Last year, Mitsubishi introduced its first all-new vehicle since the launch of the Outlander Sport compact crossover in 2010.
The 2019 Eclipse Cross ($23,595) is a small CUV that slips into the Mitsubishi lineup below the Outlander and above the subcompact Outlander Sport.
This troika of crossovers forms the foundation for Mitsubishi’s plans for continued U.S. sales growth. After shedding its lineup of slow-selling cars (it now sells just one car, the tiny Mirage) in favor of value-priced crossovers, Mitsu sales numbers have been growing steadily.
Mitsubishi got good news in March when it claimed third place on J.D. Powers’s Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) for non-luxury cars. CSI measures owner satisfaction with maintenance and repair service at dealerships.
The Eclipse Cross reflects the efforts of a company determined to score hits. Its edgy exterior — Mitsubishi calls it a “vibrant and defiant design,” though it doesn’t identify the object of its defiance — compliments a surprisingly roomy cabin that holds some interesting surprises.
New take on touchscreens
To wit: On all trims but the base ES, an innovative console-mounted touchpad controller supplements the infotainment system’s touchscreen. Its capabilities more limited those of touchpad systems from Lexus and Acura — and its displays are less attractive than either — but its menus are simple and it requires less of a learning curve.
Most important, it encourages attentive, eyes-up driving.
Navigation is not available, a moot point since Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on all but the ES, bringing their mapping functions to the cabin.
Interior materials quality is quite good. The dash and door sills are covered in a textured and stitched soft-touch material. Hard plastics come in a variety of attractive surface treatments, including piano black and imitation nickel and carbon fiber.
Standard equipment on the ES includes cruise control, automatic climate control, heated power side view mirrors, rear spoiler, color multi-information display screen, high-contrast meters, Bluetooth wireless technology, steering wheel audio and phone controls, rearview camera, power door locks and windows, seven airbags and an anti-theft alarm
Good cabin storage
Our tester’s patterned fabric seating surfaces seemed durable but the side bolsters are too thin and spongey to provide much lateral support. Adjustable lumbar support is not available on any trim.
There's good storage space up front. The front door pockets each hold two water bottles. A small cushioned tray beneath the center stack corrals cell phones.
Our tester’s fit-and-finish easily passed the eyeball test and there were no apparent squeaks or rattles. The doors close with a tinny thunk. Not much road noise finds its way into the cabin but there’s more wind noise at speed than we’d like.
Both rows of seats comfortably accommodate adults. The split-folding second row slides 20 inches fore and aft, allowing adjustments to legroom and cargo space. The Eclipse Cross’s wedge-like profile and high seating position force rear-seat passes to duck their heads upon entry.
In normal use, the softly upholstered front seats are comfortable enough, but an hour or two on the road will have you wishing for a firmer feel and more support.
Subpar ride and handling
It may not take that long to realize that ride and handling are not the Eclipse Cross’s prevailing strengths. Soft suspension settings allow excessive body roll, especially during cornering and quick transitions.
Irregular road surfaces can upset its composure, causing rocking and swaying motions.
Steering effort is light and does not firm up with vehicle speed. Consequently, the Eclipse Cross is overly sensitive at highway speeds and requires driver attention to maintain straight-line tracking.
All trims are powered by a turbocharged 1.5-liter engine that makes 152 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. The engine is strong off the line but begins peters out at around 40 mph. Its 8.6-second 0-60 mph time betters the class average and passing power is decent.
The continuously variable transmission (CVT) simulates the shift action of an automatic, though not always smoothly.
The torque-vectoring AWD system automatically apportions power to the front and rear axles and between the left and right wheels. The system has a snow mode, which was especially helpful when negotiating our sloped and seldom-plowed upper driveway.
In just its second year, the Eclipse Cross has leaped to the top of Mitsubishi’s sales chart. It could prove to be the break-out hit Mitsubishi so badly wants it to be.
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2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross SE 1.5T S-AWC
Vehicle base price: $23,595
Trim level base price: $26,695
As tested: $28,065 (includes destination and handling)
Optional equipment included cargo area tonneau cover; carpeted floor mats
EPA rating: 25 combined/25 city/26 highway
Regular unleaded gasoline specified