Mitsubishi introduced the Eclipse Cross last year to plug a gap between the smaller ASX and larger Outlander, with the goal of stealing sales from some of the major players in the small SUV class. But this is one of the most competitive sectors out there, with a host of talented rivals, including the Skoda Karoq and Peugeot 3008.
So how does the newcomer stack up, and does it meet the needs of family life? I’ve taken delivery of a new Eclipse Cross to see how it performs as a family car, and with my son fast approaching his first birthday, the SUV is sure to be put to task over the coming months.
I picked up the keys from West London Mitsubishi in Barnes, and was shown around the car by sales executive Karrar Alsaidi. The Eclipse Cross is still quite rare on UK roads and seeing it in the metal I think it’s safe to describe the exterior design as a bit hit and miss.
At the rear, the horizontal bar that splits the two panes of glass and the panel line running down the side give it an ungainly appearance. However, the front is attractive and the LED daytime running lights add to its visual appeal.[gallery:1]
Karrar guided me through the infotainment system and, although ours is a top-spec car, I was disappointed to hear that there’s no sat-nav. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come as standard, so I’ll need to keep a cable in the cabin at all times and rely on Apple Maps instead. It is unusual for a car in this class not to feature sat-nav, and in fact it’s not even on the Eclipse Cross’s options list.
The large glass sunroof lets plenty of light in, making the interior feel larger and roomier than it actually is, while the nine-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio system is powerful and produces an even sound throughout the cabin. I’m also a fan of head-up displays and, while the set-up on our Mitsubishi is pretty basic, it does the job well.
I’ve only really had a chance to drive the Eclipse Cross around town so far, and initial impressions suggest it struggles to soak up bumps or potholes. The ride feels jittery on anything other than smooth tarmac. It’ll be interesting to see how it performs on longer journeys when I get out of London, where I live, and on to some motorways.
There’s currently only one engine option, a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol turbo with 161bhp and 250Nm of torque. It’s peppy and feels more than able to cope with the car’s 1,455kg bulk. Driving in town, the Mitsubishi never feels underpowered, and it definitely seems quicker than the quoted 0-62mph time of 10.3 seconds suggests.
When we’ve tested the Eclipse Cross in the past, we found the CVT auto box compromised the driving experience, so we’ve gone for the manual option instead. This version is not available with four wheel drive, but overall it’s a much better set-up. If only the gearstick were better positioned; it’s mounted to the left of the rather high handbrake, which is a little confusing and will take some getting used to.
Whenever I travel with my young son the car is usually packed to the rafters with a child seat, buggy, travel cot, changing bags and much, much more, so the Mitsubishi has to deliver here.[gallery:3]
The flexible rear seat arrangement should help maximise the car’s potential because you can move the seats back or forth to increase load space or legroom for passengers in the rear. With the seats slid forwards, the boot is capable of swallowing 448 litres. While that’s not a class-leading capacity, it’s more than enough for me, for now.
And because we’ve gone for the top-spec ‘4’ model, I’m happy to report that our car comes with a level of safety tech that would please any family driver. The list includes lane departure warning, forward collision mitigation with auto braking and a reversing camera. The latter has already proven really useful when squeezing into a tight space.
*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.