Reality often falls short of expectations. Onscreen heroes become real-life villains, Tinder dates rarely look like their profile pictures, and the 2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross is as close in spirit to the Mitsubishi Eclipse sports coupe as the Bible is to the Kama Sutra.
Those expecting an informal successor to the Eclipse coupe and convertible will be sorely disappointed by the Eclipse Cross, which is essentially a wedge-shaped variant of the Mitsubishi Outlander SUV. With a starting price of $24,290, the Eclipse Cross slots between the $21,390 Outlander Sport and the $24,940 Outlander.
Like its Outlander-badged platform mates, the Eclipse Cross prioritizes on-road comfort over responsive handling. Soft springs and vague controls make this Eclipse a subpar dance partner on twisting tarmac, and the body rolls and pitches uncomfortably with each turn of the wheel or stab of the brake pedal.
Push past the initial body lean, though, and the all-wheel-drive system—standard on all but the base ES trim level (where it’s a $600 option)—will use the rear axle’s brake-based torque-vectoring system to make the most of the limited grip afforded by the understeer-prone chassis. Wearing a set of 18-inch wheels and tires wrapped in low-rolling-resistance Bridgestone Ecopia H/L 422 Plus rubber (standard on all but the entry-level model, which makes do with 16-inchers), our Eclipse Cross SE AWD test car circled our skidpad at an unremarkable 0.76 g but managed to stop from 70 mph in a competitive 178 feet.
Hiding behind the handsome face of the Eclipse Cross is a new turbocharged 1.5-liter inline-four. Internally referred to as the 4B40, the direct-injected engine is a smooth operator that readily reflects Mitsubishi’s turbocharging talents. In fact, the small-displacement engine exhibited so little turbo lag that it could pass for a naturally aspirated powerplant.
With 152 horsepower, the 4B40 is no heir to Mitsubishi’s 4G63 turbo four of Lancer Evolution and Eclipse GSX fame, however, and it struggled to move the 3496-pound Eclipse Cross in more aggressive driving situations. Getting to 60 mph required 8.6 seconds, and scooting from 50 to 70 mph took 6.3 seconds. That’s 0.5 and 0.8 second longer than a 182-pound-heavier Mazda CX-5, but the Mitsubishi is quicker than the Jeep Compass, the Nissan Rogue Sport, and the Subaru Crosstrek. Like that trio, the Eclipse Cross casts a shadow longer than those of typical subcompact crossover SUVs but shorter than compact entrants.
At lower speeds, the Eclipse Cross moves ably thanks to a healthy 184 lb-ft of torque available between 2000 and 3500 rpm. A continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is standard, and it’s tuned well enough to be unobtrusive in its work. Simulated shifts prevent prolonged periods of engine drone, while eight simulated gears can be manually selected by slapping at the shift lever or, in SEL models, by tapping at a pair of paddle shifters.
In spite of its small-displacement engine and fuel-economy-friendly CVT, the Eclipse Cross proved fairly thirsty. Our Eclipse Cross SE test car downed a gallon of unleaded every 26 miles on our 75-mph highway fuel-economy loop; that matches its EPA highway estimate but falls short of our results in the Compass (28 mpg), Rogue Sport (31 mpg), Crosstrek (32 mpg), and CX-5 (32 mpg) in the same test.
Nor is the Eclipse Cross particularly versatile, and its canted Pontiac Aztek–like rear end and short rear overhang allow just 23 cubic feet of space in its cargo hold with the rear seats up. That matches the space provided in the Rogue Sport but is less than that offered by the more squared-off Compass (27 cubic feet) and the larger CX-5 (31 cubic feet). The Mitsubishi makes the most of its limited space, though, and we were able to fit a total of six carry-on-luggage-sized bags under its sloping hatch—a sum equaled by the Nissan and the Jeep but topped by the Mazda, which held nine.
Arguably, the Eclipse Cross is a better tool for hauling people than things, and its standard 60/40 split-folding rear bench seat is a comfortable place to while away the miles thanks to its sliding seat bottom and reclining backrest. Meanwhile, the driver and front passenger are each treated to adequately bolstered bucket seats with firm but forgiving cushioning.
The dashboard, modern in design, houses a 7.0-inch touchscreen in the center stack. The entry-level ES trim makes do with an older unit that includes one USB port, while LE, SE, and SEL models feature a newer setup that includes a second USB port, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and a Lexus-like touchpad controller on the center console. Although the touchpad is intuitive enough to use and responds readily to inputs, it lacks the ease of operation that comes with simply tapping at the screen. The cabin relies heavily on hard plastics, but the Eclipse Cross features solid fit and finish with small and consistent panel gaps throughout the dashboard and door panels. This is one of Mitsubishi’s best-built interiors in recent memory.