Mitsubishi is reviving its Eclipse name, but this time it’s going on a new SUV crossover that slots between the automaker's existing Outlander and Outlander Sport models.

The new 2018 Eclipse Cross faces some tough, established competition as Mitsubishi tries to tap into U.S. consumers' love for SUVs. But it could be difficult with this offering, which we found to be lacking in driving performance and to have poor visibility, among other issues.

We recently drove the SUV at an event held on the sidelines of the Los Angeles Auto Show.

Mitsubishi has always been a somewhat obscure car company in the U.S. It sold only 86,000 vehicles in the first 10 months of 2017, according to Automotive News. Though that’s more than Fiat or Volvo (each sold in the U.S. during the same period), it’s fewer than the Subaru Crosstrek.  

See the complete coverage of the 2017 LA Auto Show.

2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross.

How It Drives

This little SUV moves, but without a sense of urgency. The continuously variable transmission (CVT) mimics a traditional automatic transmission’s steps through gears, thanks to eight predetermined ratios. The driver can override simulated gear selection through steering wheel paddles. In normal use, combined with readily available torque from the turbo, most drivers will hardly notice the CVT, either through how it feels or how the engine sounds. However, the engine groans unpleasantly when climbing a hill or trying to merge with a heavy foot on the throttle.

A positive trait—possibly inherited from Mitsubishi’s discontinued, rally-inspired Lancer Evo compact sedan—is the Eclipse Cross’ nimble handling. It’s rather agile and responsive in corners, thanks to its quick steering and restrained body roll.

But ride comfort is overly stiff, with the suspension transmitting every bump in the road to passengers. All except the base model come with 18-inch tires. Road and wind noise are well-managed, but the engine noise can be intrusive at times.

Inside

While the cabin is basic in terms of materials, a few chrome elements add flourish. Automatic climate control is standard, and a dual-zone system is fitted on the midtrim SE and higher models. 

The leather-wrapped seats are reasonably comfortable in the top-trim SEL we sampled. Mainstream LE and SE have cloth seats. Lumbar adjustment is not available on any trim. The rear seat offers adequate room, provided it’s moved all the way back. The seat can move 8 inches fore and aft to expand the cargo area or optimize legroom.

Though one sits high and feels commanding in the driver’s seat, visibility is not a strong suit. Having a sloped rear with a two-piece back window and thick rear roof pillars severely compromises rear and side visibility when merging or backing up.

2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross interior.

Controls and Infotainment

Interacting with the radio and phone is done either through the hard-to-reach touch screen or through a touchpad on the console near the gear shifter. There are no volume or tuning knobs. It takes a lot of attention to execute common audio function selections because it’s easy to overshoot a virtual button or hit the wrong spot on the touch screen. High-end versions get Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility.

Mitsubishi Connect is a new, optional telematics service, similar to General Motors’ OnStar system. Like OnStar, it can notify the proper authorities of collisions (when drivers are incapacitated) or thefts. This service is free for the first two years, then $99 a year. Owners can get a smartphone app that allows for remote start and the ability to lock and unlock the doors remotely. That's also free for the first two years, but then it's $228 a year.  

Safety

Forward-collision warning (FCW), automatic emergency braking (AEB), and lane-departure warning are limited to the SEL trim only. Optional blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert can be had on SE and up versions. CR thinks FCW and AEB should be standard across all trims of a model. 

Trim Levels

The Eclipse Cross starts at $23,295 for a base ES model with front drive and spans all the way to $30,395 for an SEL Touring, which packs heated leather seats, a dual-pane sunroof, and a head-up display. Popular midlevel trims LE and SE will hover between $25,000 and $27,000. Its most direct competitors are the Subaru Crosstrek or any other small SUV that injects some styling into the mix, such as the Kia Sportage or Mazda CX-5.

Mitsubishi is aiming the car at young professionals and empty nesters, acknowledging that the sloping rear end compromises cargo room and visibility. The Eclipse Cross goes on sale in March.

It seems as though the Eclipse Cross is meant to project unusual styling and exclusivity, but in terms of functionality, driving dynamics, feature content, and price, it doesn’t shine brightly enough to be a compelling choice in this competitive segment.

We’ll know more once we buy one to test. 

2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross rear.

What We Drove

It was a top-spec SEL Touring all-wheel-drive model with a sticker price of $31,390. As with all versions, it was powered by a 152-hp, 1.5-liter turbo four-cylinder engine mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). AWD is standard on all trims except the base ES. Although it has a different powertrain, this SUV shares a platform with its Outlander stablemates.