Dawn­ing of a new era

CAR (UK) - - First Drives -

T

HE ECLIPSE CROSS is Mit­subishi’s come­back car. Or more ac­cu­rately, 4x4, be­cause the irm now deines it­self as an SUV-maker, Ja­pan’s Jeep or Land Rover. And the Evoque is the in­spi­ra­tion for the Eclipse Cross, a sim­i­larly sized ve­hi­cle though at a far cheaper price. New de­sign chief Tsune­hiro Ku­ni­moto led the cre­ative team. His pre­vi­ous work in­cludes the Nis­san Juke, which won’t be a sur­prise if you’ve clocked the rear three-quar­ter view: it looks like an ex­plo­sion in a set square fac­tory. The de­sign is far more dis­tinc­tive than the Mit­subishi norm, and will shape the big­ger Out­lander Mk2 in 2020, fol­lowed by a baby SUV.

Un­der the skin is a re­vamped Out­lander plat­form. Its 2.2-litre diesel en­gine is car­ried over but with a torque boost; we drove a new 1.5-litre four-cylin­der petrol, with a con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sion shu–ling power to all four wheels (front-drive cars get a six-speed man­ual). Tur­bocharged to gen­er­ate 161bhp and 184lb ft from 1800rpm, ac­cel­er­a­tion is gen­teel; the CVT only just cracks the 10sec 0œ62mph bar­rier. Now those three let­ters will strike fear into the hearts of many, but the step­less gear­box’s moo­ing is well sup­pressed, and there’s a de­cent man­ual over­ride func­tion. Shame throt­tle re­sponse isn’t su–iciently snappy.

With its light, springy steer­ing and ten­dency to roll, this is not a ve­hi­cle to ire into cor­ners. Get your en­try speed right, and it’ll feed back on grip lev­els, en­cour­ag­ing you to ac­cel­er­ate and ad­just your line. That said, the Eclipse Cross is at its best as a fam­ily cruiser, glid­ing along Barcelona’s smooth mo­tor­way net­work, road noise di­alled right down in the mix. Rear pas­sen­gers have su–icient head space de­spite that slanted rooline, and there’s plenty of legroom, though the boot is titchy. And Mit­subishi has re­ally upped its game on in­te­rior qual­ity, with some nice sil­ver or gloss black trim, and a touch­screen to smoothly op­er­ate your mir­rored An­droid or Ap­ple phone. It doesn’t have the Out­lander’s plug-in hy­brid party trick – shelved on cost grounds – but in most other re­spects it feels like a signiicant step for­ward. PHIL MCNA­MARA @CARPhilMc

New de­sign chief brings some Juke magic to Mit­subishi

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