Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross 4WD 1.5T First Edition Auto8
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front collision mitigation, lane-departure warning.
Cross 2, Cross 3, Cross 4, First Edition
Six-speed manual, single-speed CVT automatic with eight-speed shift effect
Given that the SUV segment is the only sector of the new-car market currently growing, it would appear that Mitsubishi is sitting pretty.
It already has a trio of SUVs on sale and with the new Eclipse Cross joining the line-up, it now has a rival to the likes of the Seat Ateca and Hyundai Tucson.
Unusually, the Eclipse Cross is only available with one engine. Even more unusually, that engine is a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol unit.
Mitsubishi says a diesel may be added later, depending on demand, with an electrified powertrain potentially following.
There is a choice of transmissions, however, with either a six-speed manual or CVT automatic available.
Mitsubishi says the CVT has accounted for 68% of early orders and expects the ratio to be no different for fleets, so that's the version we tested here. The test car also had four-wheel drive, which is likely to boost its rural appeal.
Getting into gear
The gearbox fitted to the car is said to overcome the main issue normally associated with CVTs - namely, a reputation for high, droning engine revs. In practice, you still get some soaring revs when accelerating, but it's not much worse under kick-down than a regular automatic. During normal driving, it is fine and, with no actual gears, it's totally smooth with no shift interruptions or downshift bumps. There's also a 'sport mode', allowing the driver to shift between speeds using paddles, but unfortunately, the transmission is slow to respond - it doesn't exactly encourage sporty driving.
The manufacturer says the Eclipse Cross has been set up as a driver's car, and to be fair, it does corner well for an SUV, with limited body roll and decent levels of grip. However, although the low-speed ride is good, on motorways it is less composed. But at least the engine is smooth and refined at a cruise, and has sufficient power to make brisk progress when required.
The car we drove was a launch-special First Edition version but, save for a few cosmetic tweaks, it's effectively the same as the regular, range-topping Cross 4, which is nearly £2,000 cheaper. The range also includes the entry-level Cross 2 and the mid-range Cross 3.
All trims get a 7in touchscreen that can also be operated via a separate touchpad next to the gear lever, making the system a bit easier to operate while driving.
One glaring omission from the Eclipse Cross roster is its lack of sat-nav. Mitsubishi reckons most owners will plug in their smartphones and navigate using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. How you feel about this will no doubt depend on whether you can get a consistent phone signal. No matter how good your signal, however, you can't interface your phone with the car's head-up display, meaning you have to glance across to the main screen. The HUD does show your speed, cruise control settings, manual gear shifts and safety alerts, though. Elsewhere on the inside, rear seats that slide and recline boost practicality, allowing you to trade passenger space for boot capacity.
Where you might expect the petrol-only approach to hurt the Eclipse Cross is on running costs. An official combined 40.4mpg isn't great - by comparison, a 2.0-litre diesel Ateca automatic with four-wheel drive achieves 51.4mpg, while a similarly equipped Tucson achieves 47.1mpg. However, the Eclipse Cross's 30% BIK band is the same as the Ateca, and lower than the Tucson with the 3% diesel surcharge, and it undercuts the Ateca on P11D.
Overall, the Eclipse Cross may struggle against other SUVs that offer efficient diesel engines, better-quality interiors and a superior driving experience. However, if fuel efficiency is not a concern, and you like the sound of four-wheel drive combined with the convenience of an automatic transmission, then it could merit consideration.