In the month of April of 2018, Mitsubishi Motors Canada invited a few members of the Canadian automotive press to discover the distant cousin of the Eclipse. I was there for that in fact, and the new model won me over despite my puzzling to understand the manufacturer’s overhaul of its roster of products.
Fact is, the 2018 Eclipse Cross has been on the market since last spring, and to be honest it’s just starting to be a more common presence on our roads now, in early 2019. The little SUV with its singular design is still a ways away from juggernauts like the Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CR-V, let’s be clear, but Mitsubishi Canada can be pretty happy with the results of the model’s first year among us.
To give you an idea, American consumers bought three times as many Eclipse Crosses as Canadians did in the past year. Given that the population south of the border is 10 times ours, that means we’ve given the model a lot more love than they have, per capita!
Eight months after my first encounter with the Eclipse Cross, I was again back behind the wheel, this time in the midst of winter. My pre-Christmas test drive was to see if the crossover still merited inclusion on the shortlists of car shoppers.
A design that’s as unique as ever
When stacked up against the brand’s other SUVs, or even against the majority of other utility models available on the market, the Eclipse Cross is still resolutely original with its knife-cut front end and its trapezoidal fenestration. Then there’s the slightly heavy back end that seems just a bit overloaded with its parking lights that double as a second spoiler beneath the one that sits over the back hatch. Will this shape retain its charm over the next decade? It’s a point worth considering.
This may a good or bad thing in your book, but the Eclipse Cross leaves almost no one indifferent when it comes to its appearance: some love it, others hate it. Who knows, maybe this was Mitsubishi’s chosen way to draw attention to its product. I can at least confirm that the vehicle’s exterior is well put-together, although a wind noise on the left side did spoil things just a bit over the course of my test-drive period. Otherwise I noted no anomalies regarding the frame. Maybe it was the left-side mirror’s fault…
An interior that’s unique as well
A quick look at the Mitsubishi lineup is all it takes to see that the manufacturer’s vehicles have not been developed in homogenous fashion. The dashboards in each of them have almost nothing in common save for a few buttons that are common to all. The Eclipse Cross is no exception; its dashboard design is totally unlike any other in the automaker’s lineup.
In my view the model’s design is a successful one… but the ergonomics, not so much. The glossy black main surface is pretty, but will inevitably wear over time, especially in the area between the two front occupants where much of the action takes place.
I like the shape of the touchscreen, but toggling between menus is still a bit difficult. And the elevated touchpad to the right of the gear shifter is no solution. I’m not the biggest fan of this system that supposedly makes life easier for motorists; on the contrary, it obliges the driver to take their eyes off the road to find the application they want.
For the rest, this utility model is a largely sober affair. The positioning of the ventilation commands is adequate, and the steering wheel is pleasant to hold, but it's heated only at the three- and nine-o’clock positions. Not optimal for all drivers.
The leather seating, meanwhile, is plenty comfortable, which I assume is intended to help seduce American consumers. Behind it all, cargo space is acceptable, especially as the 60/40 rear bench can be pulled forward to create more space to fit cumbersome objects.
Behind the wheel
Unlike the late, lamented Eclipse, an inspired coupe that marked the history of the brand, the Eclipse Cross is not exactly blessed with a sporty character. Yes, it’s true that the 1.5L 4-cylinder turbo engine handles itself well in combination with the continuously variable transmission, but a few days spent driving in heavy traffic and going about my regular business revealed to me that the suspension is far too soft.
Actually, it’s not quite as soft as the Outlander’s, so there’s that. But still, the Eclipse Cross could really do with a firmer touch, especially given that its stiff chassis could handle it easily! Roll is pronounced when taking corners at speed, and when braking heavily, the front of the vehicle dives just a little too much in the direction of the asphalt for my taste. This element is definitely not one of the Eclipse Cross’ strong points; a more muscular braking system would be most welcome.
I also found the steering to be a little lacking in precision, though to be fair I’ve driven vehicles that performed worse in this regard. The turbo engine, meanwhile, sings loud and strong when the accelerator is pressed to the floor, though here again this is a common characteristic of a vehicle working with a CVT. On the plus side, when at cruising speed the Eclipse Cross offers a quiet ride – except for that mysterious left-side wind noise, of course! It also needs mentioning that the elastic effect of the CVT is still there, still noticeable.
The paddles affixed to the steering column do little to enhance the driving experience, with the “false” gear shifts invariably followed by knocks; this is not really something that will inspire driving joy.
As for fuel consumption, it never dropped below 10.0L/100 km for me over the several days I drove it this past December. It’s higher than what Mitsubishi advertises, but it’s quite acceptable given the cold winter temperatures, the all-wheel-drive system and the (slight) sportiness of the crossover.
The last word
The puzzlement I mentioned feeling over the brand’s utility lineup remains. And it has to do with this: the Eclipse Cross is roughly the same size as the RVR, but with a heavier layer of technologies to offer consumers. However, the $36,448 price tag (plus the $1,895 in transport and prep) means that Mitsubishi is not giving the Eclipse Cross GT away.
I’m not really surprised therefore to see that the other two utility models in the lineup, blessed with more attractive pricing, sell better. What’s more, some consumers might be scared off by the model’s powertrain, which is still little known on the market.
The Eclipse Cross is an odd creature, a utility model that can meet the needs of a specific clientele and comes with an attractive 10-year powertrain warranty. But it doesn’t stack up against competing models more established on the market quite as well as the manufacturer wants to pretend.