The 2021 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross has grown up – and out.
Classified as a small SUV, it’s packed on the pounds after the holiday season, so to speak, and now arguably straddles both the small and medium SUV segments.
In doing so, it’s possibly expanded its pool of buyers – but its pool of competitors, too.
Having gained 140mm in length, the facelifted Eclipse Cross now offers a 405L boot, up from 374L in the previous model year. That’s despite the wheelbase staying the exact same at 2670mm.
This recent facelift meant the mid-range LS specification I’m testing here added a few more deal-sweeteners, like an electric park brake, keyless entry, push-button start, rear parking sensors, two extra speakers, a black leather steering wheel and lane-departure warning.
But regardless of what grade you opt for, you’re going to receive the same engine: a 1.5-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine producing a maximum of 110kW of power and 250Nm of torque.
That’s paired to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) – which is smooth, if a little unexciting – and, importantly, all-wheel drive.
Forgive me if I’m being a little harsh, but I think I can safely say Mitsubishi isn’t a brand that’s known for turning heads with its design. I find most of its cars are often fairly middling in their kerb appeal, but the Eclipse Cross certainly works a little harder to stand out than most.
It looks particularly swish from the side thanks to its angular, sporty lines and tapered nose. In fact, it’s even got some Lexus energy to it.
That’s a good thing, too, because the Eclipse Cross is going to want to turn some heads – away from the bevy of similarly priced and sized cars vying for buyers’ attention.
The model line-up starts at a smidge over $30,000 before on-road costs for a base ES 2WD, and tops out at just over $40,000 before on-road costs for the AWD Exceed variant.
The LS AWD on test is a happy mid-point priced at $35,090 before on-road costs, and offering a package I’d describe as serviceable.
It’s fair to say that anyone considering the Eclipse Cross is likely to have a rag-tag crew of other rivals on their list. These include medium SUVs that are on the smaller side, or small SUVs that are on the larger side.
For example, a few more thousand dollars will buy you a petrol-powered, two-wheel-drive Kia Sportage SX+, which is actually very similar in size to the Eclipse Cross, but with slightly more boot space.
Alternatively, you could save a few hundred dollars by opting for the mid-spec Nissan Qashqai ST-L. Again, you’d sacrifice all-wheel drive, and some interior room in the process.
An entry-level, petrol-powered, all-wheel-drive Mazda CX-5 Maxx, meanwhile, can be had for the same price as the Eclipse Cross LS.
The Mazda will offer marginally more ground clearance, width and boot space, but a comparable equipment package – although delivered with a bit more pizzazz and refinement and no CVT (if you’re not a fan of that).
Let’s put it this way – while the Eclipse Cross’s pricing and packaging certainly don’t rule it out in terms of value, you’d be mad to buy it without at least having a cursory glance through its plethora of rivals.
|2021 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross LS AWD|
|Engine||1.5-litre, four-cylinder turbo petrol|
|Power and torque||110kW at 5500rpm, 250Nm at 2000–3500rpm|
|Transmission||Continuously variable transmission|
|Drive type||All-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||7.7L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||7.5L/100km|
|Boot volume (rear seats up / down)||405L/1149L|
|ANCAP safety rating||5 stars (tested 2017)|
|Warranty||5yr/100,000km or 10yr/200,000km if serviced within the dealer network|
|Main competitors||Honda CR-V, Suzuki Vitara, Mitsubishi ASX, Nissan Qashqai, Hyundai Kona, Mazda CX-5, Kia Sportage|
|Price as tested (before on roads)||$35,090|
|Tow rating (braked/unbraked)||1600/750kg|
Upon hopping behind the wheel of the Mitsubishi, one of the more noticeable benefits of the recent facelift was the tweak to the rear windshield. Previously, it was split by a horizontal bar, which maximised visibility but also made it a little more complicated and took some getting used to.
Now, that bar has disappeared – leaving behind a slightly smaller rear windshield, but one that’s much more conventional to look through.
On the road, the Eclipse Cross certainly doesn’t feel like a 'small' SUV. The ride is elevated and the front seat feels spacious, with good visibility at the front and sides, and well-sized side and rear-view mirrors.
The bonnet feels quite substantial and is raised into your line of sight, so I could have used some front sensors when manoeuvring out of parking spots, as it was a little harder to gauge where the car started and finished.
And yet, it’s nice and nimble. While the steering could be more precise and engaging, it’s well balanced and pointed enough to get you in and out of a reverse park with ease.
