Don't look now, but Mitsubishi now has two competitive compact crossovers on the market.
The first was the plug-in electric hybrid version of its long-running compact Outlander, which includes two electric motors for all-wheel-drive traction. And the second is the slightly smaller Eclipse Cross, which features a peppy turbocharged 1.5-liter engine and a comfortable ride.
It's no secret that Mitsubishi has struggled to bring new vehicles to market in recent years. The underfunded Japanese automaker sold its Lancer sedan without any significant upgrades for far too long. And its subcompact Mirage skipped a production year to fix design shortcomings that made it difficult to live with, despite its low price.
But Mitsubishi is now on a winning streak. The Outlander PHEV is winning rave reviews. It can go about 22 miles in electricity alone before switching over to a convention, fuel-saving hybrid mode.
And the Eclipse Cross, which was introduced last year, competes well against every other affordable compact crossover for sale these days — in contrast to the aging Outlander Sport, the smallest crossover offered by Mitsubishi.
The differences are clear. For starters, the Eclipse Cross easily overcomes the two biggest shortfalls of the Outlander Sport — the unrefined engines and noisy Continuously Variably Transmission. The turbo four in the Eclipse Cross is smoother and more powerful feeling than either of the the normally aspirated 2.0-liter or 2.4-liter fours available in the Outlander Sport. And the CVT in the in the Eclipse Cross much quieter and feels much closer to conventional automatic transmission.
The Eclipse Cross is also more aggressively styled than either of the Outlanders. Although not as outrageous as any Lexus crossover, it still features enough sharp lines and angles to attract attention. The rear end is a little busy, with a split back window that harkens back to the Pontiac Aztek made famous on Breaking Bad, but the overall result is more contemporary than any other current Mitsubishi.
The interior is relatively restrained, however, with higher quality materials than expected. Its also comes with a lot of tech, including standard 7-inch infortainment screen controlled by a touchpad that is easier to use than most.
The Eclipse Cross is tall for a compact crossover, which gives it a surprising amount of interior room. It also has a fairly soft suspension for a crossover, giving it a comfortable ride at the expensive of sporty handling. Although surprising — the last Mitsubishi Eclipse was a sports car — the total package is very easy to live with. The turbo engine provides decent acceleration and the suspension about road imperfections.
Best of all was the price. Our well-equipped SE version included the company's Super All-Wheel Control (AWD) system and a wide range of convenience, entertainment and safety features. But cost less than $30,000, which is a bargain these days.
Mitsubishi is also expanding its dealerships these days, making it easier to find new models and have them serviced. The 2019 Eclipse Cross is well worth testing if you're in rhe market for a compact crossover, and further proof that the company is on a roll.
2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross
Base price: $23,595
Price as tested: $28,065
Type: Compact crossover
Engine: 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder (152 hp, 184 lbs-ft)
Transmission: Continuously Variable Transmission
EPA estimated mileage: 25/26
Overall length: 173 inches
Curb weight: 3,307-3,516 pounds
Final assembly: Okazaki, Japan
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