Mitsubishi is a modest-sized brand in an alliance with the much larger Nissan Motor and Renault SA. This partnership forms a collective automotive beast that sells more vehicles than any other automotive grouping on the planet.
The alliance gives Mitsu muscle in a world dominated by monster car companies, the likes of Toyota Motor and the Volkswagen Group. Typically, it costs between $500 million and $1 billion to develop a new model and bring it to market from scratch. The sheer cost of development and marketing has forced little players like Mitsubishi to connect with other brands.
I don’t think most shoppers know that Mitsu is part of a powerful alliance. Thus, I believe it’s a small act of bravery for any consumer to shop a small or boutique brand. Mitsubishi Canada, though, is an interesting success story. Yes, it’s small. Toyota/Lexus Canada sells 10 times the number of vehicles. In a land of car giants, Mitsubishi is a Microraptor surrounded by T-Rex dinosaurs.
Still, something about Mitsubishi’s strategy and execution have caught the fancy of Canadians. Sales are up 0.5 per cent this year, in a market where sales have slumped 4.1 per cent.
What Mitsu is offering appears to fit Canadians. Mitsu Canada’s four-model lineup (Outlander/Outlander PHED, Eclipse Cross, RVR and Mirage/Mirage G4) is mostly comprised of SUVs (sport-utility vehicles) and the Outlander PHED ($43,498 base). The Mirage cars are basic and cheap transportation, while the SUVs have interesting designs and nifty technology.
This brings me to the Eclipse Cross, a compact-sized rig aimed at those cross-shopping Nissan’s Qashqai, the Subaru Crosstrek, Mazda CX-3, Hyundai Kona, Honda HR-V, Buick Encore, Ford EcoSport, Chevrolet Trax, the Nissan Kicks, Mini Countryman and Fiat 500X. Whew. Lots from which to choose.
At $28,298 to start it’s not an inexpensive rig and the GT S-AWC version I just tested ($36,298) with fees and taxes finished up at just over $43,000. If you stretch the payments out over seven years, you’re looking at a monthly hit of about $525 at a 2.99 per cent interest rate.
You’re getting a very complete SUV package here – a safe one with a five-star crash rating and a Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). I was, indeed, pleasantly surprised by the look of it, the overall seat comfort, the performance and a sweeping list of standard features. It’s possible to stretch fuel economy by dialing up the ECO mode. With gas so very dear in many Canadian markets, that’s worth applause.
The fastback design is intended to convey sportiness, while a host of character lines and creases add flare. You may find the look too busy; I was happy with it. Take note of the lighting, especially the arrow-shaped rear lamps. A rear backup camera is standard and useful, given the rear lighting design, which affects visibility.
The 1.5-litre turbo four-cylinder is not terribly powerful (152 horsepower/184 lb-ft of torque), but this direct injection mill is responsive and decently economical. This rig is not a lightweight, however, at some 1,600 kg. Loaded up and taking on a steep hill, I wanted more oomph. The CVT (continuously variable transmission) shifts as if there are eight stepped gears and it’s all quite smooth.
The so-called standard Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC) is the standout mechanical feature. It sees the brakes go to work on individual rear wheels while engine torque goes to the end of the vehicle where its most needed. The resulting dynamic responses are very good.
The cabin is roomy though the door cut-outs in front might aggravate long-bodied types who might knock noggins climbing aboard. The rear seatback splits and folds almost flat and the infotainment interface is managed through a reasonably large screen mounted on the top of the dashboard. There is nothing particularly novel or special about the cabin, though. That’s not damning with faint praise, just the truth.
I am now brought back to where I started. The Eclipse Cross is a perfectly fine automobile, but it’s competing in a big field and many rivals come from much larger automakers with astounding marketing budgets. I like this rig, but I wonder if it’s novel enough to break through the clutter – even with the outstanding warranty (10-year powertrain, five years bumper-to-bumper with roadside assistance).
2020 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross GT S-AWC
Base price: $36,298. As tested with options, freight and PDI: $43,425.
Engine: 2.5-litre I4 (186 horsepower/186 lb-ft of torque).
Transmission: CVT (continuously variable transmission).
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 9.6 city/8.9 hwy.