Having attended high school and college in the northeast in the 1990s, and having been a car geek, my exposure to the import scene was quite formative. Some of the most iconic vehicles of that era were the Diamond-Star Motor cars. The sport cars of that joint venture were the Eagle Talon, the Plymouth Laser, and the Mitsubishi Eclipse. All three varied in form from a basic econo model to turbocharged all-wheel-drive slayers. In appearance they were rather similar with differences being limited to lights, spoilers, and wheels.
Those days are over. Also over are the Plymouth and Eagle brands. Mitsubishi is still here but the company has had better days. To its credit, Mitsubishi is trying to recover. With minor tweaks, each of the variants of the Outlanders keep improving while remaining a budget conscious choice. The Outlander Sport, while aged, is not a bad vehicle. The company is also venturing into plug-in electric hybrid powertrains. A solid move. And recently they brought back the Eclipse name.
When Mitsubishi announced that the new Eclipse would be a cross-over utility vehicle, people lost their minds. How could Mitsubishi tarnish the Eclipse name like that? Why would they disappoint the dozen of Eclipse faithfuls waiting for their proper sports car to come back? Why, why, why?
Because CUVs sell, stupid. A crossover is what everyone wants now. And, thankfully, the market is already kind of loaded with sporty four cylinder cars. Mitsubishi isn’t making the Eclipse CUV to piss off your crank-walking ass. They’re doing it make money. They’re doing it to survive.
On one hand, the Eclipse Cross is not that far off from what the Eclipse originally was. The top line 1990’s Eclipse was a four passenger hatchback. It had a turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It was an all-wheel-drive vehicle. Take the CUV moniker aside and focus on what’s there. The Eclipse Cross is a four-cylinder, all-wheel-drive hatchback. It has grown two doors, a fifth seat, and some trunk space.
Let’s take this further. The twenty-year-old Eclipse buyer lived in the 1990s. Since then he or she has likely put on a few pounds. He or she may have a kid or three. That former Eclipse-owning forty-year-old buyer has the need for the extra space, the extra doors, and maybe even the extra seat. It therefore should not a mind-blowing theory that this 2018 Eclipse Cross might actually be a rightful evolution of the original.
Design wise, the front has the Mitsubishi family resemblance. Side profile is slightly angular, dare I say Aztec-y from a certain angle, and it kind of looks like its butt was chopped off a bit too much. The rear hatch has a split window à la the Honda CR-X. There is the mandatory lower black trim which gives it the CUV creed. In all it’s a fine design that is neither offensive nor attention-grabbing.
The interior of the Eclipse Cross is a slight departure from other Mitsubishi products. The double-DIN headunit of other models is nowhere to be found, replaced by a tablet-like 7-inch screen in the center of the dash. Down below is a touch-pad, which I admittedly hardly used because the touchscreen interface was sufficient. The menus are simple and easy to navigate. The system supports Apple Car Play and Android Auto and it can manage several devices at a time, too. Unfortunately the designers did as Honda does and skipped on the volume knob.
Many other interior pieces seem to come directly from other Mitsubishi cars. The Eclipse Sport also features several different finishes throughout its interior as opposed to one common theme. There are silver pieces, carbon fiber-like pieces, and a piano black-like finish all mixed together. The seats are comfortable and no occupant will be uncomfortable.
The cargo area is a decent in size but the slopping hatch may prevent taller items from fitting in well. The rear seats fold down and they’re split 60:40. Like a proper outdoor adventure ready CUV, the Eclipse Cross has optional (or part of a package) roof rails. You’ll have to opt for cross bars in order to install a cargo box or a bike attachment. When equipped with a hitch, the Eclipse Cross can only tow 1,500 pounds.
The Eclipse feels very neutral in driving. It handles and stops well, but could use a little more power. The ride is comfortable, too, even over the crappy roads of the northeast. This crossover essentially does everything well without being really great nor really bad at anything. The AWD Eclipse Cross is rated 25 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway, which sits slightly below average for this class.
The Eclipse Cross starts at $23,595 for base front-wheel-drive ES model. Prices climb over the LE, SE, and SEL model seen here. The AWD SEL starts at $28,150. There is one major option package, the $2500 Touring Package which has a huge sunroof, Rockford Fosgate audio, adaptive cruise control and the various latest safety systems that come bundled with it. There are also numerous accessory packages.
Will the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross bring back those 90s kids to the dealerships? I wouldn’t count on it. But it will bring in more buyers in general, perhaps those empty-nesters looking to rejuvenate, or at least generate more interest for the brand that needs it. It’s a very competitive segment and the Eclipse Cross is simply just another option.
[Disclaimer: Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc. provided the vehicle for the purpose of this review.]
All images copyright Kamil Kaluski/Redusernab 2018