The Eclipse Cross is Japanese importer Mitsubishi’s first foray into the boutique midsize-crossover class. How will it fare in this oversubscribed segment?

The indomitable rise of the SUV and crossover has filtered into almost every single segment of the automotive industry. Midsize competitors can now be found from the entry-level end of the market, up to pricey but luxurious options such as the recently tested Lexus UX.

There’s a subset present, too: that of raked crossovers. BMW was the first company to offer what could be labelled as an SUV crossed with a coupé back in 2008 when it launched the first-generation X6 and, these days, many brands play in this niche, including Mitsubishi with its new Eclipse Cross.

Although the Japanese manufacturer is better known for its conservatively classy designs, it’s been more experimental of late. The Eclipse Cross is the most overtly stylised example yet, boasting unique, sharply rendered front-end styling featuring those same large, C-shaped chrome highlights as the Pajero Sport. The rear-end echoes this, tapering down to the lights at sharp angles. And the rear window is divided into two: a smaller section sited below the taillamps, capped by a larger one that takes care of rearward visibility (somewhat like the Toyota C-HR, which can be viewed as a rival).

The Eclipse Cross comes across as a relatively large SUV in pictures but, in reality, is midsized even though it is based on the modified platform underpinning the larger Outlander SUV. Two models are currently on offer: a 4x2 and a 4x4. Both are equipped with a 2,0-litre, naturally aspirated petrol engine sending torque to the wheels via a CVT transmission offering six steps.

The cockpit plays it more conservatively in terms of design and layout. The highlight is an optional seven-inch screen practically positioned above the air vents. The system – which should really be standard at this price point – features Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Bluetooth with voice control.

Although boot capacity is limited (there’s just 216 litres with all the seats in place), it does offer a full-size spare. When the seats are folded flat, the utility space of 1 024 litres is on par with the segment’s standard. Safety features include seven airbags and stability control and, apart from parking sensors front and rear, there is also a rear-view camera. There is a head-up display unit, which can be set according to the driver’s height or seating position, plus heated front seats for those cold winter mornings. The seats are comfortable, while the multi-function steering wheel makes provision for phone, audio and cruise-control interaction.

Although you would probably consider a full-size SUV if loading space and rear-seat capacity are high on your list of requirements, the Cross offers good foot- and legroom in the rear and even ample headroom, which is surprising considering the sloped roof. Three adults should be able to sit in relative comfort in the back.

It doesn’t take long to get acquainted with the nimble Eclipse Cross when driving it. If you are used to larger, heavier SUVs, there is a welcome lightness to the Mitsubishi, especially in an urban environment. However, don’t expect a dynamic driving experience; it is better suited to daily comfort, where the pliant suspension and generous tyre sidewalls ensure a generally absorbent ride.

On the highway, you reap the benefits of the CVT, as the engine revs hover at a relaxed 2 120 r/min at a true 120 km/h. When overtaking, however, they can rise to more than 5 000 r/min as the engine attempts to overcome a naturally aspirated torque deficit. And that dents otherwise impressive refinement levels.

The average braking time on our test strip was 3,08 seconds, which scores it a good rating on our system. The response of the drivetrain after our braking test was disconcerting, though. The moment we initiated an emergency stop, the revs would dip – which is normal – but, once the car came to a full stop, it felt as if the CVT hadn’t yet contracted. The engine would rev to around 2 400 r/min without the vehicle moving forward. It takes a couple of seconds for the system to realise you want to then accelerate. This could potentially be a problem in an actual emergency.

On our fuel run, the Eclipse returned 7,7 L/100 km, impressive if you consider our CAR fuel index based on the carmaker’s official figures puts it at 9,48 L/100 km.



TEST SUMMARY

As with other Japanese car companies, Mitsubishi takes modest steps when implementing new technology. Although the design of the Eclipse Cross is adventurous, the driving experience is what we have come to expect from the manufacturer: there are no surprises, just quiet competence. And we’re not wholly convinced that’s enough of a selling point in a market saturated with interesting, accomplished competitors, whether they offer turbocharged engines, more premium interiors or more upmarket styling.

That said, the arrival of the possibly more alluring 1,5-litre turbocharged petrol in a few months will be interesting, and this time not only to diehard fans of the brand.