Striking coupe-like roofline gives the Eclipse Cross some posing power. Picture: SUPPLIED
Striking coupe-like roofline gives the Eclipse Cross some posing power. Picture: SUPPLIED

The new Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross that’s just gone on sale in SA is a fresh new coupe-like offering in an already congested SUV segment.

Initially it’s available with front-wheel and all-wheel-drive variants using a single petrol engine mated exclusively to a six-step CVT gearbox. Despite its coupe shape which evokes Honda’s HR-V as the natural competitor, Mitsubishi Motors South Africa has boldly identified the Toyota RAV4 as the main rival.

The new SUV is deceptive in size. The tape measure puts the Eclipse Cross at 200mm longer but 20mm lower than the segment sales leading Toyota and, its ambitions have extended to the equally ample KIA Sportage, which turns out is a mere 80mm longer than the Mitsubishi.  

Pricing is also key. The front-wheel-drive Eclipse Cross demands R399,995 while the all-wheel-drive model will set you back R449,995. In essence, what Mitsubishi is saying to potential buyers in this segment is to forego the urge to splurge out on the R386,995 Kia Sportage 1.6GDI Ignite — a fairly attractive package — in favour of the entry-level Eclipse Cross with a slightly more powerful but turbo-less engine.

Its manifesto against the Toyota is little more interesting. For about 7K less for the price of a front-wheel-driven RAV4 2.0 GX auto, Mitsubishi offers the AWD Eclipse Cross.

With the money matters out of the way, does the new Mitsubishi impress as a new entry into the game? The interior is spacious upfront but the rear seats were suspect in the matter of squab length, which felt a touch shorter than usual and will be noticed easily by longer-limbed passengers.

It’s a decently decorated area with the typical Mitsubishi liking for black leather seating and dash colouring. The fit and finish cannot be faulted and the vehicle felt robust with little noise, vibration or harshness.

The cabin is a decently decorated area with the typical Mitsubishi like for black leather seating and dash colouring. Picture: SUPPLIED
The cabin is a decently decorated area with the typical Mitsubishi like for black leather seating and dash colouring. Picture: SUPPLIED

The central command area has a touchscreen set into the dashboard instead of the floating-type screens that are becoming more popular.

The 2.0l four-cylinder petrol engine has outputs of 110kW and 198Nm and the company expects that we won’t have issues with a CVT. Well, Mitsubishi, you are wrong. A conventional automatic will have likely dealt better with the few demanding uphill roads I encountered on the media launch in the Darling area of the Western Cape.

Although managing to keep the audible but not intrusive drawl away from the cabin, the CVT transmission isn’t particularly user-friendly. It doesn’t have the intuitiveness of dropping down a gear on an incline in the top gear, requiring driver intervention through the pushing of the gear-lever into "Sports" instead.

Still, there are things to be impressed by, including an economical fuel consumption of 7,9l/100km for the 4x2 and 8,1l/100km for the AWD.

The refinement and composure of the Eclipse Cross when driven on most terrain is quite terrific, and Mitsubishi’s suspension gurus are renowned. Both models of the Eclipse boast good driving characteristics on many surfaces but if you want to go offroading, the model specified with the company’s S-AWC or Super All Wheel Control four-wheel drive, is a better proposition. It hugs dirt roads with remarkable alacrity and combined with fantastic shock absorption, prompts the confidence for even a little naughty sideways action.

Mitsubishi's new gravel muncher is available in front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive versions. Picture: SUPPLIED
Mitsubishi's new gravel muncher is available in front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive versions. Picture: SUPPLIED

The new vehicle comes with sufficient interior tech and features. Expect seven airbags, ABS, Hill Start Assist, Active Stability and Traction Control, an electric parking brake, rear-view camera, Head up Display,  rain sensors, daytime running lights and much more.

I’m not convinced the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross will set fire to the segment or topple the popular RAV4 (which is about to be replaced), but with its coupe-like styling it’s one of more interesting and standout SUVs to enter the market.

Both Eclipse Cross models are covered by a three-year/100,000km warranty, a five-year/90,000km service plan and five-year/unlimited mileage roadside assistance. Service intervals are every 15,000km.