2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross VRX - An Eclipse Worth Viewing


You’re not meant to look directly at a solar eclipse unless you’re a stable genius president. But Mitsi reckons its new Eclipse cross is a bit of a phenomenon. Is it really?

Words: Peter Louisson   |   Photos Tom Gasnier
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Got to hand it to the Mitsubishi Motors crew; they are experts at marketing vehicles locally, many of which you’d not describe as being at the technological cutting edge. Some date back a ways too. Yet in 2017 MMNZ secured a comfortable fifth place in new vehicle sales, miles ahead of Hyundai and nipping at the heels of Mazda which is a consistent tech innovator. Just goes to show there’s more than one way of rackin’ ‘em up.

The success is largely on the back of Outlander and ASX in fifth and seventh positions on the passenger car front, though both were eclipsed (sorry) by Triton, the fourth most popular ute. For 2018, Mitsubishi adds another high rider to the fray, the new Eclipse Cross (Eclipse henceforth) filling a gap you may not have noticed between ASX and Outlander. If you think of this as an upmarket coupe-style version of ASX you’re not too far wide of the mark. And pricing of the two-model Kona competitor is interesting. The base XLS 2WD variant has an RRP of $41,690 but carries recommended sales pricing of $34,990.

The upper level model, the VRX 2WD variant which adds fancy items like LED headlamps, a powered double sunroof, leather trim, adaptive cruise, head-up display, dual zone air, front and rear parking sensors and a 360 degree camera, is listed at $45,590. That makes it one of the more expensive compact SUVs on the market. But with all that gear, likely as not some will be willing to take the plunge.

Others on the way

It’s this upper level variant we’ve been driving, and we reckon it has a fair bit going for it. However, if it was our moolah, we’d be pretty happy with the same drivetrain in the XLS, forego the swish items, and pocket the $10.6k, even though the safety creds aren’t quite as extensive. But it gives the base Kona 1.6T a bit of a run for its money, though is not quite as sports oriented as the Hyundai, nor as quick, and opts instead for a plusher and quieter ride. More versions are on their way too. From April the Eclipse will be available with AWD, using Mitsi’s Super-All Wheel Control system (S-AWC), pioneered in the Lancer Evos. No prices for those models as yet but you might expect them to be around $5k more, depending on spec.

No plug-in is planned, though a mild-hybrid might arrive at some point in the future.

Eclipse is not a new Mitsubishi nameplate, for it was once attached to the rump of an American sport compact, released in 1989. That car, by the by, was named after a famous race horse that was evidently unbeaten in its career. Anyhow, it’s a new 4.4m long body the Eclipse Cross sports, with an aggressive version of the family grille up front, a raked tailgate and a broad slash character line down its flanks. It’s a bit out there at the rear with its split glass screen but the overriding sense is of something interesting and quite practical beneath. Not quite a visual symphony perhaps, but interesting nonetheless.

Open the back doors and there’s surprising room thanks to the 2670mm wheelbase (same as ASX and Outlander). The variable seating position contributes, the 2+1 seats both on sliders, moving forward and aft 200mm. There’s also eight-way rake adjustability for the rear seats, making it easier to reach a compromise between occupant and luggage space, depending on needs. The latter ranges from 341L to 448L, and totals 653L with rear seats folded away. There’s supposedly underfloor storage but we couldn’t find it. No powered fifth door here, which arguably VRX should get.

Turbo in a regular Mitsi

The big news for the Eclipse Cross is that it debuts a completely new powertrain. Dubbed 4B40, the engine is a fresh 1.5-litre dual-injection (port and combustion chamber) turbocharged VVT four, delivering 112kW at 5500rpm and 254Nm from 2000-3500rpm. It’s paired with an equally new continuously variable transmission (CVT) which is said to act more like an auto, the eight-stepper eschewing flare for multiple ‘upshifts’ during regular acceleration. No plug-in is planned, though a mild-hybrid might arrive at some point in the future.

It features a small turbo, so there’s little in the way of lag off the mark, and overall the Eclipse goes rather well. Mitsi claims a combined fuel figure of 7.3L/100km and on the Northwestern jaunt to work, maximum speed 80km/h (grrrr) the trip data suggested 5.7L/100km. A bonus is that it runs on 91ULP. Out of town, given some stick, it hit a high of 12.9 so it’s a pretty miserly thing, easily recording in the eights on the open road sticking to around 100km/h.

Performance is good; it’s not quite in the league of the lighter, twin-clutch Kona 1.6T, down a couple of seconds on both criteria we measure, but driven easily and using revs of 2500-3500rpm it gets along effortlessly, and quietly. Most in-cabin dB figures registered below 70, a ways down on Kona. The low noise is likely in part due to the use of Toyo Proxes rubber, a known quiet runner. Up the reference hill and elsewhere the Eclipse offers a better balance of ride and handling than Kona which veers more towards the latter whereas the Mitsi leans, literally, towards the former.

Kona steers better though; it’s electric helm doesn’t have the artificial weighting that’s evident in the Eclipse. ESP intervention arrives earlier in the Mitsi, but handling is entirely appropriate for the class and its plush and refined ride is noteworthy. Its seats are comfy too, even without lumbar adjustability, so it really does get down the road in quite accommodating fashion, the multilink rear no doubt contributing to its smooth progress

Can’t do without these

There are some other pretty cool aspects to the VRX. The colour head-up display is one of the pop-up versions. We used it the entire time, given there’s no digital speed readout in the trip data. Some of the perspex units come across as cheap afterthoughts but not this one which is not only crisp and clear but also quite sizeable so is easily taken in at a glance. The active cruise system is a beauty too, offering a sensible following distance in the dry and more in the wet, doubtless linked to the automatic wipers.

It also has a stop and go function so will brake the car right down to a dead stop, and then resume acceleration when you press down on the gas. Also new for Mitsubishi is a touch pad in the centre console adjacent to the gear lever which offers another means of scrolling through contents in the touch screen.

It has a heap of different menus to scroll through, and hence the inclusion of the touch pad to make things easier. Not sure that it does really, but some will like it, though not Android users as it’s only compatible with Apple. The interior of the Eclipse is a bit of a step up on the ASX, though there are a few familiar items borrowed from the parts bins.

Otherwise though, there are some nice finishings, like piano black in the centre console, and lower aspect of the steering wheel, and platinum trim elsewhere. The spec level is clearly high for the VRX, as befits the price, but the base model XLS doesn’t fare too badly either, with paddle shifters, 18-inch rims, halogen headlamps with LED DRLs and fog lights, heated & folding exterior mirrors, roof rails, and climate air.

All variants get the roof spoiler and sliding rear seats, and safety aspects include a five-star ANCAP rating, emergency braking, seven airbags, lane departure warning, rear view camera, and auto high beam. An electronic parking brake, keyless entry and start, along with the standard fitment of touch pad commander make the base model seem like pretty decent value.

The extra kit in the VRX isn’t really essential, but is nice to have, especially active cruise. But $10.6k extra? Which is why we’d advise choosing XLS, and remember both have a five-year warranty, with a 10-year/160,000km powertrain warranty.

MMNZ reckons it will move 150 of the Eclipse Cross variants per month. Based on our experience with VRX and Mitsi’s with selling things, that may well be possible.

The Stats

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Model Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross VRX 2w  Price $45,590

Engine 1499cc, IL4, T/DI, 112kW/254Nm

Transmission CVT, front-wheel drive

Vitals 10.20sec 0-100km/h, 7.3L/100km, 168g/km, 1549kg

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