You often hear that new cars – especially new crossovers – are so similar they (the car companies) might as well get together and just sell one.
The complaint has some merit. It is hard to tell one crossover from another without looking at the badge.
Price, for instance.
You can pick up a Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross for several thousand dollars less than rivals like the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Hyundai Tucson.
Why the difference – when these compact crossovers are otherwise so alike?
It’s the same reason you can buy “aspirin” – the generic – for less than it costs to buy Bayer Aspirin.
You’re paying for the brand name, even though you’re getting pretty much the same thing.
What It Is
The Eclipse Cross is Mitsubishi’s compact-sized, five-door crossover. It’s dimensionally (and functionally) similar to other compact crossovers like the hot-selling Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V but sells for much less.
Prices start at $23,395 for the ES trim with front-wheel-drive and a turbocharged 1.5 liter four cylinder engine. All-wheel-drive can be added as a stand-alone option, boosting the price to $24,995.
The same money won’t quite buy you a front-wheel-drive CR-V, which stickers for $25,750 ($27,250 with AWD) and you’ll need even more money to buy a front-wheel-drive RAV4, which starts at $26,525 for the FWD version ($27,925 with AWD).
A top-of-the-line SEL Eclipse Cross with AWD stickers for $28,995. This one is also available with reclining rear seats – an unusual feature in the segment – and What3words navigation, a feature that’s unique in the segment. This system is more accurate than street map-based GPS systems found in rival crossovers.
This Mitsubishi’s biggest worry is arguably the just-launched VW Taos – reviewed here – which stickers for just $22,995 to start.
Which is less than Mitsu is asking for the Cross, for something that’s pretty similar.
The ’22 Eclipse is heavily updated, both cosmetically and functionally.
Though the wheelbase remains the same, the overall length has been increased by more than five inches, which gives it a more visually impressive footprint and slightly increases cargo volume as well. The size of the available LCD touchscreen has been increased to eight inches and relocated two inches close to the driver.
But perhaps the biggest news is that Mitsu has managed all this without significantly increasing the price of the Cross – which is only about $400 more than the previous model, despite all these upgrades.
More for less than you get from others offering essentially the same.
Optional AWD system is more sophisticated than just front to back (and back). It can route power to individual wheels, which enhances both traction and handling. There’s also a lock function, for more traction in snow and such
For once, an easy-to-use touchscreen interface. And radio controls you can fine-tune, using a knob instead of a scan.
What’s Not So Good
Rivals come standard with stronger engines – that use less gas.
Not as much cargo-carrying capacity as rivals like the RAV4 and CR-V.
VW Taos offers more or less the same . . . for less.
Many crossovers have the same thing under their hoods – regardless of trim.
The Cross is no exception.
All trims come standard with the same 1.5 liter, four cylinder engine – turbocharged – which makes 152 horsepower and 184 ft.-lbs.of torque at 2,000 RPM. This engine is paired with a continuously variable (CVT) automatic, a type of transmission that’s also becoming near-standard in new crossovers – though there are a few exceptions to that rule, including the Toyota RAV4 as well as the new Taos. The VW also comes standard with the same size engine as the Cross, a 1.5 liter turbo’d four that makes slightly more (158) horsepower. The VW’s engine is also paired with a conventional (geared) eight speed automatic.
Gas mileage is another point of difference – and not for the better.
The FWD version of the Cross carries an EPA rating of 25 city, 28 highway (25 city, 26 with AWD). These figures are well below the 28 city/36 highway posted by the Taos, the 27 city, 35 highway posted by the RAV and the 28 city, 34 highway posted by the CR-V.
The good news – for Mitsu – is that with the exception of the VW, the Cross’s lower gas mileage numbers are made up for by the much lower cost of the Cross, itself. If you pay $3,130 more for a RAV4, say, than you did for a Cross (that’s the difference in base MSRP between the two) then you have $3,130 more left in your pocket for gas – which buys a lot of that – even in the Biden Thing’s America.
Or you could buy AWD – it costs $1,600 extra with the Cross – and still have about that much left in your pocket for gas, vs. buying a FWD RAV4.
The bad news – for Mitsu – is that you could also buy a new Taos and save $400 on the purchase of your new crossover and have a new crossover that goes 8 miles farther down the highway on a gallon of gas.
But there’s still some good news – for Mitsu – in that the Taos costs a little more than the Cross when ordered with its optionally available AWD system ($25,040) and if ordered that way, comes with a seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission – which is a type of transmission that has a spotty reputation for long-term durability.
The bad news is the Mitsu comes standard with a CVT.
They have a similar reputation.
Your Libertarian Car Guy mentioned to a Mitsu honcho that this little crossover would be both something different and something more appealing – to many – if it came standard with a manual transmission. It’d cost less, too – as automatics (modern automatics) are hugely complex combines of electro-hydraulics while manuals are still mechanical – and so, simpler – things that cost less to make and so cost less to buy.
