REVIEW | The 2020 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross belongs in the shade
There is more than a hint of commonality in the brand narratives of Mitsubishi and Subaru. Both represent textbook examples of what happens when the automotive wheel of fortune turns. Or, perhaps more accurately, how a failure to innovate meaningfully leaves one vulnerable to the indiscriminate whims of change…
Think about it. Both companies enjoyed an illustrious period in motorsport. Mitsubishi and Dakar were inextricably linked. Subaru was a dominant force in the World Rally Championship (WRC). These exploits were an integral part of their marketing campaigns. Powerful statements, that imbued customers with the sense that they were getting a slice of that competitive edge in the real world.
High performance seems to no longer form significant part of the strategy in either camp. And now, both manufacturers are known for sensible, albeit dreary machines that seemingly blend into the periphery. In the local context, there are exceptions of course. The hardy Forester remains a strong seller for Subaru. The Triton stands out as a worthy pick in the Mitsubishi stable.
One struggles to make the same claim about the Eclipse Cross, although it must be said that the name inspires all manner of wordplay. A new Mitsubishi product and an eclipse are two infrequent happenings – and with the arrival of Eclipse Cross both happened.
To be fair, the offering is not altogether horrible. Just unremarkable and without radical distinction over the long-standing ASX, which is fractionally smaller but less expensive too. According to Mitsubishi, the Eclipse Cross plays in the realm of the Mazda CX-5 and Hyundai Tucson. These are, as you know, undisputed heavy-hitters in the hotly contested medium sport-utility vehicle category.
The interior of the Eclipse Cross looks a few years out of date, with generic fixtures from yesteryear including a cigarette lighter seemingly lifted from the old Colt Galant your uncle drove. The one saving grace is a decent infotainment system.
Accommodation for AndroidAuto and Apple CarPlay is among its suite of functionalities. Standard specification must be commended: there is just one model grade, which throws in all the amenities one expects as standard. That includes leather upholstery with seat heating for front passengers, keyless-go, front and rear park distance control, a reverse camera, rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlamps.
As for engine and gearbox options, there is just one. A 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol (110kW and 198Nm) shifted via a continuously variable transmission. Take that in front-wheel drive or with the all-wheel drive system dubbed Super All Wheel Control in Mitsubishi parlance. What can we say of its nature, other than that it accelerates (lazily) when required? You knew that already…
The ride quality deserves praise, as we found out over many a gravel road in the province. Could be drops of that stifled off-road competition DNA, just trying to ooze its way out the pores of the uniquely styled exterior. This is us being euphemistic, indeed, because the Eclipse Cross is quite simply hideous from any angle other than face-on, where the assertive Dynamic Shield front makes a confident statement.
That rear calls to mind Google images of a Pontiac Aztek. Or a Lamborghini Urus after reversing into a tree. Several times. Expect to pay R449,995 for the AWD version and R409,995 for the two-wheel drive model. Roughly the same starting price as the figures asked by the other Japanese and South Korean models mentioned earlier.
The Eclipse Cross might have a plentiful list of standard features and outstanding composure on dirt, but those virtues are overshadowed by its insipid powertrain, ungainly aesthetics and drab cabin.