2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross is only one-third of a fun crossover

The traffic on California's Pacific Coast Highway was surprisingly light for a Tuesday morning when my drive partner and I headed out in the 2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross. With a nice long stretch of open road in front of us, she floored the compact SUV's accelerator pedal. To be honest, I expected this budget crossover to fall on its face. To my surprise, the Eclipse Cross took off, if not quite like a rocket, then certainly like a jack rabbit.

The Eclipse Cross is a brand-new model, slotting between the Outlander Sport and Outlander in Mitsubishi's stable. Its name riffs on the popular Eclipse coupe that was produced from 1990 to 2012, and since this new model is an SUV and not a sports coupe, a few traditionalists' feathers have been ruffled.

2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

The new Eclipse Cross suffers from poor driving dynamics, but sports an excellent drivetrain.

Emme Hall/Roadshow

Mitsubishi makes the Eclipse Cross in a base ES trim, as well as LE, SE and SEL. While front-wheel drive is standard on the base model, all-wheel drive comes standard on every other trim. Regardless of your trim choice, a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) is the one and only drivetrain.

Much like The Little Engine That Could, so, too, can the Eclipse Cross. On our Mitsubishi-sponsored press drive in the twisty back country of Malibu, California, I found the 154-horsepower engine to feel exceptionally strong. Minimal turbo lag and quick throttle response highlight its 184 pound-feet of torque, showing there is replacement for displacement. Many compact crossovers like the Jeep Compass and Nissan Rogue Sport are frustrating in their lack of hustle, but the Mitsu's spry little powerplant was a blast.

The CVT, while not my favorite type of transmission, is a fair way to get the power to the pavement. Paddle shifters cycle through eight virtual gears, but it's a bit sloppy, especially putting the hammer down off the line. However, it did just fine on its own, without too much of that buzzy, stretched-rubber-band feeling that can plague CVTs. EPA fuel ratings have not been announced, but on my heavy-footed, winding-road test drive, I averaged 23.8 miles per gallon.

The engine has the makings of a seriously fun-to-drive crossover, but the Eclipse Cross' suspension and steering are a huge letdown. There is enough body roll in this thing to make even the steeliest of stomachs go flippity-flop while riding right seat. Combined with vague steering and minimal feedback, the potential for a snappy drive goes right out the window. It's a pity, as the strong engine and transmission could put the Eclipse Cross in Mazda CX-5 territory in terms of driving enjoyment.

The Eclipse Cross gets all the advanced driver's aids, but not on every trim. Blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert are standard on SE and above, but you have to move up to the top SEL trim and shell out for the Touring package to get forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warning. Toyota makes forward collision warning standard on its RAV4.

In high-speed and heavy traffic on Pacific Coast Highway, the adaptive cruise control brought the Eclipse Cross to a smooth stop behind the lead car, and a simple tap on the gas got it going again. Lane-departure warning is just that: a warning. If I wandered outside the lane, there was no steering input to guide me back. 

A heads-up display is standard on the SEL, but it's not projected directly onto the windshield. Instead a large, transparent screen pops up with information about speed, cruise control setting and any safety warnings reflected up to it.  I didn't find the large screen distracting when just toddling along in traffic, but as soon as I hit the back roads, that puppy went back in its hiding place.

A 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is standard on the LE and up, as such there is no native navigation system. There is a bit of a delay when selecting menu buttons from the touchscreen, but the system  can also be controlled by a touchpad in the center console, which is much quicker. The system makes you navigate quite a few menus and submenus, but it's all fairly intuitive.

2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

A seven-inch touchscreen is standard on LE trims and above and includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.


There are a few quirks to the switchgear, however. There is no physical volume knob, just up/down buttons on the passenger side of the touchscreen and on the steering wheel for the driver. The HVAC temperature controls are just up/down buttons, not dials. Additionally there are multiple blank buttons throughout the cabin. Mitsubishi says those are for features available only in Europe, but on a top of the line vehicle like the one I was driving, it looks a bit cheap.

In terms of looks, well, that's always subjective. Those of us automotive journalists on the press drive had some heated discussion about the split-window rear. Some thought it looked like a Toyota Prius and a Pontiac Aztek had a baby; others like myself thought it a fine choice. Out front you can see the inspiration of the Eclipse coupe, if not in the actual elements then in terms of design proportions. The side character line incorporates the door handles, which is a nice touch. Some will hate the looks of the Eclipse Cross, but I have to give Mitsubishi props for coming to market with a risky design.

The 2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross starts at $23,295, not including destination, but my loaded-up SEL with Touring package bumps the price to $30,395. SE and SEL trims include a two-year trial subscription to Mitsubishi Connect. This includes an OnStar-like safety program as well as an app with remote services. You can also access car remote features through an Amazon Echo or Google Home device. After two years prices are $99 per year for safeguard services or $228 for both the safeguard and remote services.

The Eclipse Cross will be in dealers in March of 2018.

Roadshow accepts multi-day vehicle loans from manufacturers in order to provide scored editorial reviews. All scored vehicle reviews are completed on our turf and on our terms. However, for this feature, travel costs were covered by the manufacturer. This is common in the auto industry, as it's far more economical to ship journalists to cars than to ship cars to journalists. The judgments and opinions of Roadshow's editorial team are our own and we do not accept paid editorial content.

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