2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross Buying Advice
This is the best compact crossover for you if you’re OK with progress occasionally taking two steps forward and one step back.
Mitsubishi introduced the five-passenger Eclipse Cross for model-year 2018, filling a gap in its lineup between the smaller Outlander Sport, a subcompact crossover, and the Outlander, which is also a compact-class crossover but slightly larger and more expensive than the Eclipse Cross – and available with seven-passenger seating, a V-6 engine, and a plug-in-hybrid powertrain.
If the Eclipse name sounds familiar, it’s because this Japanese automaker plucked it from one of its most iconic vehicles. Sold from 1990-2012, the Mitsubishi Eclipse was a sporty, two-door coupe and convertible with a loyal following. The second-generation 1995-1999 model was a favorite of aftermarket tuners and cemented its legacy with a star turn in the first Fast and the Furious film.
Reviving old nameplates can be a winning strategy – see the success of the Chevrolet Malibu and Dodge Challenger. Those cars, however, were more aligned with their historic counterparts in terms of body style and mission. The original Eclipse was a low-slung performance car eventually available with more than 250 horsepower. The Eclipse Cross is four-door hatchback crossover with 152 horsepower and virtually no sporty pretension.
Eclipse Cross does address a need in Mitsubishi’s product portfolio. It’s also the best vehicle Mitsubishi has introduced in at least a decade. Buyers, though, aren’t responding as company officials likely hoped. It hit showrooms in early spring 2018, but sales totaled just 9,485 units for calendar ’18, leaving it dead last in a class of some 15 compact crossovers. Sales of the Outlander and Outlander Sport, meanwhile, reached nearly 40,000 each during 2018.
Should you buy a 2019 model or wait for the 2020?
No reason to wait. Given that Mitsubishi is a small automaker and the Eclipse Cross has been a sales laggard out of the gate, don’t expect the company to invest heavily in major changes in the near term.
Count on the 2020 Eclipse Cross lineup to repeat 2019’s. It’s somewhat unusual in that the base ES is the only model available with front-wheel drive. Traction-aiding all-wheel drive (AWD) is optional for the ES and standard on the balance of the lineup, which comprises LE, SE, and SEL grades. One possible 2020 change would be introduction of front-drive versions of these other models as a way to lower their prices and goose sales.
Styling: We’ll make our case for “two-steps-forward-one-back” beginning with the Eclipse Cross’s exterior styling.
The front end demonstrates what Lexus’ “spindle” grille should have looked like if done with more restraint. And while it’s flanked by blade-like headlights, they stop short of giving this crossover an “angry” face. Eclipse Cross is handsome in profile, as well. Modern cutlines intersect the doors and the roofline evokes the trendy “four-door coupe” look while preserving good rear headroom.
Things take a step back at the tail, which conjures up a mutant Toyota Prius. Oddly round flanks clash with an illuminated horizontal bar that links the taillamps – and bisects the hatch window. It seems tacked-on and, worse, obscures the driver’s visibility directly aft.
One step forward for the cabin’s comfortable seats and better-than-expected materials. Passengers have good headroom and legroom. The rear bench is adjustable fore and aft to favor people or cargo. Our SE review sample exhibited a pleasing blend of textured surfaces and had classy seat fabrics complemented by faux carbon-fiber and piano-black plastic dash and door trim.
Another step forward for the clear instrumentation and simple climate controls. All grades include 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system. Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto are standard on the LE, SE, and SEL but are unavailable on the ES.
Eclipse Cross takes a step back for some unforced ergonomic errors. The infotainment screen sits atop the dashboard, as it does on many modern vehicles. But it’s canted forward, away from the driver and front passenger, requiring a long reach to access. Mitsubishi tries to compensate with a Lexus-style trackpad controller on the center console, but there’s no corresponding onscreen cursor and it’s far too sensitive to use without distracting the driver.
There’s no audio volume knob. Adjustments must be done via the steering wheel or by interacting with virtual buttons on the infotainment screen, which are bafflingly located on the passenger side. The audio display also tries to cram in too much information. You can change only four radio presets at a time, so you need to scroll nine screen pages to access them all. Song information and secondary touch controls can be hard to read at a glance because the font is small. Use CarPlay or Android Auto if you can.
Cargo volume is near the bottom of the pack at just 22.6 cubic feet behind the rear seatbacks and 48.9 with them folded. Note that only LE and higher models include a center console storage box.
