Automotive brands are no strangers to pulling at the heartstrings of buyers. One such method is to revive a revered nameplate as a more commercially viable vehicle. The Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross does exactly this. While it may have been reincarnated as a coupe SUV in 2017 to entice younger buyers who were familiar with the Eclipse of the 90’s, three years on and it has already received a facelift. The extra length and updated looks are intended to make it a more approachable option for buyers with an itch to explore. We spent a few days with it in the Lowveld to find out if the updates have allowed it to grow into what it was intended to be.
Most of the buying demographic of a compact SUV like the Eclipse Cross are young, adventure-orientated individuals that prioritize versatility when shopping for a car. Options which do away with low profile tyres and focus more on ground clearance plays into the hand of automakers with a broad portfolio of SUVs. It is no secret that affordable sports cars and coupes are a dying breed with SUVs being at the forefront of the culling, so combining traits of both into one should be the solution to appease those who want both, right?
The Eclipse Cross could be categorized simply as a Compact Crossover SUV but Mitsubishi insist that their derivative is a coupe SUV, which is claimed to combine the best of both worlds. The intention is to morph an athletic and sporty aesthetic into a practical and usable vehicle that is not restricted by any road surface it may encounter.
The aesthetics are intended to be sporty, so both the front and rear have been significantly redesigned to encompass this methodology. The rear-end is the most significant change, it has gone under the scalpel and comes out 140mm longer than before. This not only affords bonus boot capacity but the rake of the reshaped bootlid creates a much sleeker looking design from the side profile which alludes to its supposed coupe DNA.
The Pontiak Aztek inspired split rear-screen has also been ditched for a minimal and neat LED rear tailight design that runs vertically adjacent to the rear screen. While it may not be something that Walter White would spend his money on, it does create a pleasant looking rear end that has greatly improved on its predecessor.
At first glance, the front end may seem similar from before but it has undergone a few aesthetic changes which create a much more cohesive and futuristic appeal. The imperative was to fully embrace Mitsubishi’s dynamic shield concept which is their internal design language that is intended to express powerful and dynamic design.
The split headlight configuration that is becoming more common on newer cars has been well executed on the Eclipse Cross while chrome accents frame the large plastic grille which feed into the sleek DRL’s.
While it will always remain subjective, this is one of the more attractive offerings in comparison to its competition. The angular dynamic shield inspired front end from Mitsubishi, which is becoming a more prominent feature on their new offerings, also distinguishes the Eclipse Cross from the general monotony of the segment.
In terms of driving appeal, an SUV will always struggle to recreate the dynamics of a coupe or sportscar. While it is internally categorized by Mitsubishi as a coupe SUV, it simply lacks any true sportiness to set the world on fire. Marketing strategy and classification aside, it drives and corners very well for an SUV of its size despite its height and ground clearance of 180mm.
The front wheels are powered by one of two options, one of them being the latest turbocharged powerplant on offer by Mitsubishi; the MIVEC 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine which delivers peak performance of 110kW with 250Nm. Alternatively, the less desirable but slightly cheaper 2.0L GLS CVT 4×2 naturally aspirated derivative is equipped with 110kW of power and 198Nm of peak torque. In the solitary driving mode, both are claimed to achieve just below 8.0l/100km but our turbocharged derivative averaged 9.1/100km in extra-urban conditions while stretching its legs on the open road achieved a lower average of 7.2l/100km.
Our test car was equipped with the 1.5-litre drivetrain which is more than sufficient and undoubtedly the option you would want to drive. The power is readily available in all driving conditions and occasional but mild torque steer from full throttle pull aways can result in some unwarranted tyre shriek.
It comfortably managed with low speed, sedate urban commutes as well as comfortable open road cruising and this is credit to its transmission. As far as CVT’s go, the 8-step variation in the Eclipse Cross is the best one I have experienced so far. It is comfortable, refined and well suited to the turbocharged motor which is relaxingly quiet throughout most of the rev range.
The chassis and suspension is more suited to the SUV side of things than anything coupe or sports car-like and that is ok since the rest of the experience inspires as much tranquility as the drivetrain does. Traversing on a multitude of surfaces including highways, rough countryside tarmac and even dirt trails exceeded comfort expectations.
The suspension confidently soaks up rough surfaces and potholed roads with very little disturbance to the cabin. Roadway noise is generally unnoticeable until speeds of 100kmh are exceeded, which even then remains ambient.
Speaking of the cabin, it is a well laid out and comfortable place to be in – particularly from the driver’s seat. There is ample spaciousness in both rows with the driver and passenger receiving fully electric seat adjustment. The second row has angle adjustment only while isofix anchorage is concealed within the crevices of the seats. With these seats in their most upright position, the boot has a capacity of 437l while folding the 60/40 seats down allows for an impressive 1074l of cargo space. This is all without compromising on the spare wheel size but it does present a high loading lip and boot floor which is awkwardly shaped. While most new cars include many unnecessary gimmicks that add to the weight figure and price tag, the Eclipse Cross is a car that would have been well suited with an electrically operated tailgate since the redesign and sweeping profile make it heavy and difficult to interact with.
Other updates to the interior include a new 8” infotainment screen which has most of the functionality that you would expect in a new car. The overall user experience is let down by bootup latency and laggy operation but screen mirroring via USB cable is its saving grace. Once your music device is connected, the audio is projected through an impressive 8 speaker sound system which has enough bass to get the rear view mirror vibrating at full blast. The screen also projects a mediocre resolution reverse camera while park distance control is displayed on the drivers dials.
Other creature comforts for the front row include dual zone climate control with heated seats while a retractable Mitsubishi Motors Intuitive Technology (MiTEC) HUD is positioned just above the dashboard.
There are some gripes that the interior instills such as the hard to reach trip-meter buttons and a clumsy to interact with phone slot in front of the gear shifter but the worst offender of them all is the excessive use of piano black plastic and faux brushed aluminium which after a few thousand kilometers has already been tattered to the point where the car looks a decade old. That being said, there is still a premium feel within the interior, with soft touch points in every direction and a plush look dashboard.
While cheap, bottom of the barrel SUVs will continue to dominate sales charts, the more premium, value for money derivatives like the Eclipse Cross offer a more unique and high quality option that come loaded with standard features. The range starts at R459 995 for the 2.0L GLS while our top of the range test car, the 1.5L GLS comes in just shy of half a million at R499 995. Both models include 3-year/100 000km manufacturer warranty with a 5-year/90 000km service plan.
In comparison to some of its chief competitors which includes the likes of the Mazda CX-30 or Kia Seltos, the Eclipse Cross may be slightly down on tech but provides a superb ride with a high quality interior and an equally unique option in the generally monotonous looking market.