Tested: Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross now has the engine it always deserved
Johannesburg - When Mitsubishi’s Eclipse Cross first hit the scene in early 2019, it stirred up some excitement with its striking, if polarising, design and entertaining driving dynamics - by SUV standards at least. But it was missing one vital ingredient that could qualify it as a fun ute, and that was a perkier engine.
Thankfully, the 2-litre unit that the car was launched with has just been joined by Mitsubishi’s more advanced 1.5-litre turbopetrol, which comes in at a R50 000 premium over the equivalent 2.0 GLS 2WD model.
The new 1.5 Turbo GLS variant is yours for R459 900, which puts it into the same ballpark as your entry-level Rav4s and Tucsons. The Eclipse Cross might not be as practical as those SUVs, but what it loses there it makes up for with its driveability and comprehensive spec.
Since the new engine is the talking point here, let’s start with that. The new 1499cc force fed power unit produces 110 kW at 5500rpm and 250Nm from 2000revs, and while it might have the same power output as the 2.0, the turbo makes it a totally different beast, with altitude immunity, low-down brawn as well as 52Nm more twisting force.
A better match for the gearbox
The 1.5 Turbo model is only available in front-wheel drive, with power fed through a CVT gearbox. And sure, that acronym will always invoke a frown, but this gearbox actually pairs extremely well with the new motor. Continuously variable boxes are known for labouring engines, and emitting an annoying drone while doing so, but being a force fed motor there is a whole lot more low-down torque than you get in a normally aspirated equivalent, so the engine is almost always ticking over at lowish revs.
The only time this package becomes droney is under hard acceleration, but because of the abundance of low-down urge, you’ll hardly ever have to mash the loud pedal in this vehicle.
Furthermore, the gearbox also has an ‘8-step-shift control’ to mimic gear changes, which helps to make it feel a bit more like a conventional autobox. There’s also a set of ‘flappy paddles’ on the steering wheel that allows you to shift between these steps, but the gearbox worked so well in auto guise that we never felt the need to use the shift paddles.
All in all, the Eclipse Cross 1.5 Turbo is not a sports car, but the performance that it offers is effortless. What’s more, this vehicle is quite agile for an SUV, and the steering is reasonably communicative and direct, so the overall driving experience ranks highly in our book. The ride is reasonably comfortable too.
Practicality lacking, though
While it ranks highly among SUVs when it comes to driveability, the Eclipse Cross is not as practical as some of the other high-riders that you’ll get for the price, at least when it comes to boot space, which is listed at a mere 378 litres. This is largely thanks to the fitment of a full-sized spare wheel, but packaging is also to blame here as the car’s short rear overhang means the boot and the spare must sit on top of rather than behind the axle.
You can improve the luggage capacity to a small degree by using the rear seat’s sliding mechanism to push it forward, and while we’re on that subject, the rear legroom is actually rather decent, while a reclining seatback also adds to the comfort factor on long trips.
Upfront, the Eclipse is a nice place to pass time, thanks to a stylish dashboard clad mostly in good-quality materials, and there’s a great deal of spec here.
The Eclipse Cross 1.5 Turbo GLS ships standard with leather seats (heated upfront), automatic climate control (with rear ventilation), head-up display, keyless start, cruise control, rain-sensing wipers as well as front and rear park distance control (including reverse camera). The touchscreen infotainment system is user friendly and it’s got Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.
With the launch of the 1.5 Turbo model, the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross has received the heart transplant that it always deserved, but whether it’s the right SUV for you really depends on what you’re looking for.
If you’re planning big family holidays and you need a sizeable boot, then it is going to fall short. But if space isn’t as much of an issue, but you’re seeking something that’s fun to drive and well specced, then the Eclipse Cross 1.5T has at least two aces up its sleeve. It's well worth a test drive.