First Drive: Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

Yes, it’s another SUV, but this one looks different…

For as long as I’ve been playing around with cars, people have told me that all modern cars look the same. It wasn’t true when the Ford Escort and Sierra ruled the roads, and wasn’t true a generation later when the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Corsa topped the charts. However, as the everybody turns to SUVs for their next car, the basic shape means finally, perhaps there’s some truth to the claim.

Nobody told Mitsubishi though. It’s turned up rather late to the booming SUV market with a car that tries its best to merge a sporting coupe-like shape with practicality that comes with a box on wheels. The end result is certainly smart, with a waistline that rises towards the rear, and a roofline that falls away sharply. To create enough space inside while retaining the raked silhouette, the designers has split the rear window, with one vertical pane joining the angled boot lid window, the join disguised by a spoiler that splits the glass.

It stands out against the backdrop of me-too Qashqais, Kugas and Crosslands, although can’t avoid using visual shorthand to highlight its ruggedness, such as the plastic covered wheel arches and metal-look skid plates front and rear.

Inside things are a little more conventional. There’s a dashboard that sits above a silver blade that runs the width of the cabin, dominated by a touchscreen that floats right at the top, in easy view of the driver. It includes a DAB radio and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, allowing users to mirror their smartphones. Because of this, Mitsubishi has taken the bold decision not to include any navigation system in the car, assuming users will rely on Google Maps or similar on their phones.

It’s about the only innovative area inside the car though, as the rest of it is much the same as every other car on the market. There’s a lot of dark plastic around, although it;s not unattractive, while there’s utterly conventional controls for everything not covered by that screen, so that’s heating, ventilation and some heated seat switches. It’s tidy enough, but that’s partly because a bunch of seldom used switches have been hidden away below the steering wheel, somewhere by the driver’s right knee.

Kneeroom, as well as elbow, head and legroom, is more than sufficient, the Eclipse Cross being a rather spacious vehicle. That low roofline is deceiving, as there’s plenty of room for even those in the back seats, while the boot is competitively sized thanks to the very rearmost upright section. It’s impressive packaging.

The engine is impressive to. It’s a small 1.5-litre petrol engine newly developed by Mitsubishi, and pushes out 161bhp. That’s enough to dash to 62mph in 10.3 seconds, which is a little faster than all of its rivals bar the Kia Sportage. However, the penalty for that is lower fuel economy and higher CO2 emissions than many rivals, especially when compared to the SEAT Ateca and Peugeot 3008.

For some buyers, that’ll be a penalty worth paying, as the engine is a delight to use. It’s torquey, pulls along nicely and settles to a barely audible hum at cruising speed. Ask for a bit more oomph and it responds reasonably well, while a stiff chassis and suspension ensures it feels taught around corners. There’s little feel through the steering but it’s accurate and well weighted, so making progress across country shouldn’t be too difficult.

There’s no diesel option right now but, should Mitsubishi decide that the current trend to move away from oil burners isn’t such a big deal, expect to see a frugal 2.2-litre unit under the bonnet by the end of the year. Further away is an electric version, assuming the Eclipse gains enough traction.

Talking of traction, this is an SUV that might actually be able to tackle some mild off-roading as there’s four-wheel drive available. Not on this test model though, which is front-wheel drive, but Mitsubishi’s experience with the rough stuff means the Eclipse 4×4 surely won’t be wanting for much ability.

There’s a lot to like about the Eclipse, and the confidence of the Mitsubishi staff is contagious. It might look expensive initially, but there’s so much equipment fitted a standard that it’s almost a bargain, while strong residuals and some great dealer finance deals will make it more affordable on a monthly basis. Fleet buyers might be put off by relative lack of efficiency, but private buyers will revel in the petrol refinement, punchy performance, distinctive style and, importantly, five-year warranty.

Model Tested: Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross 4 Manual
Price: £24,975
Range: £21,275 – £29,740
Top speed: 127 mph
0-62 mph: 10.3 seconds
Power: 163 PS (161 bhp)
Torque: 250 Nm (184 ft lb)
Monthly PCP*: £341
Official fuel economy: 42.8 mpg
Road test economy: N/A
CO2 Emissions: 151 g/km
Car Tax: £140
Insurance group: 19E
* Monthly PCP estimate based on 20% deposit, 36 month term, 5% APR, final payment of 40%.
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Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.

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