Words: Sammy Chan
Photography: Sammy Chan
Published: December 18, 2018
If there ever was a struggling brand that holds a special place in our heart, that car manufacturer would be Mitsubishi. The Lancer EVO, discontinued in 2015, has unfailingly been one on the top of my ten best cars list. Poised on the brink of disaster with Volkswagen-scale emission scandals in 2016, Mitsubishi Motors, the oldest automaker in Japan, was finally rescued by the same man who saved Nissan two decades ago. Now being part of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, currently the world's largest car manufacturer, it has provided an opportunity for Mitsubishi to do things it couldn't have done on its own.
That one such opportunity would be to indulge in all things SUV and crossover, with electrification playing a major role in the bigger equation. Axing the Lancer and expanding its SUV lineup was what Mitsubishi desperately needed to survive and to pursue its dreams. Introduced to the Canadian market in March of this year, the all-new 2018 Eclipse Cross is just the perfect vehicle Mitsubishi needs to fill the gap that the RVR and Outlander have long left voided. And the timing couldn't be any better, with the compact SUV segment projected to show the biggest growth of all vehicle segments by year 2020.
Irrespective of how crowded the compact SUV segment has become with most players either all-new or recently refreshed like Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Jeep Cherokee, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4 and Volkswagen Tiguan, one thing is for certain. With S-AWC Super All-Wheel-Control listed as standard equipment, the Eclipse Cross has to be the most planted of the bunch. Though not exactly an EVO in disguise, its S-AWC hardware delivers the same magic as its forebearer did.
With a starting MSRP price of $27,998, the Eclipse Cross is certainly not a bargain amongst its competition but once you factor in All-Wheel-Drive, and a superb one at that, plus other standard features including 18-inch alloy wheels, rear disc brakes, fog lamps, rear spoiler, heated front seats, auto climate, touchpad controller and a 10-year or 160,000 km limited powertrain warranty, it will land on your shortlist as quick as you can say Jack Robinson.
Besides the base ES model ($27,998), Eclipse Cross's 2019 lineup also includes SE ($29,998), GT ($35,998) and an online exclusive, the GT Diamond Edition ($37,498). The SE trim is expected to be the volume model and for very good reasons. For merely $2,000 more than base ES, a plethora of advanced safety technologies like Blind Spot Warning (BSW), Lane Change Assist (LCA) and Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) come as standard, so does an electric parking brake, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob, rain-sensing wipers and premium seat fabric. Heck, even paddle shifters and power folding side-view mirrors are included.
As much as I can't survive without Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) these days (I'm always on auto pilot in my 2018 Volvo XC60 whenever I'm on the highway), I might think twice about forking another $2,000 (SE Tech Package) to add ACC. Having said that, this package does also come with Forward Collision Mitigation (FCM), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), auto high-beam headlamps, auto-dimming rear-view mirror with HomeLink and black roof rails. Our tester, the top of the line GT adds power panoramic roof, LED headlamps, Head-Up Display (HUD), Multi-View Camera system, 710-watt Rockford-Fosgate® premium audio system (nine speakers), leather seating surfaces, power driver’s seat, heated steering wheel and rear seats.
If distinctive styling ranks high on your list, bar the MINI Countryman, the Eclipse Cross is as unique as one can find. With a fastback angular rear and a crouched down front profile, it's both visually and aesthetically pleasing to the eye. If you are closing in from behind, its dual window panes and singular light bar that spans the whole width of its tail will definitely ignite your curiosity. Split windows, though still not a common sight, are a thing from the past and if executed well, can turn into a design language for generations to bear.
Not mentioned elsewhere is how clever and creative the designers are to adopt similar principles to the sunroof, effectively turning the split sunroof into a mirror reflection of the rear. It's hard not to mention that even the rear portion of the sunroof is conveniently powered for the rear passengers as well. The dash is uncluttered and well laid out, brightened by a generous use of either piano-black or chrome accents to every panel and compartment. The gauges are nicely rounded and bordered with metallic-looking materials, a Honda fashion that has sadly become unfashionable. Usually found only in premium brands like Lexus and BMW, there's a touchpad on the right side of the gearbox for your finger to operate the stereo and other commands that are just as easy to do by touching the 7-inch screen sitting atop the dash.