But Mitsu – the whole car industry – has been forced to give up on the manual because manuals can’t be programmed to deliver the highest-possible mileage scores on government fuel economy test, which are the basis for the city/highway numbers a car company can advertise – as well as the basis for the fines levied by the government for not meeting its MPG mandatory minimums (currently about 36 MPG).
The tragic thing – the unreported thing – is that in actual real-world driving, a manual-equipped vehicle can be driven so as to beat the scores posted on the test by a programmed automatic. In real-world, actual driving, that programming is regularly countermanded by conditions that force a shift – and result in more realistic mileage. And a manual driven by a human can anticipate the need to shift before an automatic’s programming triggers one.
But that doesn’t matter in the world-of-one-size-fits-all.
Speed isn’t just a question of money. It’s also relative.
The Cross isn’t speedy – relative to a new Mustang GT. But it is about as speedy as a Mustang GT was, back in the mid-1980s. Zero to 60 takes about 8.3 seconds. And relative to other new crossovers, it’s smack dab in the middle. Not as quick as the new Taos, which gets to 60 in about 7.4 seconds – but quicker than the Honda CR-V, which takes more than 9 seconds to get there.
It has good low and mid-range pulling power – the Mitsu’s 1.5 liter engine makes as much torque as the RAV4’s much larger 2.5 liter engine (and much sooner, at just 2,000 vs. 5,000 RPM) and so feels stronger than its horsepower numbers might suggest.
Some people dislike the operating characteristics of CVT automatics and they’ll be glad to know Mitsu has programmed this CVT to “shift” like a geared automatic – even though there are no gears in a CVT. The upside there is no lag as the gears change – and no coffee-spilling back-and-forth snap, during gear changes. What happens is the engine revs and the CVT “shifts” – to a lower range. You see the tach needle rise – and fall – but don’t feel any transition, as you would with a geared automatic. It’s a very well-sorted CVT, one of the best I’ve experienced.
Whether it’s a long-lived box remains to determined.
The suspension adjustments made for 2022 were meant to tighten up what some reviewers said were too-soft suspension calibrations. The good news is the new calibrations aren’t too firm, which would be a failing in a family-intended vehicle like the Cross. It’s about the same as you’d experience in other crossovers.
The main difference is the ease of use of various necessary controls, which make driving the Cross less stressful. Especially the audio system and touchscreen controls. There are rotary knobs for volume and tuning, which allow fine tuning not possible (or just more of a pain) with scan-type and swipe controls. You can, for example, pick out a radio station that’s not quite in range that a scan-only selector would pass right over. And you can wheel the volume down – or up – faster and with more fine control than by swiping or using a tap-type controller.
At The Curb
Mitsubishi tried to give the Cross some visual flair – as via a set of eight turn-signal/fog lights stacked two a piece below cat’s-eye slit LED headlights – but the crossover’s mission largely determines the silhouette. If altered too much – as by sloping the roofline too sharply – you sacrifice head or cargo room for the sake of a different look. That’s ok when practicality isn’t the primary consideration.
It is, here.
And the Cross does a good job of that – although not quite as good a job as the new Taos, which has more cargo room behind its second row (27.9 cubic feet vs. 23.4 for the Mitsu) and more total cargo-carrying capacity with its second row folded (65.9 cubic feet for the VW vs. 50.1 for the Cross). The same story plays out relative to the CR-V and the RAV4, both of which also have more room for cargo, behind their second rows and with them folded down.
But the second rows in those crossovers don’t recline backward – a feature that’s available in the Cross. This makes sleeping in the back a lot more comfortable, in the Cross – even if it can’t take quite as much cargo as its rivals.
All trims come standard with a tilt and telescoping wheel, a feature that’s still optional in a number of others in this class. The step-up LE trim ($24,745 to start) adds heated seats, rain-sensing wipers,leather trim and the larger (eight inch) upgraded LCD touchscreen.
Something else you get is more ground clearance. Eight inches is standard – which is enough to give the Cross an edge when it snows, even if not equipped with its optional AWD system. A crossover without enough ground clearance that has AWD is more apt to get stuck than a FWD crossover with more clearance.
This is a stealth way to save even more money on your next crossover. Instead of spending $1,600 or more on AWD – buy a set of good snow tires for $600, instead.
Though the new VW Taos undercuts what had been this Mitsu’s strongest selling point – a much lower price than others in the class, for more or less the same kind of vehicle – the Mitsu still has a few other things to sell.
These include a better warranty (five years/60,000 miles on the whole thing and ten years/100,000 miles on the drivetrain) and a better likelihood that you’ll be able to buy the Cross for less than rivals – including the Taos.
This being a function of Mitsubishi wanting – needing – your business more than the bigger players in the class such as VW (and much more so than Honda and Toyota). It is likely there’s more room to haggle down the price of a new Cross – and that could mean spending less on one than VW advertises it’ll sell you a Taos for.
It certainly can’t hurt to try.
The Bottom Line
Crossovers are pretty similar – but there are still some important differences. They’re just harder to see.
. . .
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