25 September 2023

2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross Exceed 2WD – $36,000

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By Karl Peskett.

No-one wants to be that one person who’s late to a party. All the drinks have disappeared, the pizza crusts are all that’s left, the chip bowls have had hundreds of hands go through them and the leftovers sitting on the trays tend to be only suitable for the dog.

There’s a party going on in the SUV market at the moment, and has been for a while now. Mitsubishi has only had the very old Outlander and even more average Outlander Sport (ASX). There was a gap that needed filling, and every other manufacturer seems to have had their share of it.

So when Mitsubishi launched the Eclipse Cross, it seems they were late to the small SUV party. But there may be a glimmer of hope.

You see, this is a totally different approach for the Japanese company. It’s a brand new machine in all respects, unlike some of Mitsu’s ageing lineup. It’s most evident in the design, where you can tell it’s not just an old product with a new face. Unlike the Lancer, Outlander and Outlander Sport, the Eclipse Cross is very cohesive. The “Dynamic Shield” design language flows from one end to the other, creating a very good-looking machine, and one that sits proudly alongside its competitors as a vehicle that looks like it belongs in 2018.

The cabin is where Mitsubishi has traditionally let itself down, but this SUV doesn’t follow its siblings in that respect. In fact, like the exterior, the interior is very nicely styled and doesn’t look or feel piecemeal.

Sure, the plastics can’t all be soft-touch, but the upper surfaces are nicely grained, and the rounded dash fascia looks good. There’s enough silver to break up the black dash-top, but there are a few too many different finishes – the faux-fiber on the doors, for example, is superfluous. We’re also not really fans of the open cup holders.

The seats are quite sporty, with good side bolsters and nice red stitching, and the padding is excellent. The leather is a bit stiff, but it looks smooth and is the best we’ve seen from the brand. Having seat heaters in winter is a bonus, too. The back seats, though, are the surprise. You’d expect that headroom would be limited, but au contraire, you won’t be brushing the headlining.

The foot-room is excellent, with plenty of space underneath the front seats, and knee room is good. All in a small SUV, too. Miracles do happen.

But let’s talk about the thing Mitsubishi makes the biggest shout about – the new infotainment controller. You see it in all the Eclipse Cross adverts, so it must be good, right? Well, it does look exactly like what Lexus uses, but let’s put the imitation aside for a minute.

It seems modern enough, fits in nicely with the interior presentation and has just the right amount of haptic feedback. Despite this, Mitsubishi should have just stuck with a touch screen only. Why is that?

Well, it’s there so you don’t have to reach as far to the screen, but the touch-pad is just so clunky to operate. Instead of sliding across to select a certain menu item, you have to swipe for each movement. For example, if the cursor is on the left and you want to get to the fourth menu item to the right, you have to do four separate swipes, instead of one continuous swiping motion to move across like you would in the Lexus system. Same thing for going up and down. It’s annoying and takes far too long.

There’s also no integrated sat-nav, which is annoying at this price level. Instead, Mitsubishi wants you to connect your smartphone and use its apps to get where you need to go.

Thankfully, the Eclipse Cross gets an all new engine – it’s a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol that makes 110kW and 250Nm – which is smooth, quiet and punchy enough to keep up with the Nissan Qashqai and other competitors.

Sure, the engine isn’t the most powerful out there, but it is the newest and the best Mitsubishi offers currently. Here’s hoping other engines from the brand follow in the same vein.

Sending the power to the front wheels is a CVT gearbox which does a reasonable job of not being too intrusive, except when you’re trying to accelerate quickly, in which case it does flare a little. If you don’t want that, then best use the paddle shifters, which enable you to hold a “gear” rather than it revving too much.

It’ll hit 100kmh in a fraction under nine seconds, and the fuel economy is around 25-27mpg.

Here’s where this SUV is let down a little. While the larger wheels do give you good handling, the steering simply isn’t quick enough to take advantage of this. You feel like you’re doing too much wheeling left and right when threading corners together. The weighting of the steering is a bit odd, too, especially around the centre.

Those good-looking wheels also hurt the ride quality, which is a bit too stiff for the kind of buyers looking at a small crossover.

The 2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross was tested by the European New Car Assessment Program (EuroNCAP) and then when translated to the ANCAP score it was equated as a five-star safety rating.

The Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross is a very good effort from the Japanese car-maker. But that’s because it only has some very rough and ready cars in the range. Compared with its competition, however, the Eclipse Cross doesn’t fare as well.

Its asking price doesn’t justify the drive experience and clunky infotainment user experience. And with rivals like the Qashqai, the excellent Mazda CX-5 and the terrific Hyundai Tuscon on offer, the Eclipse Cross hasn’t got quite enough substance to make its mark in a very crowded marketplace.

In isolation, it’s good. But compared with others it just feels like Mitsubishi is a bit late to this party.

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