For a little over twenty years Mitsubishi produced a sporty little car named after a British racehorse from the 1700s that started 18 races and won every time. But, just like the thoroughbred racer which went on to stud duty, the popular little car also left the circuit. The last Mitsubishi Eclipse was produced in 2011 and immediately auctioned off for charity.
While the horse eventually sired hundreds of future prize winners, Mitsubishi would be thrilled if the Eclipse scored with its own progeny – in this case, a crossover vehicle that borrows the venerable old name.
Introducing the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, a compact crossover SUV that premiered in Geneva about 18 months ago and received additional exposure when the car was promoted during the American solar eclipse a few months later.
The Eclipse Cross has trim levels beginning with the base model ES up to the top-of-the-line SEL. For a week I drove one of the mid-trim versions, the SE w/ all-wheel-control. In fact, all but the base ES features AWC; the ES offers front-wheel-drive.
Of course, you may be asking: What’s the diff between AWD and AWC? Fair question, and one I didn’t know the answer to until recently. To save space in this review, here’s a link that explains it pretty succinctly.
Each model comes with a 1.5-L turbocharged engine that produces around 150 horsepower. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but the very first thing I noticed when I left the house was the enthusiasm the Eclipse Cross has off the starting line. I’ve heard it described as “peppy,” and that’s apt. I really enjoyed the little SUV’s oomph.
Let me just get something out of the way: What’s up with that bisected window in the back?
The rear hatch of this small SUV has glass on the top, then a strip of metal running across the width that includes the brake lights, and then another smaller space of glass below. I suppose they were going for some sort of stylish appearance on the outside.
But from the driver’s perspective, it’s a bit irritating looking in the rearview mirror and having your vision bisected. The sloping roof doesn’t help that view, either.
When it comes to passenger comfort, the Eclipse Cross does get pretty high marks. The materials, for instance, are a step up from other Mitsubishi offerings, namely the Outlander SUV.
I enjoyed the storage up front, the upholstery, and the seat comfort. There was decent legroom for smaller backseat passengers, but not a happy haven for 6-footers like me.
I also encountered some odd moments with the basic configuration for the driver. Just rolling down the window was an exercise in hand calisthenics because the door handle pretty much obstructs the way to the window button. On top of that, I continually banged my right knee against the center console.
Storage in the back checks in at just under 50-cubic feet when the rear seat is folded down.
Putting aside the thumbs-up I handed out for the zippy acceleration, once you actually begin the process of driving the car, including all the turns you navigate, you realize you’re not behind the wheel of a full-on sports machine. Cornering and overall handling betray the fact that this is not a Porsche 911, but rather a $28,000 small SUV.
The continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) works smoothly and provides an okay ride through the gears. But I found the ride a bit bumpier than I would’ve predicted, and things never sounded like they were meshing. Yes, the ear test is a thing.
The good news is that at least the Eclipse Cross delivers pretty good fuel economy.
Not high marks here unless you go with the (thankfully) included Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Whoever’s responsible for the touchscreen design/engineering should stay after class.
Without boring you with too much detail, I’ll just note that a knob here and there would’ve solved the bulk of the tech issues. Having to maneuver a touchpad or reach for an oddly-far-away touchscreen seem almost dangerous to me. Gimme an easy knob, and don’t make me stretch for it.
Kudos, however, for the nice variety of car safety/driver assist features. In this regard the engineers at Mitsubishi get some brownie points.
The Bottom Line
It’s just an idea that floated through my head on the final day of the test drive, but I got the impression the folks at Mitsubishi were trying to step outside the norm to give buyers something different. That’s noble, and – given the rash of lookalikes out there – praiseworthy.
And maybe the dings I gave the Eclipse Cross are just growing pains. It is, after all, a new player in the segment – and a crowded, competitive segment at that. Coming out of the gate with a few new looks isn’t the worst idea.
It’s not dissimilar from a football team that drew up a pretty good game plan during the week, but didn’t quite execute on Sunday. The Eclipse Cross is a peppy player, and will find its niche.
2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross SE
1.5L Direct Injection Turbo Engine
Mileage: 25/26/25 combined
As tested: $28,015
Reviewed by Dom Testa
Vehicle provided by manufacturer