Mechanical: Eclipse Cross takes two steps forward for on-road refinement and handling. This is one of the most well-behaved vehicles Mitsubishi has ever made. The engine starts and runs far more quietly than the larger-displacement four-cylinders available in the Outlander and Outlander Sport. The Cross rides better than its siblings, too, with a well-tuned suspension that ably soaks up sharp bumps. Wind and road noise are non-issues.
The Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC) AWD system remains one of the best in the business. With technology derived from the departed Lancer Evolution, S-AWC delivers excellent dry- and wet-weather performance. Drivers can switch among Auto, Gravel, and Snow settings depending on road conditions. It snowed during a part of our evaluation period, and the Cross handled packed roads with confidence. Despite its somewhat odd proportions, the Cross is stable in quick changes of direction. A bit more road feel from the steering would be nice, it’s not a major drawback.
Engine performance is where the Cross takes a step back. It follows compact-SUV convention by using a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that teams with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Horsepower is on the low end of its competitive set at 152, but torque is class-competitive at 184 pound-feet.
Like most of its rivals, there’s an “Eco” drivetrain mode that dulls throttle and transmission response to improve fuel economy. Eclipse Cross takes it a bit too far. Enabling this setting feels like you’re shutting off the turbocharger entirely. Combine this with an overly aggressive CVT, and forward progress is very sluggish off the line. Things improve with Eco disabled, but acceleration still feel somewhat labored, especially when you need to merge into fast-moving traffic.
Features: All Eclipse Cross grades include fog lights, LED daytime running lights, automatic climate control, and a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system.
The LE has specific exterior trim with 18-inch wheels (up from 16s on the ES), CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio, voice control, an extra USB charging port up front, and center console storage bin.
SE grades add automatic headlights, power-folding exterior mirrors, rain-sensing windshield wipers, upgraded cloth upholstery with heated front seats, a center armrest with cupholders for the rear seat, a 2-year subscription to Mitsubishi Connect telematics with remote services, dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless access with pushbutton ignition, an electronic parking brake, and blind-spot alert with rear cross-traffic detection.
The range-topping SEL has full LED headlights, steering-wheel paddle shifters, power driver’s seat, leather upholstery, head-up instrument display, and surround-view camera.
Eclipse Cross pricing generally follows the Honda model, offering set trim levels with most options available as dealer-installed accessories. There are several extra-cost dress-up packages that range in price from $345-$965. Note that the base prices we list here include Mitsubishi’s $1,045 destination fee.
The 2019 Eclipse Cross ES starts at $24,640 with front-wheel drive. We strongly recommend AWD, and Mitsubishi prices it very reasonably at $600, raising the base price of an ES to $25,240.
All other ’19 Eclipse Cross grades come standard with AWD, the LE priced from $26,240, the SE from $27,740, and the SEL from $29,240.
The lone factory option is the SEL’s $2,500 Touring Package, which adds heated outboard rear seats, dual-pane power panoramic sunroof, heated steering wheel, and a 710-watt audio system with nine speakers. It also includes more comprehensive driver-assistance features, such as automatic high-beam headlight control, adaptive radar cruise control, lane-departure warning, and automatic emergency braking. It’s unfortunate that the only way to get these valuable aids is to choose the fully-equipped, top-of-the-line trim level, especially since more and more rivals are making them standard across the board.
At $31,690, the SEL with Touring Package’s price premium is tough to justify, even if you factor in heavy incentives dealers are likely to offer because of slow sales. If you can get it for $25,000 or less, the SE is the most compelling value in the Eclipse Cross lineup, despite not being available with advanced safety features.
EPA ratings for the Eclipse Cross are near the bottom of its competitive set. The front-drive ES rates 26/29/27 mpg city/highway/combined. The AWD ES rates 25/28/26 mpg. These ratings are slightly higher than the rest of the lineup because the ES uses 16-inch wheels and tires as opposed to 18s. LE, SE, and SEL rate 25/26/25 mpg.
Our SE review sample got 25.6 mpg in our suburban test loop. All models use regular-grade 87-octane gasoline.
As it is a relatively new vehicle, don’t expect any major updates for a few years. It’s possible Mitsubishi will launch front-drive versions of the LE, SE, and/or SEL trim levels to bring the price down a bit. We would like them to make the SEL’s optional safety equipment standard on the entire line. Barring that, it should at least be optional on the LE and above.