Derbyshire, in the heartland of the Chatsworth Estate, is where Mitsubishi is showing off its new car to the discerning media.
Mitsubishi must have a bit of loot handy for such important matters. It was 100 years old last year when it joined the Renault Nissan Alliance. There must be some synergies, though at first glance what Mitsubishi makes the other two also make. In particular, they have pick-ups vying for supremacy – the Nissan Navara/Renault Alaskan against the Mitsubishi L200, the first of the manufacturers to develop a lifestyle “truck”. To add to the conflation, the L200 is also sold by Fiat as the Fullback, while the Mercedes X-Cross is also a Nissan Navara.
Never mind, it means that Mitsubishi is no longer a loner, struggling against the various dalliances. It has its own powerful chums now. Last year the Alliance trio shifted 10.6 million cars, making it global numero uno. Mitsubishi was already big in types of vehicle which we buy – the Shogun 4x4, the ASX crossover, the Outlander PHEV petrol hybrid (the only vehicle which will run on electric power in all-wheel-drive), with a smaller Shogun Sport on the way.
We were in Baslow to assess a tamer lifestyle hatchback, the Eclipse Cross, from £21,275. Ouch – but it’s well equipped. This smallish SUV/hatchback is in competition with Nissan’s Qashqai, Renault’s Kadjar, Peugeot’s 3008 and about 100 others – I jest, but the sector is awash with a dozen or so useful family vehicles with good carrying capacity.
The Eclipse is, like them, a five-door five-seater. It can be had with front-drive or 4x4 drive. In size, it is in the middle of the list – which also includes the big-selling Kia Sportage and Toyota C-HR hybrid, the Hyundai Kona and the Kia Stonic.
The Eclipse is offered with just one engine, a sporting 1.5 petrol turbo, with six manual gears or an eight-speed CVT automatic. There will be a diesel.
Toby Marshall, UK sales and marketing director, believes the “furore” over diesel pollution and values will fade. There may be a hybrid, definitely a full electric before long. Until then, it’s the perky petrol or look elsewhere.
Talking points include a lustrous, five-layer metallic red paint – so far only available on the limited run of First Edition models which are probably sold out now. The body style is bold, particularly at the back with a series of stepped spoilers which could grace a rally car. One of them carrying the LED rear lamps divides the rear window – similar to the Honda Accord. Both sections are heated but a wiper is not supplied. There is an unavoidable blind spot.
The Eclipse has pedigree. It is built in Japan – which used to count for something before the world was invaded by Nippon’s satellite factories. The company built its first all-wheel-drive car in 1936. It has had a dozen wins in the Dakar Rally.
You can now buy Mitsubishis on the internet, relegating the dealer showroom to a collection point. More likely, you’ll research, then drive before you buy. Outline facts: the boot will carry four golf bags with the rear seats in place. The price entry Eclipse Cross 2 includes 16 inch alloys, CarPlay smartphone audio and navigation connection, rear camera, Bluetooth, cruise control, climate air con, automatic wipers, lights and dipping, front crash safety braking, privacy glass.
It’s all you probably need but if you want automatic gears you’ll need the grade 3 £23,850 for the automatic with front-wheel-drive, £25,350 with 4x4 traction and auto. This is the familiar system which brings rear-wheel grip when the front wheels spin. For good measure there’s a snow and gravel setting. Fine print: 4x4 is only available with automatic gears; the only navigation system is through your phone; adaptive cruise control is only fitted with automatic gears.
The Eclipse 4 (£24, 975 or £27,900 4x4 auto) adds leather, powered driver’s seat, a 360-degree camera, rear cross traffic alert, opening glass roof and more.
There is some tempting kit here. The CarPlay can relay traffic situations ahead by monitoring the travel time of cars up the road.
Magically, before it went on sale, it had already been awarded “class-leading” resale values – an indicator of interest to the fleet trade buyers and affecting three-year purchase plans. You can drive off in an Eclipse 2 for £5,000 down and £185 a month, with a £750 free boost from Mitsubishi. Or you can buy outright over three years free of interest.
To the chase: Mitsubishi claims a stiff body –which is a good thing. However, we found the ride rather too firm for ideal comfort on the country roads. That’s something you may not mind. Both of us tended to fluff the manual gear change, perhaps due to the high position of the gear lever. The automatic gearbox makes the best use of its power and the nicer drive.
Verdict: A contender in a busy sector.
It is: Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross. SUV/hatchback, similar size to a Ford Focus, with some light off-road potential with the 4x4 version. Economy 40 to 43mpg; C02 159g to 151g. The 1.5 litre petrol turbo gives 160.7bhp and 0-62mph in around 10 seconds.
Test drive: Over a mixed, hilly rural and urban route the front wheel drive model with manual gears recorded 32.3mpg (10mpg less than official combined average).