Not long ago, Mitsubishi was in danger of collapse. How times change. It is now part of the giant Renault/Nissan/Mitsubishi global alliance. Thus group has overtaken VW as the world’s largest car company. It sold 10.6 million vehicles last year, one in every nine around the globe.
It is a complex relationship. Renault itself, owned 15% by the French government, bailed Nissan out of near-bankruptcy in 1999. That gave Renault a controlling 43.4% share of Nissan. Nissan itself has a 34% stake in Mitsubishi. Each of the three brings something to the table. Renault is strong in Europe, Nissan in China, Japan and North America. Mitsubishi brings plug-in hybrid expertise.
The alliance brings significant savings in purchasing, engineering and manufacturing. The plan to produce more than nine million vehicles on four common platforms by 2022. Two years ago, I would have bet on Mitsubishi going out of business. I was reluctant to advise buying a Mitsubishi. Now that it is an integral part of a massive alliance, it has sufficient resources to engineer and develop new product. I no longer have those reservations.
The Mitsubishi Cross is the latest addition to the Mitsubishi line. After a week with this vehicle, I can heartily recommend it as worthy of inclusion on the shopping list for anyone considering a new compact crossover. The Eclipse Cross fits between the $23,000 RVR, and the $29,000 Outlander in the company’s crossover line.
The Eclipse portion of the name is in reference to a car the company used to build.
The test vehicle came in GT trim. At $32,000 it was priced below similarly-equipped competitors. Standard equipment included: all-wheel-drive, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, automatic headlights, heated power mirrors and front seats, electric parking brake, dual zone automatic climate control, wireless connectivity, power windows and locks, cruise control, rear view camera, tilt & telescope steering wheel, six-speaker audio system with satellite radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
That price also included a $2,000 “Tech package” which brought forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, auto dimming mirror, automatic high beams and an erratic adaptive cruise control system.
The Eclipse Cross is the first product styled under the guidance of Tsunehiro Kunimoto, the new chief of design. He is another product of the alliance, having come to Mitsubishi from Nissan. The coupe-like profile, with its sloping roofline, deeply sculpted side profile and distinctive split rear window stands out in this crowded field.
Styling alone will help sell this vehicle.
The interior is well thought out and more spacious than the overall size of the vehicle would suggest. From the HUD (Heads Up Display) to the well bolstered seats, the driver gets the sense he or she was as much a target for the product planners as were passengers. The second row can slide for/aft through a 20-cm range allowing more legroom or more cargo space – your choice. It also folds almost flat to enhance cargo area.
The sloping roofline and horizontally-split narrow rear window do little for rear visibility, but the rear-view camera helps alleviate that shortcoming.
The spec sheet says it has a 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine mated to a Continuously Variable Transmission. I expected anaemic performance. I experienced the opposite. The turbocharged engine provides good low-end grunt (184 lb.ft. of torque at only 2,000 rpm). The CVT has been programmed to simulate eight gears. Would I like more power – yes. Would I prefer a conventional automatic transmission – again, yes. But the average consumer will probably not notice it is a CVT, and rarely find the need for more power.
The Eclipse Cross provides competitive performance in its class.
My one gripe is the erratic adaptive cruise control. In trying to maintain the same speed as the vehicle in front, it continuously, and very abruptly adjusted the throttle in an on/off motion.
Mitsubishi’s experience in top-level rally competition shows in the way the steering, suspension and AWD have been developed. The Eclipse Cross acquits itself well in the corners, remaining relatively flat. Yet there is no harshness over uneven roads. It’s just a nice balance between comfort and handling. The steering is both direct and responsive, although some might judge it to be too light.
Mitsubishi’s Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC), system is a standout. In addition to excellent poor condition traction, it plays a major role in handling on all surfaces. The sophisticated system takes information about steering angle, yaw rate, engine output, brake pressure and wheel speed. Using this input, it applies more power or brake pressure to an individual wheel to help guide the vehicle around a corner.
The Eclipse Cross is a well-built, thoroughly engineered and good-looking newcomer.
Mitsubishi may be the smallest of the Japanese car companies – but maybe not for long!
Model: 2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross SE
Engine: turbocharged, 1.5-litre, four-cylinder, 152 horsepower, 184 lb.-ft. of torque, regular fuel
Transmission: continuously variable automatic, full-time all-wheel-drive
NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 9.6 / 8.9
Length: 4,405 mm
Width: 1,805 mm
Wheelbase: 2,670 mm
Weight: 1,590 kg
Price: $29,998 base, $31,998 as tested, plus freight
Competition: Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Crosstrek, Nissan Qashqai, Subaru Crosstrek, Toyota RAV4, VW Tiguan