Mitsubishi celebrated 100 years of making cars last year, and while the Japanese manufacturer may not have the desirability of many of its compatriots, you see an awful lot of its models on the roads here. The Pajero and Lancer in particular are major players in the off-road and rental-car markets, respectively.
The latest addition to Mitsubishi's range is initially a confounding one. Disregard its name, and the Eclipse Cross makes perfect sense as a fresh contender in the increasingly lucrative crossover SUV market. History muddies the waters: the Mitsubishi Eclipse was a nippy little sports car that became progressively more potent during its production run from 1989 to 2011. The final generation peaked with a 3.8-litre V6 – the Eclipse was something of a minor cult classic.
This is an in-name-only resurrection, however, with no perceivable link between the two models, although the new moniker does have further significance. You could almost be forgiven for thinking that "crossover" was a dirty word in general motoring circles, such are the lengths that many manufacturers go to avoid pinning it on their charges. But Mitsubishi appears to have nailed its colours to the mast with the Eclipse Cross. And you know what? I quite like the whole package.
Its styling has a touch more character than most in the segment, including the unexpectedly fetching spoiler – even if it does bizarrely bisect the back windscreen, making for an odd rear-view-mirror picture from the driver's seat. The rear lights have a touch of Volvo's XC range about them, too, while the wheels remind me of those on one of the better budget crossovers on the market, the Kicks – perhaps not surprising given Mitsubishi's links to Nissan (and Renault) as part of the Alliance coalition. The only real exterior downside is mirrors that really do resemble unwieldy wings and are possibly vulnerable to being bumped in Spinneys car parks – surely the car's natural habitat.
And I say that in the kindest of ways: this is a front-wheel drive, so off-roading ambitions can be left at the kerb. All three trim variants of the Eclipse Cross come with a turbocharged 1.5-litre engine, which with 148hp and continuously variable transmission isn't going to lead to any traffic-light heroics or dashing overtaking moves. It is, though, a vehicle perfectly suited for young families. That is backed up by the tech inside. While the Eclipse Cross's interior doesn't redefine anything as such, it feels pleasingly modern and comes loaded with a fabulous number of features for the price: including, but not limited to, lane-departure warning, forward-collision detection, blind-spot warning, parking sensors and head-up display. The cruise control isn't adaptive, but as a matter of personal preference, I actually largely prefer this.
The display between rev counter and speedo cheerfully bids “See you” when you switch the car off, which will probably get old quite quickly, but initially proves endearing. Granted, the hard plastics and odd faux-carbon-fibre addenda don’t lend any gloss to the picture, but it’s all entirely passable.
That is more or less a fair summary of the Eclipse Cross: it has sufficient charisma to make sure that you remember it above the pack, without doing anything as innovative as reinventing the proverbial wheel.
And while the pricing could be a mite more competitive, all of the above should persuade plenty of people to part with the money required to get their hands on one of the niftiest little crossover packages that is available on the market right now.