Engine1.5L Turbo I4
Power152 HP / 184 LB-FT
Cargo22.1 / 48.8 CU-FT
MPG25 City / 26 HWY / 25 Comb.
Warranty5-year/60,000-mile limited; 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain
As Tested Price$32,310
Best Deal Price$21,671
For now, though, let's put aside what it's called. Well, beyond the fact it's comically long to say and difficult to type (I started calling it the Eagle Talon Cross for those reasons). Because really, the name straps a whole load of baggage to a mostly clean-slate vehicle that in concept is actually a smart move by a brand trying to climb back to relevance. In size, it straddles the line between B- and C-segment compact SUVs. In shape and style, it's set apart from the more utilitarian entries of both. Under the hood, it provides torque-rich turbocharged grunt in contrast to meek naturally aspirated rivals. The ample ground clearance and standard all-wheel drive (on most trims) take a page from the Subaru playbook that's been moving the chains so well.
As we discovered when we compared its specs to those of vaguely similar SUVs, the Eclipse Cross is far more intriguing and potentially competitive than originally thought. Perhaps it's unfair to the car itself, but besides all that baggage attached to its name, it's also saddled with the expectations of recent Mitsubishi products that have been uncompetitive, dull or just plain bad. (The i-Miev is the worst and most embarrassing car I've ever driven, and I've driven a Yugo.)
In short, the Eclipse Cross warrants a clean-slate appraisal. Sure, it shares its wheelbase with Mitsubishi's two Outlander SUVs and certainly other components as well, but in appearance, touch and driving feel, the Eclipse Cross is profoundly different.
This is immediately obvious in the cabin that's far more contemporary in appearance. If you think it looks a bit like the Lexus NX interior, you certainly wouldn't be alone, right down to its touchpad tech interface (more on that later). Materials quality is also strong, and not just in comparison to its brand mates, but to the compact SUV segment as a whole. Dash and door trim, metal-look accents, the available leather upholstery and the various switchgear are generally a step above what you might find in the subcompact SUV segment that in size and price sits just below the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross (ugh, it's the MEC from here on out).
The engine is also unique to the MEC: a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 152 horsepower. That's a bit more than most of those subcompacts, but crucially, its 184 pound-feet of torque blows them out of the tepid water by at least 40 lb-ft. This results in acceleration that feels distinctly gutsier around town than its sluggish competitors. Its comparable horsepower and heftier curb weight means that ultimate 0-60-mph acceleration should still be unremarkably in the 9-second range, but the around-town perception and highway passing capability provided by that extra grunt does make a difference.
So too do the shift paddles finished in real metal and mounted Ferrari-style to the steering column rather than the wheel -- a bittersweet relic of the Evo MR. Using them locks the standard CVT into a series of eight fixed ratios, allowing you to keep the engine within its most energetic power band. Throttle response is pleasingly sharp. A CVT is certainly not anyone's ideal performance transmission, but this one at least has more to work with in regards to its own programming and the attached torque-rich turbocharged engine. There isn't the bogging and droning associated with the Subaru Crosstrek or the depressing Outlander Sport.
Attached to this powertrain in all but the base ES trim is Mitsubishi's Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC) all-wheel drive system. It shunts power front and rear as needed, then controls torque left and right by individually pinching the brakes for improved cornering performance. It's not uncommon in the industry as a whole, but there's more going on than the typical SUV at this price range.
Indeed, the MEC stayed nicely in control and felt perfectly at ease tackling our mountain road test route in the rain. It's certainly more involving and at home on such roads than the Crosstrek, as well as the Jeep Renegade and Compass, Nissan Rogue Sport and the Honda CR-V. Admittedly, a low bar in the fun-to-drive department, but it's cleared nevertheless. There's still quite a bit of body roll and even if it's precise enough, the steering is too light in effort and a bit detached. Turning the EPS dial a smidge toward "Evo" would make a world of difference and would still be perfectly appropriate for navigating parking lots.
Not to mention the rest of the car, which is suitably refined, comfortable and quiet. The suspension sops up potholes well and maintains its composure. Cabin noise is also nicely quelled for this price segment. The eight-way power driver seat is also notably comfy, with a supportively snug seat back and a bottom you sink into.
Back seat space is similarly appealing. With a wheelbase that surpasses a Honda CR-V, it has an ample amount of legroom and a tall seat bottom that assures good under thigh support. Headroom is also sufficient, even under the panoramic glass roof, but getting in can be tricky with that sloping roofline. I repeatedly hit my shoulder against the side of the car when getting into the back. It's odd.
That roofline also doesn't do the cargo area any favors, reducing its overall height and limiting what you can carry back there. The optional Rockford Fosgate sound system and its subwoofer also reduce cargo area width. Length can be radically increased by sliding the back seat far forward (a fairly distinctive feature for the segment), which furthermore opens up a gap between the seatback and cargo floor for extra storage. It's a bit hard to access, but hey, it exists.
Storage up front consists of a typically-sized under-armrest bin and cupholders, plus a somewhat smallish smartphone bin with two adjacent USB ports. Frankly, Mitsubishi did a much better job packaging the center console than the company it so clearly referenced in the overall design: Lexus. That brings us to Mitsubishi's new, snappily named 7.0" Smartphone Link Thin-Display Audio System with touchpad controller.
Like the widely panned Lexus Remote Touch system, it features a console-mounted touchpad similar to the one on your laptop that controls a dash-top display. However, Mitsubishi's take on the same general concept requires less dexterity to operate and draws less attention away from the road. First, the menu structure is broken into rows and columns, reducing movements to left and right, or up and down. It's therefore easier and quicker to get what you need.
Another key difference is that the accompanying display is also a touchscreen. If you don't want to use the touchpad, just lean forward and tap away. Plus, unlike Mazda's knob-and-touchscreen system, you can actually use the latter while moving in the MEC. With either input format, you can use standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, features unavailable on any Lexus. The touchpad sensitivity differed between the Mitsubishi and Apple menus, but in general, that was one of the few complaints with the system. Oh, and the touch-only volume control located 3 miles away on the passenger side. That's terrible.
The SEL trim's standard head-up display is more curious. Similar to the Mazda 3's, it uses a clear piece of plastic that rises up from the instrument hood. The angle of that "screen" can be changed in the MEC, however, and you can make it disappear completely beneath a little door should you desire. One has to wonder, however, how this level of complexity is better (or cheaper) than just reflecting the same information onto the windshield.
If there is one clear area of concern with the MEC, it's fuel economy. Estimated at an oddly equal 25 mpg city, 26 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined for most trim levels, it's 2 to 4 mpg worse than naturally aspirated competitors like the Crosstrek and Rogue Sport. It's a bit better than a Kia Sportage, but small-displacement turbo engines tend to get worse than their EPA estimates. Our test car was showing 21 mpg after 100-plus miles and in-car meters rarely sell their cars short.
Yet, there is actually, and quite surprisingly, enough that's distinctive and desirable about the 2018 MEC at a competitive price that starts at $24,290 and tops out at our test car's fully loaded $32,310. Despite its foibles, it proves to be just as intriguing an alternative to subcompact and compact SUVs as our original spec comparison indicated. Is it in any way like any previous Mitsubishi Eclipse? Well, besides being similarly hard to type, no.