Road Test: Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross 4 CVT AWD
A new shape for the Eclipse name, but can it build on the Outlander PHEV’s success? By Alex Grant.
SECTOR Medium SUV PRICE £28,165 FUEL 40.4mpg CO2 159g/km
Ten years ago, if you’d asked Joe or Jo Public to define Mitsubishi, they’d probably have said of two things; that it’s manufacturer of rugged 4x4s, or the home to the rally-bred Lancer Evo. Today, certainly in fleet, Mitsubishi is known almost exclusively for the Outlander PHEV. But it’s hoping it’s found another gap in the market with the Eclipse Cross.
The Outlander is a tough act to follow. Launched in 2014, it had practically no competition, plus the styling, versatility and tax-efficiency to do very well in fleet. And it has. Sales outstripped every other plug-in, and it’s taken several years for rivals to muscle in on that head start. About time, then, for a sister product to continue the momentum.
You’ll have to hold your breath a little longer. Mitsubishi has hinted at a smaller plug-in hybrid SUV since it revealed the XR-PHEV concept back in 2015. You’ll recognise a little of that coupe-esque styling in the Eclipse Cross, but not the technology. There’s no plug-in hybrid version and, with wavering demand for diesel, its short-term future is a single, 161bhp petrol engine.
Still, what it has inherited is the XR-PHEV’s striking styling. It’s an aggressive, purposeful small SUV, particularly on its largest wheels and rich new metallic red paint. Think of it as a cut-price Range Rover Evoque – the two cars have a similar stance and are almost identically sized – and you’re about right. If only the designers hadn’t given up before resolving the back end as well as the front.
Coupe-SUVs tend to be a worst of both worlds affair, but the Eclipse Cross is surprisingly spacious. Visibility is compromised by the spoiler bisecting the rear glass, but passenger space is generous considering the roofline, and the bench slides 200mm forward to extend the boot. Dashboard controls are logically laid out with the most important buttons around the gear level, and it feels solidly built, if a little hard and shiny in places. The biggest frustration is Mitsubishi’s trackpad-operated infotainment, which feels like a good idea, but is fiddly to master.
In the UK, there are three trim levels, and even the entry-level features useful equipment such as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, cruise control and a reversing camera to compensate for the split rear screen. In ‘4’ spec, as tested here, all options are ticked; leather, a panoramic roof and powerful Rockford Fosgate audio, as well as a suite of safety and assistance systems including adaptive cruise control that works right down to a stop. However, most essentials are standard on lower trims.
Mitsubishi has moved away from sports cars, but the ‘Eclipse’ name was once attached to a coupe, albeit one that never came to Europe. Its resurrection is a hint of where the newcomer is placed, thanks to a stiff bodyshell, quick steering and multi-link rear suspension. Four-wheel drive versions, like this one, even get a derivative of the Evo’s driveline, albeit paired with a stepped continuously-variable transmission (CVT). You can almost sense the rally fans recoiling in horror.
That said, it delivers a convincingly responsive and car-like drive, though it’s not particularly quick considering its power output – perhaps predictably, given the CVT. Unfortunately, it’s also not particularly frugal, with sub-40mpg motorway economy even in Eco mode. There’s certainly a gap in the market for a distinctive newcomer, but, without the technology to back it up, that gap is smaller than it could have been.
What We Think:
A striking newcomer even in a crowded segment, but lacking the drivetrains needed to really make waves in fleet.