Wor­thy, but priced to make sure it doesn’t block out the ASX

Wheels (Australia) - - Contents - ASH WESTERMAN

Way bet­ter than an ASX. Ac­tu­ally, add Out­lander

NO ONE ever said medi­ocrity had to be an im­ped­i­ment to pros­per­ity. Well, at least no one at Mit­subishi ever said it. There’s not a stand­out per­former in Mitsu’s now-eight­strong model range, yet the com­pany fin­ished 2017 in fifth po­si­tion on the sales chart, much to the cha­grin of sixth-placed Ford.

All of which bodes well for Mitsu’s lat­est ad­di­tion to its SUV line-up. The Eclipse Cross squeezes be­tween the ASX and Out­lander; a pricier, more de­sign­led al­ter­na­tive to the for­mer; more com­pact and af­ford­able than the lat­ter. It’s no gifted ath­lete, but it does get enough of the fun­da­men­tals right and has suf­fi­cient show­room sheen to el­e­vate it above medi­ocrity.

The line-up is con­tained to just three vari­ants shar­ing the new 1.5-litre turbo four and CVT with eight ra­tio steps.

The Eclipse Cross lands early scor­ing shots for de­sign, pack­ag­ing and pre­sen­ta­tion. The coupe-es­que pro­file and slightly slop­ing roofline doesn’t un­duly com­pro­mise rear head­room, while the rear bench slides fore and aft by 200mm and of­fers use­ful back­rest rake ad­just­ment. Up front, the seats are sup­port­ive, stor­age is well con­sid­ered, and the in­stru­ments clean and at­trac­tive.

More cred­its quickly amass when sam­pling the en­gine for the first time in ur­ban driv­ing. This is Mitsu’s de­but in­stal­la­tion of the new 1.5 turbo, and it’s a de­cent lit­tle unit. The tune sen­si­bly favours torque, rather than power, so it boosts up early, de­liv­ers a mostly sat­is­fy­ing swell in the mid-range, and re­mains un­ob­tru­sive un­til wrung past 5500rpm. The tar­get mar­ket won’t go there, and nei­ther did we, much, as power trails off quickly in the last 500rpm be­fore the 6000rpm red­line.

As for the CVT, it’s less ob­jec­tion­able than most of the other ham­ster-wheels that pop­u­late this class. It doesn’t ban­ish the slippy, dron­ing syn­drome in the up­per mid-range, but it does at least al­low you to take in­stant con­trol via a pair of col­umn-mounted pad­dles, and the eight ‘ra­tio’ steps go some way to mim­ick­ing a con­ven­tional auto in its man­ual mode. The ra­tio spread is use­ful, too, with the tall end drop­ping revs to 2000rpm at the free­way limit, mak­ing for un­stressed cruis­ing.

Claimed con­sump­tion is 7.3L/100km; we saw an in­di­cated 10.8 over 500km of fairly vig­or­ous driv­ing. Over­all, it’s a pow­er­train that eas­ily has the mea­sure of the atmo of­fer­ings in ri­vals such as the Nis­san Qashqai and Honda HR-V.

Dy­nam­ics are less of a clearcut thumbs-up. The steer­ing has

an on-cen­tre soft­ness and va­cancy clearly aimed at driv­ers who want their SUV to feel sneezeproof at the straight-ahead, but the re­sult is a fairly life­less wheel that needs a crank of lock be­fore pro­vid­ing any sense of con­nec­tion.

The chas­sis tune favours ur­ban ride com­fort, which is wel­come, but the down­side is sig­nif­i­cant roll into round­abouts, and high-speed damp­ing that im­per­son­ates a bed sales­man demon­strat­ing part­ner dis­tur­bance on a budget Sealy.

But will buy­ers know … or care? Of course not. The equip­ment level, even at the LS en­try point, is high, the safety story strong in Ex­ceed, the con­nec­tiv­ity boxes ticked. Teamed with the rak­ish, slightly blinged-’n’-creased styling, the req­ui­site el­e­vated driv­ing po­si­tion and the op­tion of all-wheel drive for a rea­son­able pre­mium, and it’s quickly ev­i­dent there’s noth­ing me­diocre or ill-con­sid­ered about Mit­subishi’s business plan.

Model Mit­subishi Eclipse Cross Ex­ceed 2WD En­gine 1499cc in­line 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo Max power 110kw @ 5700-6700rpm Max torque 250Nm @ 2000-3500rpm Trans­mis­sion CVT Weight 1490kg 0-100km/h 9.0sec (es­ti­mated) Econ­omy 7.3L/100km Price $36,000 On sale Now

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