It’s been a bit over two years since the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross launched, and over two-and-a-half years since I had the privilege of driving a camouflaged, pre-release prototype in the Northern Territory, which was a fascinating experience indeed.
Its introduction meant Mitsubishi, in its deeper push into SUV and pick-up territory that’s left only the Mirage on the passenger car rack, now offers two SUV-cum-crossovers in the small segment, the other being the older, simpler, more price-savvy ASX.
It’s fair to say that, two years on, the Eclipse Cross hasn’t fired with buyers in ways the ASX, which was facelifted late last year, continues to do. At last year’s VFACTS sales tally in December, the fresher, techier, roomier, faster and more upmarket of the two Mitsubishi crossovers had sold one-third of the other. Oh dear. The caveat to bear in mind with all of this, though, is that around 40-odd per cent of ASXs are to rental companies.
We’ve had the 2020 Eclipse Cross LS front-driver, as tested here, through the CarAdvice garage before, albeit just after launch with a 2018 build plate, when LS meant base model. Today, it sits above the ES as the middle child and can be had, for an extra $2600, with all-wheel drive.
Back then, the LS was a decent 7.8 out of 10 prospect, but with a couple of years of hindsight I’m inclined to hold it in higher regard. The Eclipse Cross LS is a bloody decent machine. And I reckon it’s worth another look, particularly if you’ve all but decided you want the ASX.
I’m not about to directly compare the Eclipse Cross with the ASX – been there, done that already – but the newer, slightly larger Mitsu' can’t seem to escape the slightly smaller Mitsu’s shadow as a sort of ever-present reference point.
At $32,190 list, our Eclipse Cross test car is $3500 more than the equivalent ASX in LS spec. That's more ‘about right’ than it is ‘bargain basement’ for petrol-driven, mid-range front-driven small crossovers, but it is good value when you consider the Eclipse Cross features a fit 110kW and 250Nm turbocharged engine and offers a roomy size that’s on the plus side of small, if not quite convincingly medium (which is Outlander territory). It is, if you like, ‘smedium’ sized.
A quick aside: the sheer variety of SUV (or any vehicle) sizing just doesn’t conform to simple ‘small’, ‘medium’, ‘large’ and ‘upper large’ any more. It’s too simplified and not accommodating enough. Worth deeper discussion elsewhere, but today’s SUV sizing is more like, well, jeans: a combination of waistline, length and cut. The Eclipse Cross is perhaps less ‘small’ than it is, I dunno, ‘32 long regular’.
What does that even mean? Well, the Eclipse Cross is quite slim-hipped and seems to taper towards the rear, but forward of the cabin it’s all metal, size and bluff so-called Dynamic Shield front fascia styling. It has nose-heavy proportions in a way an ASX doesn’t, so it looks a bit more mid-sized, be it viewed from the outside or once you climb in.
From behind the wheel, the Eclipse Cross feels chunky and substantial. Some of that effect is the high bonnet in your line of sight, some of that is the dash top large enough to land a plane on. The sense of size is compounded by the lengthy cabin proportions – it’s conspicuously longer than the ASX – though this most serves to make the front row feel airy, despite the fact that the cabin isn’t terribly wide. Design trickery, then, but trickery serves its purpose successfully indeed.
The counterpoint to chunkiness is a bit of a lighter touch with some of the details. Cases in point are the pleasingly slim steering, the curvaceous and convoluted central stack, and the dainty 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen housed in an oversized casing, perched on the dash top, that makes the screen itself appear a little larger than it actually is.
Content-wise, you get contemporary essentials such as DAB+, a reversing camera and smartphone mirroring, which will double as your sat-nav as there’s no proprietary system. There’s no inductive charging, which is no big foul at this pricepoint, though the lack of digital speedo in the driver’s screen is a bit of an oversight typical of many Japanese-bred machines. You do get a touchpad that looks much like the Lexus hardware, but it has a more straightforward four-direction interface that’s functionally less clumsy.
The LS spec does forego flashy digital window dressing, which is replaced by funky styling and varied material choice – including the novel seat trim – to give the cabin a lift that fits its 32-grand ask.
Whereas the first row does a decent job of feeling ‘medium’, row two feels properly small despite offering decent leg room once the seat bench’s handy slide and recline adjustments are tuned to taste. The seat base is quite high, so younger kids get a good view out the windows, but head room for adults is tight and there are no rear air vents, which is a letdown for anything purporting to be family friendly.
Sliding the rear seats forward liberates a maximum of 448L of boot space. Once the 60:40-split seat backs are folded you get 1122L of total load space, which is pretty decent.
Where the Eclipse Cross really starts to shine is on-road. The little 1.5-litre turbo four only makes 110kW, which is about par for the small-SUV course, but it’s the 250Nm shove that helps it feel punchy and responsive around town. In a segment where lacklustre torque figures are the normal and expectations for action are low, it’s a satisfyingly eager little engine, and the CVT that supports it, with eight forward ‘steps’ or faked ratios, makes a decent approximation of a conventional automatic.
Combined consumption is in the eights off the back of a 7.3L/100km claim, so while it might seem, on paper, thirstier than some rivals in its segment – and there are too many to list – in actuality it’s equally as frugal while offering that added torque bonus kick.
As mentioned above, you can get the Eclipse Cross LS with all-wheel drive, but frankly you don’t really need it in a city-focused crossover. Besides, the front tyres certainly do a faultless job of putting power to the ground, though we did have dry running throughout our week with the crossover, with no slippery-conditions experience with which to fully test traction.
Let’s face it: now that Mitsubishi has axed the Lancer, this is really the brand’s surrogate hatchback, and it fulfills that role well with reasonably accomplished handling and decent ride comfort. On balance, the on-road tune tends to favour ride quality over dynamic prowess, which is pretty much right on the money for an urban-focused runabout. Although, it’s also quite reasonably tied down and surefooted – or, perhaps, sure-tyred – enough to make for a confident ally should you feel the need to push on a bit.
There’s not a lot of communication in its steering, but the Eclipse Cross does point well, is easy to place on the road, and handy at parking in tight stuff. Which is precisely what you want in a city runabout.
Safety-wise, the Eclipse Cross is five-star rated by ANCAP, though the LS spec only gets forward-collision mitigation and lane-departure warning systems, and lacks the blind-spot monitoring and surround-view camera smarts you need to spend $4800 extra for in the flagship Exceed front-driver. And there’s no rear cross-traffic alert feature fitted.
Ownership-wise, the Eclipse Cross is covered by Mitsubishi’s five-year/100,000km warranty, though at the time of testing Mitsubishi Australia offered seven years of surety, so keep your eyes peeled on the public site for the latest offers. Servicing is a flat $199 per year/15,000km for the first three visits, which is not only affordable, but it’s also no more expensive than the ASX despite fitting a more sophisticated turbocharged powertrain than the smaller crossover’s naturally aspirated units.
Before now, we’ve called the Eclipse Cross the best SUV Mitsubishi makes full stop, and there’s certainly enough quality and substance in the mid-range LS front-driver to back that up.
No, its circa-$32K price tag isn’t ‘chips cheap’, but it does sit on the right side of nice all things considered, including the willing powertrain.
Is it worth a proper look? Put it this way: I wouldn’t part cash on an ASX without at least giving its slightly larger stablemate on the other side of the showroom a cursory cross-shop consideration and a comparative spin around the block.