by Craig Duff
MITSUBISHI has escaped the SUV time-warp, as evidenced by the turbo engine, sharp wedge design and upmarket interior of the Eclipse Cross.
On sale in Australia this month, starting at $30,500 before on-road costs, the Eclipse Cross represents a significant styling evolution over the ageing but still popular ASX baby SUV and the mid-sized Outlander.
Mitsubishi Australia chief executive John Signoriello tips a big sales surge next year, thanks to how well-specified the Eclipse Cross is, on paper at least.
"Mitsubishi has a long history in developing innovative and exciting new models and the Eclipse Cross will build on our reputation as a leader in the SUV segment," Signoriello says.
On terms of size and sophistication, the Eclipse Cross is a logical rival to the Nissan Qashqai and a welcome new model in Mitsubishi showrooms.
Unlike its stablemates, this vehicle will compete on more than price, given it has been fitted with class-leading features from default active driving aids to a willing 1.5-litre turbo.
That engine is paired with a continuously variable transmission with eight pre-set "steps" to make using the paddle-shifters a pseudo-automatic experience.
The base LS front-wheel drive version includes a seven-inch touchscreen with Android/Apple mirroring and digital radio, 18-inch alloys and a safety suite including forward collision monitoring, lane departure warning and automatic high-beams,
The two-wheel drive Exceed ups the ante to $36,000 - comparable to the likes of the AWD Mazda CX-3. The top-spec Mitsubishi includes dual-zone airconditioning, leather trim, power/heated front seats, panoramic sunroof, LED headlamps, head-up display, 360-degree camera, blind-spot warning and rear cross traffic alerts. The Exceed adds all-wheel drive for another $2500.
Visually the Eclipse Cross is a more resolved evolution of the Outlander and ASX design, though it will take a test drive to convince us whether the pair of spoilers draped across the rear window isn't just that - window dressing.
Existing Mitsubishi owners will struggle to recognise the interior. Beyond a few carryover buttons and dials on the aircon controls, this is not a staid, dated dashboard and it stands out all the more because of the Mitsubishi logo on the steering wheel.
Drivers should appreciate the multi-link rear suspension, which reacts better than torsion beams to big hits when cornering.
The colour head-up display in the Exceed should also be appreciated. Rear passengers benefit from the tilt/slide seats, as in the Outlander, which should ensure decent legroom - recline far enough and they should be able also to compensate for the sloping "SUV coupe" roofline.
MITSUBISHI ECLIPSE CROSS
WARRANTY 5 years
SAFETY 5 stars, 7 airbags
ENGINE 1.5-litre 4-cyl turbo, 110kW/250Nm