THE trek to deposit the kids at university always presents a unique challenge for the unlucky motor saddled with the task of transporting their belongings. The Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross drew the short straw this time but was more than up for the test.
The interior of this five-seater is versatile and spacious so could cope with the gargantuan amount of kit and equipment normally associated with a small army.
The rear seats helpfully slide back and forth allowing you to decide on the ratio between leg room and boot space while up front the powered seats can be adjusted to suit on the well kitted out top-of-the-range ‘4’ model.
It all adds up to a maximum luggage area of 448 litres accessed via a top-hinged tailgate and a nice wide opening.
There is lots of storage space for a family’s knick-knacks with drinks holders and cubby holes aplenty. Neat features include a sliding oddments tray in the centre console and a split shelf glove box as well as a covered storage box between the driver and front-seat passenger.
At one stage I did contemplate getting a trailer which the Eclipse Cross is more than capable of handling with a towing capacity of 1,600kg for the 1.5-litre petrol model.
The engine is a willing beast powering the four-wheel-drive Eclipse Cross – front-wheel drive versions are also available – from 0-62mph in a shade over 10 seconds on its way to a top speed of 124mph.
Fuel economy is okay with a claimed average figure of 36.7mpg, coming in closer to 30mpg in the real world, and emissions of 175g/km.
The automatic gearbox is smooth enough although it shows a marked lack of enthusiasm for changing up when you are accelerating hard, making for more noise than you would like. Natty paddles behind the steering wheel offer the option of changing gear manually while a proper manual transmission is also available on other models.
Leaving the slight quibble about the automatic transmission to one side, the Eclipse Cross is decent to drive with informative steering, a comfortable ride and a nice balance to the handling.
Good levels of grip are guaranteed by the 4x4 system which alternates power to each wheel depending on the traction available and offers specific settings for inclement conditions.Mitsubishi also gives the automatic version an electronic parking brake which offers an auto-hold setting that comes in handy when negotiating traffic, as well as adaptive cruise control.
Up against the likes of the Nissan Qashqai, Kia Sportage and Peugeot’s 3008, the Eclipse Cross is pitched into a red-hot SUV market.
But Mitsubishi give it some serious weapons with distinctive exterior styling and plenty of goodies to play with when you climb inside.
It has serious road presence thanks to sharply-sculpted bodywork and a sloping roofline which gives it a coupe look. Roof bars and a skid plate as well as a distinctive nose and headlights plus stylish alloys are all crowd-pleasers. The tailgate design catches the eye with a nifty double rear window divided by a spoiler.
The cabin is modern with a seven-inch touchscreen display perched on top of the dashboard. A trackpad controller is positioned next to the driver but I found it simpler to use the screen itself to select the many functions on offer.
The air con controls are separate which makes the system easier to use. There is no factory-fitted sat nav but the car can be hooked up to Apple and Android smartphones.
There are plenty of safety features with all models getting forward collision avoidance, lane departure warning and a reversing camera.
It all comes together to create a decent SUV that looks sure to give the competition something to think about.