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2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross: First Drive Review

If you’re looking for information on a newer Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, we’ve published an updated review: 2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross Review

Mitsubishi vehicles haven’t been high on the U.S. consumer’s shopping list over the past decade, but the Japanese manufacturer isn’t prepared to fold its tents and give up. Instead, it has entered into a venture with Nissan and Renault to develop new shared global platforms, technologies and manufacturing, called the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi Alliance. But before the Alliance ramps up, Mitsubishi isn’t standing still. Meet the all-new 2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, a compact crossover utility vehicle (CUV) that will be hitting U.S. showrooms in March 2018, during Mitsubishi’s 115th anniversary year.

Heritage and Positioning

Car buffs and even casual fans will recognize the Eclipse name, as it was previously attached to one of Mitsubishi’s vehicles through four generations from the 1990 to 2012 model years. The sport compact was a cute little coupe with a lively personality, and was the product of a previous manufacturing partnership that Mitsubishi had with Chrysler Corporation called "Diamond Star Motors."

The Eclipse Cross appropriates the name and a few design touches from the legacy vehicle, but it lives in a different class. In size and price, it slots in between the Outlander Sport and the Outlander. Mitsubishi saw a gap in the market for a reasonably priced sporty CUV, and they believe that Eclipse Cross will fill that space with little direct competition. See the 2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross models for sale near you

Exterior

One of the big complaints we hear from shoppers in the CUV world is that "they all look the same." It’s hard to argue in a broad sense, but designers like to point at the details that make their vehicles stand out. Eclipse Cross makes good use of crisp body lines and a swooping roofline to project an athletic profile, inspired by a sprinter in the "Set" position at the starting line. This impression is amplified by a relatively long wheelbase (106.4 inches vs. 104.7 inches for the 2018 Toyota RAV4) with short overall body length (175.5 inches vs. 183.5 inches for the 2018 Toyota RAV4), accomplished with brief overhangs in both the front and rear.

A version of the Mitsubishi "Dynamic Shield" gives the front fascia its expressive look, with LED accent lighting and DRL (full LED headlights are available on upper trim levels). A signature LED taillight array identifies the Eclipse Cross upon departure.

Overall, the design is a good one, though the naysayers will still complain that it blends in at the grocery store parking lot. Choose an Eclipse Cross in a new high-intensity premium metallic red paint, and you won’t have that problem — it’s very vibrant.

Interior

Inside, the Eclipse Cross displays a good level of design, fit and finish, with good quality materials and a well thought out layout. The second row and cargo area have received some smart engineering. In order to maximize utility, the 60/40-split seat not only folds down, it can also slide fore and aft about eight inches, making more room for luggage than the spec sheet indicates (22.63 cu ft.). For comfort, the seat back reclines, and there’s even available second-row seat heat on the outboard positions. Overhead, a sliding panoramic sunroof is another thoughtful option.

The driver’s seat is the place to be, second-row comfort aside. In keeping with the sporty theme, there’s a cockpit feel to the position. The manual tilt-telescopic adjustable steering wheel is home to the usual buttons and controls. Big paddle shifters are mounted to the steering column behind the wheel. The 7-in touchscreen telematics interface is mounted on the dash at the top of the center stack — the best location for safety and visibility.

The Eclipse Cross is loaded with tech (more details later), but the designers and engineers have done a good job of avoiding clutter. One control that’s missing is a dedicated audio volume knob in the center console. There is a volume control on the left side of the steering wheel, and a touch control on the right side of the touchscreen on top of the dash, but that one’s a long reach from the wheel. More seat time might make this a moot point, but first impressions felt the absence.

Engine and Transmission

The new Eclipse Cross comes with a new engine for U.S. vehicles, a turbocharged 1.5-liter inline 4-cylinder that’s tuned to produce 152 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque using direct gasoline injection. It’s hooked up to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) with eight stepped ratios. The engine is sprightly and eager to deliver its torque at low RPM. It can scoot the CUV off the line nicely and still has some juice in reserve for freeway passing speed and hill climbs. Despite the "8-speed" tuning of the CVT, though, it displays a bit of the rubber band effect that can plague the technology when left to its own devices. Stuck in "Drive" and without the intervention of the driver through the paddle shifters, the transmission drones a bit and lags behind throttle input. Be sure to get the Eclipse Cross out on the highway during your test drive, and see if this behavior is acceptable for your driving.

