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The compact crossover segment is arguably the most competitive battlefield in the automotive industry right now. A new entrant like the 2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross must stand out, but when it comes to price, fuel economy, cargo capacity and standard features, the Mitsu gets lost in the crowd. It's true, most of the Eclipse Cross' competition offers more of what you want within the same low-$20,000 to low-$30,000 price range.
But you shouldn't write it off. If you're willing to look beyond the numbers, the Eclipse Cross could charm you with its quirky styling, responsive powertrain, playful driving dynamics.
The Eclipse Cross's design language borders on busy, but that helps it stand out in a segment that's as vanilla as the men's clothing section at Target. Admittedly, the front looks Lexus RX-inspired and the rear end screams Pontiac Aztek, but even so, the Eclipse Cross has its own charm. The light bar across the rear is particularly distinctive, even though it slightly obscures rear visibility.
The Eclipse Cross' party piece, though, is its engine: a turbocharged, 1.5-liter four-cylinder producing 152 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. Neither number is world-class, but the Eclipse Cross feels punchier than they suggest. It won't win any drag races against the Ford Escape, especially the 245-horsepower EcoBoost option, but the Eclipse Cross never feels like a slouch. It's not so peppy on the highway, but never anemic.
As confidently as it can build speed, it stops just as swell. Mitsubishi equips the Eclipse Cross with four-wheel disc brakes: 11.6-inch vented stoppers up front and 11.9-inch solid discs at the rear. That sure-footed stopping power hauls the 3,516-pound SUV down almost as quickly as that friend who puts her hand over your mouth at a dinner party when you're about to say something you'll soon regret.
You may have trouble keeping quiet sometimes, but the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross doesn't. A respectable lack of cabin noise at speed helps the crossover's available nine-speaker, 710-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system shine brighter. It's among the segment's best.
That comes as part of the $2,500 Touring Package, which also bundles adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, collision-mitigation braking and automatic high-beams. If that weren't enough, Mitsubishi throws in some roof rails, a dual-pane panoramic sunroof, heated rear seats to complement the heated front row, a heated steering wheel and an auto-dimming rearview mirror with Homelink. That's good value.
With the Touring Package and a couple of accessories thrown in, my loaded 2018 tester stickers at $30,720 plus $995 for destination. For the 2019 model year, that price goes up by $300.
Even those on a budget aren't shut out on the tech front. The Eclipse Cross's top-three LE, SE and SEL trims (beginning at $25,195) offer standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on a seven-inch touchscreen or a touchpad on the center console, which is great for controlling volume or swiping between menus without taking your eyes off the wheel. The LE and above trims come standard with satellite radio, voice recognition and dual USB ports as well.
Continuously variable transmissions are inherently efficient units, and the Eclipse Cross' transmission follows that theory, but fails in practice. Its tallest 0.378 ratio is like an over-overdrive, but still, my tester only manages 26 miles per gallon on the highway, according to EPA estimates.
Also, the CVT is sluggish to shift from the wheel-mounted paddles, but at least when left in automatic mode, it plays well with that peppy motor. Handling, however, is unbuttoned. The Eclipse Cross can change direction well, but numb steering and topsy-turvy body roll does no favors for spirited driving.
Probably the biggest offender to shoppers in this segment is the Eclipse Cross' lack of cargo space. There's only 48.8 cubic feet behind the first row, where even a compact hatchback like the Volkswagen Golf offers 52.7.
The 2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross has just enough quirkiness to pull at my heart-strings, but its lack of substance compared with the competition is difficult to ignore. Cross-shoppers will find other vehicles in this segment that do a much better job of answering their needs.
Mitsubishi's first all-new product since 2014 could have easily been a value proposition or a standard-tech leader, but it simply doesn't hit either mark. This rebirth of the beloved Eclipse nameplate is too easily lost in the shadow of its competitors.