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A bold new entry into SUV market; MOTORING WITH LEE GIBSON DRIVETIME.

FITTING into Mitsubishi's range between the ASX and the popular Outlander, the new Eclipse Cross further strengthens the brand's hand in the hugely competitive SUV market.

Standing out in this increasingly large crowd is not easy though, and the Japanese 4x4 specialists have adopted a bold design strategy in an effort to give their latest model a bit of an edge.

A wedge-shaped beltline rises sharply along the flanks which, together with a tapered roof, creates a sporty, coupe-like profile which is given added presence thanks to short overhangs, muscular wheel arches and chunky cladding.

Deeply sculpted character lines run along each flank while the rear end is characterised by an eyecatching full-width light bar, creating a split rear windscreen.

Although from the appearance is more obviously Mitsubishi, with strong similarities to the Outlander in particular, it's an adventurous look overall and represents something of a departure from the norm for the brand.

Power currently comes from just a 1.5 litre turbocharged petrol engine - a 2.2 litre diesel should arrive soon - which can be mated to a six-speed manual gearbox in front wheel drive models or an automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT) in front and all-wheel drive versions.

The CVT offers smooth progress and shifts the Eclipse Cross from 0-62 in less than 10 seconds and on to a top speed of 127mph, although there is a manual override, operated via the gear lever or steering wheel paddle shifters, which offers eight simulated "gears" for those who prefer the sensation of a more traditional automatic.

Like all CVTs, the engine will roar under sharp acceleration while the gearbox catches up, but go easy with the right boot and this is rarely an issue.

Handling is decent, the ride pliant and refinement generally pretty good while, in models featuring it, Mitsubishi's respected 4x4 system offers impressive grip and will make light of winter weather.

The interior of the Eclipse Cross represents quite a step forward for the brand. There's still enough unyielding, scratchy plastic around to remind us of the its utilitarian heritage but many surfaces are soft to the touch while carbon, piano black and silver accents all lift the perceived quality.

So too does the new seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system, which can also be controlled via a high-tech touchpad on the central console.

This is the headline feature of some generous equipment levels across three trim grades simply called 2, 3 and 4. All cars get automatic lights and wipers, cruise control, digital radio, reversing camera, climate control, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and privacy glass.

Mid-range models add a head-up display, heated front seats and keyless entry and ignition while the range topper also boasts a leather interior, sunroof and poweradjusting driver's seat.

The absence of navigation in any version is a brave omission, though. Yes, you do get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so you can use your phone, but that's still a bit of a faff compared to using an integrated unit.

Cabin space is good and you'll fit five adults in relative comfort for shorter trips, with plenty of storage cubbies for all their belongings, although the sweeping roofline does mean those over 6ft tall might have to slouch down in the back.

The rakishly-styled rear end also impacts slightly on boot capacity, which falls short of the best in class. It's still large enough to cope with a family shop, however, and the 60/40 split rear seats slide backwards and forwards, as well as folding flat, so there is some versatility and flexibility.

Give Anyway, we all know that given a choice between sporty looks and sheer practicality, there are plenty of people who will opt for the former. For such folk, the Eclipse Cross has plenty to offer.

BRITAIN'S organisation to act Emergency new cars and of new European just one of a long including IAM NCAP, which make the fitting FAST FACTS | Model: Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross 4 Petrol Auto 4WD | Price: PS27,900 | Mechanical: 163ps, 1,499cc petrol engine driving all wheels via continuously variable transmission | Max speed: 127mph | 0-62mph: 9.8 seconds | Combined mpg: 40.4 | Insurance group: 13 | CO2 emissions: 159g/ km | Bik rating: 32% | Warranty: 5 years / 62,500 miles

It's an adventurous look overall and represents something of a departure from the norm for the brand
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:May 27, 2018
Next Article:Fastest ever pickup truck; MOTORING WITH LEE GIBSON DRIVETIME.

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