Suspension and Handling

Mitsubishi focused on Eclipse Cross’s sporty appearance, and they didn’t ignore handling and performance to match. All but the front-wheel drive base ES model come with standard Super-All-Wheel Control (S-AWC), and the feature can be added to the base model for just $600. S-AWC is a torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system that directs power to the outside wheels in a corner, sharpening turning response and improving handling in all road conditions. With 4-wheel independent suspension (front struts/rear multi-link) and stabilizer bars front and rear, the Eclipse Cross stays flat through turns, with minimal body roll. Thankfully, a generous 8.6 inches of minimum ground clearance is maintained, which will be appreciated in light off-road and snow conditions.

Technology

As stated above, the Eclipse Cross can be loaded down with a ton of tech. Two unique features for vehicles in the class are a touchpad in the center console to access the infotainment system, and a full-color head-up display (HUD). The LED HUD projects vital information (speed, navigation prompts, etc.) on a small acrylic screen that flips up automatically when the vehicle is started and folds flat when the ignition is turned off.

The Eclipse Cross will be the first Mitsubishi vehicle to be equipped with Mitsubishi Connect. Owners will be able to use an app on their smart phones to track their vehicles, set up geofencing, hit remote start and manage temperature control and other features. The subscription-based system uses an onboard 4G LTE cellular modem, and will come with a free trial period.

Safety

Mitsubishi has been quietly amassing a nice array of advanced safety systems for its vehicles, and the Eclipse Cross will be available with the latest versions. Blind spot monitoring, and lane-change assist, rear cross-traffic alert, forward-collision mitigation, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control system, multi-view camera system and automatic high beam are all available or standard on upper trim levels.

Driving Experience

Mitsubishi brought a group of journalists out to drive the Eclipse Cross in California on the heels of the CUV’s U.S. debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show. A drive up the Pacific Coast Highway from Santa Monica to Calamigos Ranch in Malibu afforded the opportunity to experience the new vehicle in a variety of conditions, from stop-and-go traffic to twisty mountain roads to a brief freeway blast. The little turbo engine proved its worth, with plenty of power for inclines and speed runs, and a surprising lack of noise or thrashiness. Sometimes these small turbo engines sound like they’re being tortured, but the new 1.5-liter lump is smooth and quiet. Handling and turn in are very good — sporty, even. The higher-than-sedan driving position will please SUV fans, and the view from the big windshield is the highlight of a package of all-around outward visibility.

Trim Levels and Pricing

There will be four trim levels of Eclipse Cross at launch: ES, LE, SE and SEL. Each trim level gets the same 1.5-liter turbo and CVT. The base FWD ES starts at $23,295. S-AWC adds $600 to the base ES. LE starts at $24,895. SE starts at $26,395. The top-of-the-line SEL (starting at $27,895) is loaded. A touring package can be added on top of that (starting at $30,395).

Mitsubishi’s 5-year/60,000-mile basic warranty covers the Eclipse Cross, along with a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain limited warranty, 7-year/100,000-mile anti-corrosion limited warranty and 5-year/unlimited mile roadside assistance package.

Fuel economy estimates will be released closer to vehicle launch.

The Competitive Set and Final Thoughts

Mitsubishi believes that they’ve found a market gap for the 2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross — the affordable mainstream sporty compact SUV. It’s a debatable claim — see the outgoing Nissan Juke and incoming Kicks, Mazda CX-5, Toyota C-HR and Honda HR-V.

The good news for Mitsubishi fans is that the Eclipse Cross deserves to be part of the conversation, and is worthy of serious consideration.

To gain access to this information, Autotrader attended an event sponsored by the vehicle’s manufacturer.

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