2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

PHOENIX — For years there have been rumors and innuendo of Mitsubishi’s U.S. demise. The company has been mired in one scandal after another, including its admitted overstatement of the fuel economy of at least four models, including two under the Nissan badge. That misstep cost Mitsubishi some $3 billion, further damaging a brand that has already been losing market share.

Enter Nissan. Two years ago, they agreed to take a 34 percent stake in Mitsubishi Motors, with a $2.2 billion infusion. Nissan is Japan’s number two carmaker, but has struggled with market share in Asia outside of China. Mitsubishi vehicles are popular in countries like Thailand and the Philippines, and therefore gives Nissan access to a market it wants to penetrate. Nissan saw it as a win-win for both companies.

Now that Nissan has swept in to save the day for Mitsubishi, a company that is in desperate need of new product, we are seeing the effects here in the U.S. market, starting with the introduction of the all-new Eclipse Cross.

Though Eclipse is a moniker that’s been used for years on passenger cars, the coupe and convertible have absolutely zero relationship to the Eclipse Cross, a wedge shaped compact crossover variant of the Mitsubishi Outlander SUV.

Slotting between the Outlander Sport and Outlander SUVs, the Eclipse Cross is mostly good looking, with coupe-like styling, and a stylish front end. But it has a polarizing, blocky split-window rear end, where the lower half is perpetually covered in dust and dirt from the road, and the top half with its rear wiper only satisfies the upper portion. The intervening bar between the two halves only serves to obstruct the already compromised rear visibility from the driver’s seat. And because the Eclipse Cross is much shorter than its competitors, cargo space takes a hit with 35 percent less than competitors like the Nissan Rogue, Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V.

The Eclipse Cross comes in choice of five-trim levels all with standard all-wheel drive except for the entry level ES model, starting at $23,595. Mitsubishi provided the top level SEL as our test vehicle for the week with a starting price of $28,195.

The interior, while certainly an improvement and the best we’ve seen in any Mitsubishi, is still unremarkable in design with an abundance of hard plastic, too much shiny piano black trim that shows every finger print and collection of dust, goofy rear head rests, and a dopey “See You” message when you exit the vehicle. The faux aluminum trim about the instrument panel, center console, paddle shifters and door trim looks cheap and isn’t even close to passing for the real thing.

Mitsubishi hasn’t skimped on features like expandable sun visors with illuminated mirrors on both sides, heated leather appointed power seats on both front bucket seats — eight-way for driver, four-way on passenger — rear seat slide and recline feature, steering wheel controls for the multi view camera, audio system, phone, voice controls, head up display, blind spot warning with lane change assist and rear cross traffic alert.

A $2,500 optional Touring Package includes a dual-pane panoramic sunroof, 710-watt Rockford Fosgate nine-speaker premium audio system that’s Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatible, heated steering wheel and heated rear seats, and additional safety features including forward collision mitigation, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beam headlamps.

Surprisingly, however, is what isn’t included: There’s no power rear tailgate, the leather seating had a low quality feel, fog lamps are halogen (really??) when all other lights are LED, no imbedded navigation, no USB ports in the back seat and, perhaps most importantly, there’s no volume knob for the audio system.

There’s a touchscreen located atop the instrument panel that can also be operated with a touchpad on the center console. But the touchpad is clumsy and distracting to use and I found myself going to the touchscreen for vehicle infotainment operations, navigation, and various other applications.

Regardless which trim level you select, the only engine option for now is a 1.5-liter 152-horsepower turbocharged four cylinder and is mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission. The engine was smooth and without conventional turbo lag, and easily maneuvers in urban and suburban driving. Being short does make it easy to park with such a tighter turning diameter.

Once on the open road, the powertrain feels weak and struggles to deliver expected power when needed for passing or getting up to speed entering the interstate. Reaching 60 mph from a complete stop takes a tick under nine seconds, and once rolling getting from 50 to 70 mph took just over six seconds.

Driving dynamics and excitement isn’t part of the deal and the Eclipse Cross doesn't offer much when compared to rivals in that regard. The suspension is softly sprung, resulting in a quite comfortable ride experience. That is until you hit rough pavement where the suspension crashes harshly when encountering potholes. Handling isn’t sporty and almost every competitor is more athletic. We did like the all-wheel drive system where we took the vehicle on some rutted off-road trails. Steering felt on center; brakes, however, are less reassuring.

Overall while the Eclipse Cross does have its drawbacks and shortcomings there is some appeal with its generally attractive looks, all-wheel drive standard and available equipment. And certainly its 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty and 5-year 60,000-mile new vehicle limited warranty will be attractive for those who plan to keep their vehicle for a long time.

The base prices for the Eclipse Cross are reasonable at the start, but our top level SEL trim level speced up to over $32,000 which is where the roomier, better equipped top-level Honda CR-V Touring is priced.

For a vehicle born out of a moment of crisis, Eclipse Cross is a good first effort and hopefully means better vehicles to come, now that Mitsubishi is part of the Renault - Nissan family, who by the way, now has leadership crisis problems of its own.

Vital Stats
Base Price: $29,190 (SEL Trim)
Price as Tested: $32,015
Powertrain: 1.5-liter 152 horsepower turbocharged 4-cyl with a Continuously Variable Automatic Transmission
Fuel Economy: 25-MPG City – 26-MPG Highway – 25-MPG Combined
Seating: 5

Crash Test Results: The Eclipse Cross has not been crash tested by either the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Final Assembly Plant: Okazaki, Japan

Competes With:
Chevrolet Equinox
Ford Escape
GMC Terrain
Honda CR-V
Hyundai Tucson
Jeep Compass
Kia Sportage
Mazda CX-5
Nissan Rogue
Subaru Forester
Toyota RAV4
Volkswagen Tiguan

Fab Features
10-year or 100,000 mile powertrain warranty
Ample list of standard and optional features
Lithe handling

— Jim Prueter