We don’t think “fun to drive” means what Mitsubishi thinks it means
Regardless of how good or bad the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross is, it’s certainly interesting. Not only is it Mitsubishi’s first new or redesigned vehicle in several years, it’s also supposed to be sporty and fun to drive. Underline “supposed.”
With a name pilfered from one of the iconic sports coupes of the 1990s, the Eclipse Cross carries coupe-like styling. But there’s no getting past that it’s a four-door compact crossover, not a sports coupe.
We come to damn this crossover with faint praise. For although no one will mistake the Eclipse Cross for a Porsche Macan, we came away from our First Drive impressed with how much better it was than the older Outlander Sport. But let’s be clear: That’s a really low bar.
To get a better idea of how improved the Eclipse Cross actually was from the rest of the Mitsubishi small SUV lineup, we brought one in for testing. Turns out, even though the Eclipse Cross’ track-tested performance wasn’t terrible, it wasn’t especially sporty, either.
Acceleration, for example, could best be described as leisurely, with 0–60 mph arriving in 9.0 seconds and the quarter-mile taking 16.9 seconds at 80.9 mph. For comparison, the last Mazda CX-5 we tested hit 60 mph in 8.4 seconds and ran the quarter-mile in 16.4 seconds 83.8 mph. The turbocharged 2017 Honda CR-V only needed 7.5 seconds to hit 60 mph and laid down a 15.8-second quarter-mile at 89.0 mph.
“If there were ever a situation where I absolutely needed to check my phone while doing straight-line testing, this would be the car to do it in,” wrote associate road test editor Erick Ayapana, tongue only partly in cheek. He also complained about the “buzzy engine” and called the power delivery “lumpy.”
The 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder makes only 152 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque, and Ayapana took issue with the transmission, as well. “Seems like the CVT can’t decide whether or not to mimic gear shifts. No improvement in acceleration times in manual mode,” he wrote.
In our braking test, the Eclipse Cross managed to stop from 60 mph in 125 feet. The CR-V beat that mark by nine feet, but the Mitsu did edge the 126 feet the CX-5 needed. Ayapana noted “decent brake feel” but reported “lots of dive,” as well as a tendency to “veer slightly to the left under hard braking.”
If the handling had made up for the leisurely acceleration and ho-hum braking, that would have been one thing. But the Eclipse Cross failed to stand out there, too. It needed 28.5 seconds at 0.56 g to finish the figure-eight, and averaged 0.77 g of lateral acceleration on the skidpad –about on par with the CX-5 and slightly behind the CR-V.
Based on road test editor Chris Walton’s notes, those figures don’t tell the whole story. He said the Eclipse Cross exhibited “lots of dive, pitch, and roll” during testing, and although the brake pedal felt “jumpy” at first, it quickly went soft. Walton echoed Ayapana’s complaints about the CVT, as well. “The transmission cannot figure out what to do in Drive, and it’s only slightly better when I use manual mode,” he wrote. “The tach still wanders up and down for no apparent reason.”
Walton also noted “massive understeer with ESC disabled” and said “it felt like the inside rear wheel got very light around the skidpad.” So even though he had great things to say about the steering, he found “it was difficult to maintain a steady line on the skidpad with the roll and power surging.”
People usually don’t buy small SUVs for their sporting prowess, though. Usability and utility tend to be paramount concerns. But drive the Eclipse Cross for more than a couple days, and its shortcomings become obvious. It’s easy to drive, and easy to park, but “fun to drive” it is not. The ride is rough, and there’s too much wind and road noise. Rear passenger room is limited, as is the size of the cargo area. The styling and proportions of the Eclipse Cross all look a little off, but the design does stand out, and the split rear window doesn’t mess with visibility as much as you’d expect.
Even in our loaded SEL model, interior materials weren’t as nice as the competition’s, but the cabin didn’t feel chintzy or uncomfortable. We particularly liked our tester’s panoramic sunroof, head-up display, adaptive cruise control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and surround-view camera system.
Mitsubishi especially deserves credit for placing the camera control on the steering wheel. Want to make sure you’re parked between the lines? The button to check is conveniently located by your left thumb, not somewhere on the dash. It’s a brilliant idea that works so well, every automaker should copy it immediately.
Fuel economy is also less impressive than we’d expect from a 1.5-liter turbo. Even though the turbocharged CR-V makes an extra 38 hp, it beat the Eclipse Cross in our EQUA Real MPG test by 1.7/6.3/3.0 (city/highway/combined) mpg (138.4/37.3/78.4 L/100km); the Eclipse Cross was EQUA Real MPG rated at 20.2/27.9/23.1 (11.6/8.4/10.2 L/100km) compared to EPA ratings of 25/26/25. Compared to the naturally aspirated CX-5, the Mitsu has a 1.8-mpg (130.7 L/100km) advantage in the city, but on the highway, it comes up 2.0 mpg (117.6 L/100km) short. For a segment in which gas mileage is so important, that’s a problem.
Affordability? If the Eclipse Cross cost significantly less than those competitors, that would be one thing, but our tester had an as-tested price of $32,310 USD. That’s not much less than a nicely equipped Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring. The volume model, the Eclipse Cross LE, is much more affordable, but it’s barely better equipped than a base CR-V with all-wheel drive.
Then there’s the options list. To get adaptive cruise control, for example, you have to add the $2,500 USD Touring package to the top-level Eclipse Cross SEL. Even though that package also includes features such as a panoramic sunroof, heated rear seats, and automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist isn’t available at all. Many competitors include lane keep assist on their mid-grade models, and it will come standard on the 2019 Toyota RAV4 along with adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking. However, the Mitsu’s list of available options isn’t nearly as competitive as it would have been a few years ago. There’s also no audio volume knob.
Because of those reasons – unless you really appreciate the unique styling – it’s hard to make a case for buying the Eclipse Cross without some serious incentives on the hood. Otherwise, some competitors offer better value for your money.
|2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross SEL|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$32,310|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||1.5L/152-hp/184-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|TRANSMISSION||Cont variable auto|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,593 lb (57/43%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||175.5 x 71.9 x 67.3 in|
|0-60 MPH||9.0 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||16.9 sec @ 80.9 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||125 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.77 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||28.5 sec @ 0.56 g (avg)|
|REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB||20.2/27.9/23.1 mpg|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||25/26/25 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||135/130 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.76 lb/mile|