Standing out in the small SUV crowd requires something special and unique, and that's especially true for a newcomer like the 2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross. The 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show provided hands-on time with the Eclipse Cross, and I found it to be a mixed bag.
Related: More 2017 L.A. Auto Show Coverage
The Eclipse Cross is offered in four trim levels: ES, LE, SE and the most expensive SEL. I previewed the SEL, which offers the most equipment, including leather seating, heated front seats, a multiview camera system, color head-up display and Mitsubishi Connect, which gives owners the ability to control some vehicle functions via Smart phone (two-year subscription included).
Styling between the exterior and interior is very different, as the outside of the Eclipse Cross is a mix of sharp angles jutting in various directions. It's chaotic, from the gaping front grille to the split liftgate bisected by the rear taillights. But when you move inside, the styling is restrained, with a very dark, black-dominated interior and an uncluttered dashboard with 7-inch multimedia display perched on top.
The Eclipse Cross is strangely sized. It's not as large as the Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4, but it's a size above subcompact SUVs. As a result, the Eclipse Cross isn't big inside, though there is enough second-row legroom and headroom for adults, plus 22.63 cubic feet of cargo room behind the backseat. However, given its odd packaging, the Eclipse Cross has less legroom and headroom than Mitsubishi 's other small SUV offering, the 2018 Outlander Sport.
The Eclipse Cross on display was also equipped with a panoramic moonroof, usually one of my favorite features. It lets a lot of light into the cabin and helps it feel more spacious, especially for backseat passengers, and that can be a big plus in the vehicle of this size. But this is not a true panoramic moonroof; it has a large bar in the middle of it that makes it feel more like two separate moonroofs. And that bar is prominent enough to take away some of the perceived roominess of the Eclipse Cross, especially with the side windows tapering so sharply as they head rearward.
I was a big fan of the placement of the multimedia screen up high, which makes it easier for the driver to glance at while keeping their eyes on the road. It also offers available Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. But again, there was something to dull my enthusiasm: Surrounding the screen are touch-sensitive controls without physical buttons similar to Honda 's system we've railed against for a while. This Eclipse Cross wasn't powered up, but Mitsubishi informed me the screen itself isn't a touchscreen — all inputs come via voice or a touchpad located between the front passengers. I have yet to meet a touchpad in a car that I like because using one while moving is nigh impossible and glancing down at the screen is distracting.
My first experience with the Eclipse Cross didn't uncover a killer feature or strength that will distinguish it — but I'm hoping to find one because more competition in any segment is never a bad thing.
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