The engine has an unexciting drone to it while idle and then, once it gets going, it certainly doesn’t sound very thrilling thanks to the hum of the continuously variable transmission.
These drab audio effects are misleading, however, because the Eclipse Cross’s turbo engine has a surprising amount of pep to it, delivered smoothly through the CVT and with plenty of push on tap for when you need it.
It all contributes to an underlying sportiness Mitsubishi has subtly alluded to throughout the car – right down to the sizeable paddle shifters on the steering wheel, which feel a tad incongruous, but at least add a bit more engagement for driving enthusiasts.
The Eclipse Cross’s ride is also perfectly comfortable. The suspension is tuned so that you still feel the road but it’s satisfactorily muted.
I noticed a fair bit of wind, tyre and exterior noise seeping into the cabin at higher speeds – so much so that at one point I thought I’d left my window partially open.
Obviously, the all-wheel control means you’ll never be left fearing for your car’s capabilities on wet roads, plus there are snow and gravel modes for when you venture further afield.
Mitsubishi claims 7.7L/100km of combined fuel economy, but I managed to average 7.5L/100km for a mix of urban and freeway driving – with that figure creeping up above 10.0L/100km if you stick to busy city streets.
That’s not necessarily a standout fuel figure in its class, but it’s certainly reasonable and more than economical by most commuters’ standards.
Where I felt the car started to fall down was with its interior finishes and overall equipment package.
Upon first glance, the dashboard feels underwhelming thanks to a small central infotainment screen and no digital driver’s display. While the touchscreen is well-placed in your line of sight, it’s basic and also lost points for never, ever recognising my phone as an approved Apple CarPlay device, no matter how many times I plugged it in and followed the appropriate steps.
There’s no sunroof, power tailgate, seat heaters, electric seat adjustment or head-up display – which, to be fair, is probably to be expected at this pricepoint.
The rear privacy glass, keyless entry, folding mirrors and leather-bound steering wheel do go a way to appeasing picky people like me, though.
Still, what little the Eclipse Cross LS does offer doesn’t feel particularly well executed.
The patterned fabric seats will hide dirt well, but they don’t feel all that great on bare legs.
Back seat occupants might feel robbed without any air vents and the inclusion of a flimsy-feeling armrest with cupholders, although rear leg room is fantastic.
Rear middle-seat passengers will struggle for knee room if front seats are reclined, and there’s a little less head room than I expected because the seats sit quite high to the roof – but it’s far from uncomfortable.
In fact, general spaciousness is the star of the show for a car that can run against some other more cramped offerings (cough, Toyota C-HR, cough).
The front is roomy for both driver and passenger, and there are plenty of helpful storage spots throughout the cabin.
At 405L with all seats up, boot space is generous. My husband and I managed a trip to the local tip without having to do any Tetris-like stacking.
There’s a very lacklustre cargo blind that is a little too insubstantial to be taken seriously, while a light, flimsy boot floor hides a temporary-use spare wheel.
The Eclipse Cross was last tested by Australian safety body ANCAP in December 2017 and it received five stars. The suite of active safety and driver-assist features certainly ticks boxes, but once again I felt the execution was lacking.
The rear sensors are not very precise, meaning there were several times I parked embarrassingly far out from the wall, while the reverse camera screen becomes challenging to see in bright sunlight, and is so low-resolution that it’s virtually unusable at night.
My biggest beef was the absence of active cruise control – not a crime at this pricepoint, but certainly something I’m becoming accustomed to seeing on mid-spec SUVs.
The cruise control makes life hard by not clearly telling you what speed it's set at – save for a tiny needle on the speedometer – and the absence of a digital speedo makes speed management a challenge.
I also tentatively tested the lane-keep assist on a safe stretch of road, only to find it’s pretty lax and really only kicks in when you’re already over the line, sounding an alarm to let you know you’ve strayed from your lane. I also really missed the inclusion of blind-spot monitoring.
One of the newest perks of Mitsubishi ownership is that you have access to a whopping 10-year, 200,000km warranty if you’re willing to stick within the dealership network for servicing. If not, you’re stuck with the regular five-year/100,000km warranty.
Scheduled servicing through Mitsubishi costs between $299 and $599 per visit, and you can purchase up to 10 years of scheduled servicing coverage for $3790 – probably a worthwhile investment.
While I don’t think you should cross this semi-sporty, segment-straddling SUV off your list (pardon the pun), I didn’t come away from my time in it feeling particularly swayed in either direction.