The extra elbow grease expended in sculpting, creasing and positioning has been well-spent by the design team under Tsunehiro Kunimoto, the ex-Nissan chap behind the iconic R32 Skyline and the wackily-styled Juke, as the Eclipse Cross has ended up as one of the most distinctive cars in not just Mitsubishi’s range but the burgeoning segment as a whole. The ‘dynamic shield’ family face immediately identifies it and bestows a sporty presence, the steeply-raked, wedge-like side profile certainly gives it a vigorous stance, and although the full width light bar that slices the rear window in half horizontally may not be everyone’s cup of Ryokucha, it ensures that Mitsubishi’s new coupe-SUV is far more visually striking and sportily planted-looking than its plentiful but more formulaic rivals. While the attractive 18″ black and silver alloy wheels are a unique component of range-topping ‘4’ trim as tested, the Eclipse Cross is a rarity in that all palette choices suit it equally.
Intriguing is perhaps the most apt way of summing up the Eclipse Cross 4’s confidently characterful interior. For starters, the dashboard and centre stack aren’t afraid to flaunt their curves and are adorned with chrome effect and gloss black fillets, the latter unarguably prone to scratches. The cabin feels as solid as granite but ultimate tactile quality is lacking, rather like in a Suzuki. The Mitsubishi’s interior is more visually exciting than its blander Qashqai and Kadjar stablemates but its flair isn’t as successfully implemented as the 3008’s, and despite ‘4’ coming with leather seats, a panoramic roof and plenty of toys, it’s not as plush as a Tiguan, for instance. A few of the buttons appear to have been borrowed from the Natural History Museum, such as the heated seat controls, and it’s an ergonomically odd cabin with the conventional handbrake placed right next to the driver’s left leg while the overly tall manual gearstick is positioned uncomfortably close to the leg of the front passenger. Still, the front seats are excellently supportive and the meaty, leather-clad steering wheel and cowled instrument binnacle immediately convey a sporty, ready-for-action aura.
The 7-inch infotainment touchscreen can also be operated by a touch-pad, but sat nav doesn’t even appear on the options list, navigation duty palmed off on Android and Apple smartphones with their mirroring functionality. The disappointingly compact 341-litre boot’s case isn’t helped by hosting the upgraded sound system’s proper subwoofer, but there’s plenty of room in the front and back of the Eclipse Cross, which comes with a raft of safety technology to further bolster ‘4’ trim’s generosity, which even includes a head-up display albeit one that retracts as opposed to an in-glass iteration.
Mitsubishi has a strong heritage in genuinely capable off-road vehicles but although the Eclipse Cross is available in AWD guise, it’s conceivable that a large chunk of buyers and leasers will plump for front-wheel drive as tested – and indeed for manual transmission instead of ‘automatic’ CVT, in pursuit of greater driver engagement. Aside from the 6-speed ‘box not being the slickest out there and feeling rather notchy when it comes to engaging first gear and reverse, plus the firm clutch requiring a prodigious stretch to reach it, the conventional setup works well in partnership with the high-revving and perky 1.5-litre petrol engine that peaks at a pretty decent 163PS, which eclipses many rivals – pun intended. Having to coax the engine to get the best out of it will suit many drivers who like to feel at one with a car and adopt a spirited style.
Shod with 18” alloys in ‘4’ trim, the ride is firm and isn’t obviated by a particularly agile physical performance during zestful cornering. The driving positon is excellent, though, and the Eclipse Cross acquits itself well on fast-flowing A-roads. The engine also settles down nicely on motorways, although the usefully and reassuringly large wing mirrors do kick up some unwelcome wind noise. Slow-speed urban manoeuvres are made easier by the reversing camera, pleasant steering weight and decent turning circle.
Diesel isn’t currently offered for the Eclipse Cross, which is no great surprise in light of the fuel’s unabated pummelling in the press, and although the Mitsubishi’s 42.8mpg average on paper and mid-30s real-world figure can’t match a Peugeot 3008 1.2 PureTech for efficiency, it’s more respectable than the petrol Sportage despite the torquier Japanese car having over 30 horses more. The Eclipse Cross’ CO2 emissions of 151g/km aren’t anything to write home about in the road tax stakes, but the 63-litre fuel tank provides a decent range.
Its styling is sharp and distinctive, its unusual cabin is comfortable and well-equipped, and its characterful petrol engine rewards a sporty driving style, certainly making the 2WD 1.5-litre Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross represent an individual choice in such a crowded market. Priced at a whisker under £25,000 it’s also more affordable than comparably-powered and equipped rivals. Mitsubishi’s ‘he who dares’ philosophy is noble and deserves to enjoy some success whatever the brand’s Renault-Nissan future may hold.