2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross
Michael Westlake says the new Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross will change your thinking about what to expect from a small SUV
HOW many times have you heard the phrase “it’s the thought that counts”?
Normally it is something you hear when you have completely missed the mark with your choice of gift – or, being honest, lack thereof – on a special occasion like Christmas, or a birthday, or wedding anniversary.
But that phrase doesn’t always have to carry a negative connotation.
In fact, with regards to the Eclipse Cross – the all-new small SUV from Mitsubishi – saying “it’s the thought that counts” is about as complimentary a phrase as you can get.
From the word go, you can tell a lot of thought has gone into the Eclipse Cross – like the designers looked at modern SUVs and asked “How can we make it better?”
They must have thought long and hard about a solution, because they have come up with one hell of a car in the Eclipse Cross.
In a saturated segment of the Australian car market, where so many of the cars can start to look and feel the same, the Eclipse Cross just feels that little bit special.
I think it is fantastic.
The Eclipse Cross is unmistakably a Mitsubishi, with the familiar design cues giving away its pedigree well before you see the three diamonds sitting on the front grille.
But at the same time, the Eclipse Cross seems to stand apart from the rest of the family. It is sharper, more aggressive.
Truth be told, at first glance the front end reminded me of the Lamborghini Urus – not a bad wrap, considering you could buy 10 of the Mitsubishis for the price of one of the Lambos.
I get the impression its shape was hacked out of granite with an axe, rather than designed with modeller’s clay. It really is a striking looking vehicle.
Those fabulously ferocious lines were only exacerbated by the paint – a brilliant shade of red, curiously enough called “brilliant red”.
But describing this colour merely as “red” would be like calling the grand canyon a trench, or cataloguing the Mona Lisa as “picture of girl”.
I don’t know if it actually makes the car go faster, but it certainly makes it look faster – accentuating every shard of chrome and black trim, and highlighting every line and angle.
Mitsubishi themselves refer to the styling of the Eclipse Cross as “conveying subtle confidence”.
Personally I think “subtle confidence” was left behind some distance down the highway. This thing just has an outand- out swagger.
But as impressive as the outside is – and let’s be honest, it really is – the interior has it trumped. Before you have even closed the door behind you, you know you are in for something a bit special.
The model I am driving is the Exceed 2WD, wedged midway between the entry-level LS 2WD and the range-topping Exceed All-Wheel Drive.
Now, if I was slightly more mature, I am sure the first things I would have noticed would have been the wonderfully comfortable leather seats, spacious interior, excellent driving position and positive ergonomics of the cabin.
No. What I look for first is how many buttons and gadgets there are to play with, and the Eclipse Cross delivers a proper little show-stopper.
Any car worth its salt these days boasts a dash-mounted touchscreen to control the audio and entertainment system – and the Eclipse Cross has a ripper with its seven-inch display.
But the Eclipse Cross brings that little bit of extra though with a massively clever trackpad in the centre console, meaning you can control your audio and media without having to lean forward and use the screen.
It is very simple to use, and a perfect example of how a little extra thought brings extra value to the driving experience.
It is by no means the only example however.
Take the Head-Up Display, a very smart contraption that uses a retractable sheet of glass to project important driving information like your speed and cruise control settings directly into your line of vision, meaning less time with your eyes off the road looking at instruments.
This is technology that is pleasingly becoming more common in cars outside of the expensive prestige bracket.
But with the display on the Eclipse Cross able to be adjusted electronically to suit your height, and the brightness able to be altered depending on the time of day, you would be hard pressed to find one that does it so well.
It is the same with the Exceed’s tremendous Multi-Around Monitor, which gives you a birds-eye view of the car while you are parking by using combined images provided by cameras located around the car.
Again, the better cars on the market these days have this technology.
But the Exceed takes it that one step further with a camera button on the steering wheel, which allows you to use the camera in different combinations for when you are squeezing into a tight spot, or avoiding obstacles by letting you see what is going on at every corner of the car.
They’ve put some extra thought into the sunroof as well, with two separate areas that can open individually, or together to reveal the massive panoramic glass top.
Even something as simple as the handle on the boot door has been designed with practicality in mind, with a recessed handle making it much easier for even the most vertically challenged among us to grab hold and shut the door
As you would expect, the safety features have also been given the treatment, with seven airbags and a five-star ANCAP safety rating headlining a list of features that set a new benchmark in the class.
There is Adaptive Cruise Control, Anti-lock Brakes, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, Blind Spot Warning, Lane Change Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Forward Collision Mitigation, Hill Start Assist, reversing camera and parking sensors and automatic headlights and wipers.
Even here Mitsubishi go the extra yard: Just when you think you have seen every safety acronym there is, they have found another one in UMS.
This stands for Ultrasonic Misacceleration Mitigation System. No, I hadn’t heard of it either.
But what it means is that the Eclipse Cross Exceed will detect when the accelerator has been accidentally pushed, up to a speed of 10km/h, and reduce the chance or intensity of hitting an obstacle it has detected.
So the Eclipse Cross has the looks, it has the brains – but what about the brawn?
Well, the good news continues here too, with a turbo-charged 1.5L petrol engine under the bonnet that delivers genuine zip and performance without a massive thirst.
The Eclipse Cross chews up highway miles with ease and comfort to help ward off fatigue on long hauls.
But it is just as happy nipping in and out of city traffic, with direct and nimble steering making light work of narrow streets and tight bends.
It really is a very good car, and with driveaway prices at Bartons starting at under $33,000 for the LS and just over $40,000 for the Exceed, you would be doing well to find a better-equipped car for the money.
I really was not expecting to like a small SUV as much as I liked the Eclipse Cross. I never really thought of something like this as my type of car.
But you can never deny quality, and the Eclipse Cross is good enough to change my mind.
If this car marks the beginning of a new era for Mitsubishi, I don’t think my opinion will be the last one that they change.