On the Road Review: Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross SEL

With gasoline street pricing quickly swelling past $4 a gallon during the visit of this week’s Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, automakers will soon feel a new round of pressure, as if two years of COVID-flu and computer chip constraints weren’t enough strain. Consumer focus will certainly shift toward efforts to maximize every gallon purchased, no matter what they drive, as the escalating rise of all energies further attacks consumers and rapidly increases inflation at every level.

After a year’s absence, the 2022 Eclipse Cross gets restyled front and rear fascias, a revised liftgate that eliminates the odd dual-pane rear window, plus interior enhancements that create a larger touchscreen (8 inches on top SEL trim) that includes real knobs plus Tom-Tom navigation. This feature alone will please buyers befuddled/distracted by the console mousepad controller employed before.

Like its slightly larger Outlander sibling, the new front fascia improves forward lighting, while adding sensors for forward collision emergency braking with pedestrian detection (no false alarms like our recent Hondas). The LED daytime running lamps also improve visibility; remember, daytime lamps are to help you be seen, not see yourself. Given the data on reduced driver visibility in a population with increased eyesight issues, and the reluctance of many drivers to help other drivers see them in inclement weather, every new car should be utilizing DRLs — just like motorcycles.

For a couple of years, Mitsubishi’s U.S. sales levels hovered around irrelevant. Yet last year, Mitsubishi realized a 15 percent gain in this market (over 102,000 vehicles sold), moving beyond Lincoln and Infiniti. Aligned with Nissan and Renault, Mitsubishi is starting to enjoy some of the engineering co-mingling that comes naturally within shared brands.

The Eclipse Cross, with a 105-inch wheelbase and 179 inches long and weighing approximately 3,500 pounds, comes in front drive and Mitsu’s version of AWD called Super — all-wheel control. Pricing starts at $24,995 for base FWD ES trim, while our well-equipped SEL with heated leather seating and steering, power sunroof, 18-inch wheels, plus several electronic driving aids, stickered for $34,075. Other vehicles in this subcompact crossover class include Hyundai Kona, Chevy Trax, Jeep Compass, VW Taos, Kia Seltos, Ford EcoSport and Honda HR-V.

Power is supplied by a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, 152 hp, backed by a CVT automatic. Honda uses a similarly sized powertrain, but with more peak power. EPA ratings are 26/29 mpg for front-drive models, 25/26 mpg for AWD versions. There is no hybrid model available or, apparently, planned.

Herein lies the main rub against the Eclipse Cross. The seating and interior space are all very good, with a forward cabin that belies its price point with nice detailing and convenient controls throughout. (Nice reversal too on the screen’s controls — perhaps this will be a trend?) The split rear seating easily folds, the liftgate is smoothly operated and the rear cargo hold is quite good.

But, and there is always a but, the fuel economy needs to be better — for this size crossover, in this class, with the aid of a turbo. Power delivery is better than several rivals, and ample for 98 percent of all drivers, yet mid-20-mpg fuel economy is less than the larger Outlander and near the bottom of this class. The new 100,000-mile powertrain warranty, even better than the Korean automakers actually, is not enough to offset middling fuel economy, especially as you need a loan from your IRA account to pay for fill-ups.

This consumer pressure will soon apply to many automakers, as years of affordable fuel have led to the vast proliferation of crossovers and SUVs — the real moneymakers for every automaker and the inevitable fundraisers needed to pay for the much-more expensive BEVs that everyone is planning. Looks like a significant fiscal conundrum on the horizon, eh?

The new Eclipse Cross has shaken off several of its styling oddities, and in SEL trim, with its cute front-splitter up front — like a NASCAR racer, or a muscular pony car — accented with red pin-striping no less, this subcompact four-door, five-seater should bring more buyers to a brand that has finally settled on its identity in the U.S., just as everyone’s identity is again in flux.

Switch the console dial over to S-AWC, the road ahead is gonna be bumpy again, Mitsubishi.

Next week: Honda Passport TrailSport

Tim Plouff

Tim Plouff

Columnist at The Ellsworth American
Tim Plouff has been reviewing automobiles in the pages of The Ellsworth American weekly for nearly two decades.

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