, but a diesel will follow and four-wheel drive or two-wheel drive options are available.
The petrol engine is decent enough, and although its mated to a CVT system in the four-wheel drive version, it’s one of the better systems I’ve tried, with virtual ratios available on the steering wheel-mounted paddles.
And that’s a good job, because most of this car’s customers are likely to be from the horsey set, or they might farmers with a sense of style. It’s fine at tackling the urban sprawl, but it is a Mitsubishi after all, and it feels perfectly at home on the rough stuff.
There are sticking points. Economy and emissions figures are matched by, or bettered by its rivals and an entry price of just over £21,000 means it’s not a bargain-basement choice.
That said, you get a lot of goodies thrown in, including some clever safety kit, and Mitsubishi offers a five-year warranty, which is another good sweetener.
The track-pad that controls the seven-inch infotainment system is quite clumsy – I’ve never actually used a track-pad I’m keen on – but thankfully you can also use it as a conventional touch-screen.
Another niggling point is the funky spoiler that cuts a swathe through the rear window plays havoc with rear visibility. It’s not as bad as some of the cars it’s clearly mimicking, but it is a little annoying.
All things considered, the Eclipse Cross feels like Mitsubishi’s biggest departure yet from its function-over-form phase.
It’s great to drive, good to look at and as comfortable and practical as you’ll need it to be.
The ASX and Outlander it sits alongside in the line-up will soon be moving to one side – with the former getting smaller, and the latter getting larger.
So this versatile newcomer will feel more and more valid as it gets into its sales stride.