Attractive entry price
Tight rear seat
Advanced safety on top trim only
2019 Eclipse Cross SEL
The Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross slots between the larger Outlander and more affordable Outlander Sport - but with an audacious design that strays from both. All-new in 2018 and currently the brand's second best selling nameplate behind the Outlander Sport, the 2019 model is unchanged from last year.
Putting the derivative Outlander and Outlander Sport in the rearview mirror, the Eclipse Cross marches to a different drummer entirely. Looking best from the side, Mitsubishi's latest entry in the compact crossover class sports a racy roofline that's enhanced with a deeply sculpted upper character line that carries to the tail lights, sharp creases around the front and rear wheels, as well as a lower swage line that kicks up just forward of the rear wheel wells. The front fascia offers a bold interpretation of the brand's "dynamic shield" grill, while fog lights and LED daytime running lights are standard across the lineup. The good news here is that owners won't have a problem finding their rides amid the expanding sea of small, look-alike crossovers.
But the front fascia lacks cohesiveness. The components of the "dynamic shield" – a pair of large, horizontal bars stacked over a blacked-out lower air intake stacked over a white horizontal bar that's stacked over another blacked-out lower air intake (flanked by a pair of floating boomerang-shaped chrome trim pieces) which sits above a chrome horizontal strip – looks busy and disjointed. In back, the Pontiac Aztek/Toyota Prius-inspired split rear window looks racy, but the body-spanning taillight-cum-spoiler greatly hinders rear visibility, while the lower glass, susceptible to collecting road grime, is nearly useless during rain and snow.
Inside, there are a number of good points. The front seats, although not heavily bolstered, are accommodating and, due to a ride height typical of compact crossovers, offer decent visibility out the front and sides, while the standard 7-inch touchscreen is a respectable size and comes with satellite radio, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay capabilities.
But that racy roofline comes at a price. Headroom - especially in sunroof-equipped models - is tight, particularly in back, where only two adults can ride in comfort. At 94.6 cu ft, the interior is also small for the class – 9 cu ft smaller than the Mazda CX-5, and more than 11 cu ft below the class-leading Honda CR-V. Cargo space also suffers, where the Eclipse Cross is bested by offerings from Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Jeep, Kia, Mazda, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota and Volkswagen.
The relative affordability of the Eclipse Cross is also strikingly apparent inside: the dashboard and upper door trim may be soft touch, but those surfaces are unbroken by stitching, while nearly everywhere else nothing but a sea of variously-grained hard plastics greet occupants that, sans the sunroof on our SEL trim, is akin to stepping into a dark cave. And while the touchscreen is a looker, it lacks a physical volume knob, while the infotainment system is unintuitive, and the touchpad controller is difficult to master and distracting to use while driving.
Under the hood
The Eclipse Cross is offered with a single engine and transmission: a turbocharged 1.5-liter inline-four producing 152 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque matched to a CVT with a Sport Mode that simulates 8 pre-programmed transmission "steps."
Front-wheel-drive ES models achieve an EPA-estimated 26 miles per gallon in the city, 29 on the highway, and 27 combined, while the AWD version get a slightly lower EPA-estimated 25 mpg city, 28 highway, 26 combined. All other AWD trims score an EPA-estimated 25 mpg city, 26 highway, and 25 combined.
On the road
There is good news here. The overall ride is smooth, handling is confidant, the steering has a nice weight to it with a decent amount of feedback, while the brakes, although lacking much of an initial bite, are easy to modulate.
Unfortunately, with just 152 horsepower on tap, the 1.5-liter turbo narrowly squeezes past only the 141 hp Nissan Rogue Sport, with most models hampered by the additional weight of an AWD system. While shouldering this burden, the final transgression is an engine and CVT that don't play particularly well together. By this, we mean that the CVT hesitates when you least need it to – i.e., accelerating into heavy traffic on streets and highway entrance ramps.
2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross models
The 2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross is available in five trim levels. In ascending order they are ES, LE, Special Edition, SE, and SEL.
The entry-level ES, the only trim available with front-wheel-drive, offers the usual power features as well as 16-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, LED tail lights and daytime running lights, heated outside mirrors, rear privacy glass, rear spoiler, 7-inch touchscreen infotainment display, automatic climate control, keyless push-button start, Bluetooth, and heated front seats, all of which are covered by a 5-year/60,000 mile warranty.
Along with standard all-wheel-drive, stepping up the LE trim adds larger 18-inch alloy wheels, a touchpad controller for the infotainment system, satellite radio, and smartphone connectivity that allows for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
The next step Special Edition adds a larger rear spoiler, air dam extensions, and a Special Edition badge on the tailgate to the LE's bits.
Choosing the SE trim kicks in auto on/off headlights, power folding outside mirrors, keyless push-button start, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, illuminated visor vanity mirrors, upgraded fabric seats with contrast stitching, blind spot warning, lane-change assist, and rear cross-traffic alert
Finally, the top-trim SEL adds LED headlights, a power driver's seat, leather seats, soft-touch door trim, a multi-view camera, and head up display.
But wait, there's more: The optional SEL Touring Package adds such sybaritic niceties as a 710-watt Rockford-Fosgate sound system with 8 speakers and a subwoofer, dual-pane glass sunroof, heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, auto-dimming rearview mirror, cargo cover, cargo mat, cargo net, carpeted floor mats, a 24-month subscription to Mitsubishi's over-the-air Connect Services, and a group of advanced safety features that includes forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, and automatic headlights with high-beam assist.
2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross prices
2019 Eclipse Cross prices start at a reasonable $24,640 for the FWD ES and top out at $32,310 for a fully-optioned SEL – a price that matched the Pearl White tester we were lent for a week of driving.
The Bottom Line
The Eclipse Cross offers daring styling and, in ES trim, a strong value proposition that includes a number of features not usually found at this price point, backed by above-average 5-year/60,000 mile bumper-to bumper and 10-year/100,000 mile limited powertrain warranties. On the flip side, the sporty design comes with compromises to interior space, the infotainment system is annoyingly unintuitive, and the CVT doesn't work well with the turbo-4.
When you consider the competition, the Honda HR-V and Toyota C-HR offer a wider range of standard safety features, both the Ford EcoSport and HR-V offer much more passenger and cargo space, and, if you're style-conscious, the Mazda CX-3 is stunning and engaging from any angle without sacrificing much in the way of passenger space or cargo volume.
All in all, the Eclipse Cross's shortcomings overwhelm most of the advantages, making it an also-ran in the small crossover class.