Only one engine is available, a 1.5-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder with a torque output that not even its bigger sibling, the Outlander 2.4L, can match. Maximum torque of 184 lb-ft can also be achieved at a lowly 2,000 rpm and maintain its peak all the way up to 3,500 rpm. Horsepower is much less impressive with a mediocre figure of 152 hp at 5,500 rpm. Direct injection aside, this engine also adopts advanced technology such as sodium filled exhaust valves to maximize performance and efficiency. As such, its EPA rating of City 9.6L/100 km, Highway 8.9 and Combined 9.3, is very respectable though not outstanding.
Considering it's still a relatively small displacement engine, power output is more than adequate, but then again Honda can squeeze a lot more out of its 1.5L as it did with the Accord and CR-V. Once pushed hard though, the Eclipse Cross will sprint more eagerly and in the GT, using the steering wheel paddles transforms the CVT into an "8-speed" transmission (it even has real gear ratios). In fact, it's much more happier being used this way, responding quickly to every one of your finger's commands. Paddles this huge in size are probably not without reason as they are bolted to the steering column rather than to the wheel itself.
Transferring power from front to rear and vice versa is what all AWD systems can easily muster, but between the two rear wheels? The limited slip rear diff is just as limited as the name itself. Then came Active Yaw Control, brought along by Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution's S-AWC system more than a decade ago and from then on, it's ingrained in many high end SUVs, the BMW X5/X6 in particular. In the Eclipse Cross, steering angle, yaw rate, drive torque, brake force and wheel speed are all used to determine the amount of torque feed and brake force needed at left and right rear wheels to maintain and enhance traction and stability, a feat its competitors have years to accomplish. Worth mentioning is how winter tire technology has progressed these days. It was many days later into the test week that I realized our tester had Toyo Observe GSi-5 snow tires on, and they proved to be quiet and relatively comfortable on the road.
The suspension setup is standard fare featuring MacPherson struts up front and Multi-link in the rear. Although ride quality is nothing to write home about, its handling around corners was sharp and sure-footed and if my lap time at Canadian Motorsport Park (2019 Canadian Car and SUV/CCUV of the Year testfest) this past October was any indication, the Eclipse Cross will run rings around Honda's CR-V and even the formidable 2019 Subaru Forester.
Speaking of which, the Eclipse Cross was recently crowned as "Car of the Year 2019" by RJC, the Automotive Researchers' & Journalists' Conference of Japan, knocking out the CR-V, Forester and several other contenders. This is what the RJC committee said in the ceremony, "Not only is the Eclipse Cross a stylish fusion of sharp coupe looks and a compact SUV, but it has excellent rough road performance and well-balanced drivability due to Mitsubishi’s unique Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC) technology. It also has brisk driving performance thanks to combination of the newly developed 1.5-litre direct-injection turbocharged gasoline engine and a CVT gearbox with 8-speed Sport Mode manual override.”
型号 Model: 2018 三菱 Eclipse Cross GT S-AWC
廠方建議售價 MSRP: $35,998.00
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,670
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,405 / 1,805 / 1,690
引擎 Engine: 1.5L DOHC 4-cylinder Turbo
最大馬力 Horsepower-HP: 152 / 5,500 rpm
最高扭力 Torque-LB-FT: 184 / 2,000-3,500 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 八前速CVT自動波箱
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: 前置引擎前輪帶動
前懸 Suspension-Front: 麥花臣支柱
後懸 Suspension-Rear: 多連桿
煞制-前 Brakes-Front: 透氣碟 294mm
煞制-後 Brakes-Rear: 實心碟 302mm
循跡操控系统 ABS/Traction Control: 標準設備
油耗 Fuel Consumption (City/Highway/Combined): 9.6/8.9/9.3
輪胎尺碼 Tires: Bridgestone Ecopia H/L 422 Plus 225/55R 18