We quite like the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, which offers something different to mid-sized SUV buyers. But we don't reckon this 2WD model is the one to choose in the line-up. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
The Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross is easily the most class-competitive SUV that Mitsubishi makes. This mid-sized 'C'-segment SUV features stand-out styling, a willing 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine and plush equipment levels. Might it all be enough to make broad-minded buyers look beyond the usual suspects in the 'Qashqai class'? Quite possibly in all-wheel drive form. We're not so sure about this 2WD model though....
Here's what looks like a very interesting take on the whole mid-sized 'Qashqai-class' SUV concept - the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross. Once upon a time not too long ago, just having an SUV was enough to be distinctive. Not any more. In fact these days, the segment for family hatch-based models of this kind offers a seemingly endless range of choices. Few of them though, are as interestingly styled and potentially capable as this one.
Certainly the prospects here seem quite promising. This model slots into the brand's SUV line-up between the compact ASX and the larger Outlander and features a new 1.5-litre petrol powerplant. There's also the option of advanced tarmac-tamed 4WD technology that most rivals can't match which is matched to a CVT auto gearbox. Here though, we're testing the slightly more economic 2WD version.
If you're happy with 2WD in your Eclipse Cross, there's the option of manual or automatic transmission. Set off on your test drive and various things might stick in your mind after a spin in an Eclipse Cross. Almost all of them are good. Yes, the slightly compromised view out through the unusual split rear window feels a little odd at first, but once you get used to that, you'll perhaps start to notice what for us was a slightly unexpected attribute: the superb ride quality. It's really excellent, the sophisticated multi-link rear suspension dealing confidently with speed humps and tarmac tears and at higher speeds combining with impressive cruising refinement to make this Mitsubishi one of the first SUVs we'd choose in this class if we had a long trip to undertake.
The 1.5-litre petrol turbo engine is a likeable lump that puts out 163hp and revs happily to its power peak on the way to a top speed of 124mph. Rest to 62mph occupies 10.3s in a 2WD manual model or 9.3s in a 2WD automatic. As you might expect from the engine's relatively diminutive size, pulling power isn't prodigious, but 250Nm of torque facilitates a 1.6-tonne braked towing capacity, which will be ample to tug along something like a small caravan. For that kind of work though, you'll be better off with the alternative 4WD variant which comes only with a CVT auto gearbox. CVTs aren't our favourite transmissions but this one's preferable to the rather baulky manual we tried and the S-AWC 'Super-All Wheel Control' 4WD is beautifully optimised for tarmac traction. In short, the 4WD version of this car is really worth the extra money.
Design and Build
Concept cars are notoriously watered down in style and form for series production build. As you might guess from a glance at this Eclipse Cross, refreshingly, that's not the case here. So the dynamic contours and wedge-shaped beltline of the Mitsubishi XR PHEV II Concept car first shown at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show have been faithfully carried through to stylist Tsunehiro Kunimoto's finished product. It's an eye-catching thing.
At the wheel, you'll find yourself in a cabin of much higher quality than anything this Japanese brand has ever brought us before. We'd worried that the split-level rear screen would severely impinge on rearward visibility but in the event, it's not too bad, though the rising body line does limit your over-the-shoulder vision a bit.
The dash is split into two sections, the upper part dealing with what Mitsubishi calls 'Information' features and the lower section concerned with 'Operation' items. The infotainment system features in both areas, a 7-inch 'Smartphone Link Display' monitor dominating the top of the dash and controlled by a lower touchpad by the handbrake. In the back, there's about the level of room you'd expect from an affordable mid-sized SUV in this segment. The backrest can ease rearwards over a 16 to 32-degree range for greater comfort on longer journeys. Plus the base can slide back and forth over a range of 200mm and in its rearmost position, legroom should be very satisfactory, even if you're quite tall. As for cargo space, with the rear seat moved right back, the luggage bay will give you 341-litres of space.
Market and Model
Prices for this Eclipse Cross sit mainly in the £21,500 to £30,000 bracket common to family hatch-based 'C'-segment 'Qashqai-class' SUVs of this kind. Or at least the volume maker models in this segment anyway. As for engines, well to start with, this car's available only with a 1.5-litre petrol unit but there is a choice of drive layouts that starts with the 2WD variant we tried, available with either a manual or an auto gearbox. We think it's well worth finding the £1,500 premium to graduate up to a 4WD model, an extra charge that includes a CVT auto gearbox. As for trim levels, well there's an entry-level '2'-spec 2WD manual derivative, but most buyers will want either mid-range '3'-spec or our test car's top '4'-spec.
Even the entry-level front-driven manual '2'-spec variant comes with quite a lot of kit, including 16-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, auto headlamps with auto high beam, front fog lamps, rain-sensing wipers, rear privacy glass, heated powered mirrors, an alarm and a full quota of electronic safety kit - which we'll get to in a minute. Inside, there's automatic air conditioning, cruise control with a speed limiter, a reversing camera, leather for the steering wheel and gear knob and sliding and reclining rear seats. Infotainment's taken care of by a 'Smartphone Link Display' audio system with a 7-inch screen from which you can access a 6-speaker DAB audio system, Bluetooth connections and smartphone-mirroring via 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto'.
Cost of Ownership
For a 2WD manual variant like the one we tried, you're looking at 42.8mg on the combined cycle and 151g/km of CO2. Sure enough, that's about 10% off the kinds of returns you'd get in, say, a comparable 1.6-litre Nissan Qashqai or 1.2-litre Toyota C-HR; and about 20% off the returns you'd get in an equivalent 1.4-litre TSI SEAT Ateca. For a 2WD auto Exclipse Cross, the figures re 42.2mpg and 154g/km. Insurance ratings should be reasonable by class standards. You're looking at group 18E for the 2WD manual models and group 20E for a 2WD auto. There's more good news when it comes to residual values too. Industry experts CAP hpi reckon that after three years or 60,000 miles, an entry-level Eclipse Cross '2'-spec variant will retain up to 48.1% of its list price.
Another thing you might be encouraged by as a potential buyer is the decently long five year warranty - though that's slightly spoiled by the brand's insistence on limiting it to 62,500 miles. As you'd expect in this day and age, there's a 12-year anti-perforation warranty. And three years of pan-European roadside assistance and homestart are included in the price. Servicing is required every year or 12,500 miles (whichever comes first) and you can keep maintenance costs down by purchasing a decent value pre-paid servicing pack which takes care of the cost of garage visits for three years or 36,000 miles. The pack costs £450 and Mitsubishi says that over 90% of its customers purchase it.
Mitsubishi has made a decent step forward with this car. If this is what the company can achieve on its own, you'd expect that in future, with the resources of the Nissan-Renault Alliance behind the brand, quite a lot might be possible. Of course in volume terms, the Eclipse Cross won't trouble the market leaders in the mid-sized SUV sector, but it's an interesting alternative to the usual suspects in the 'C'-segment. We'd want to look past the 2WD manual model we tried and get ourselves a 4WD auto model though. The 'S-AWC' 4WD system with its optimised tarmac traction is really one of the key selling points of this design.
In summary, there's a lot of potential here. In the 'Qashqai-class', not everyone wants a Qashqai. Widen your shopping brief and consider this contender if you're prepared to look at something a little different. It's that rarest of things: an affordable, yet truly distinctive family-sized SUV.