In what might be seen as an unusual move, Mitsubishi recently announced new entry-level variants of three key models including this one, the Eclipse Cross ES.

The filling in a new entry-level sandwich that also includes the cheaper ASX and larger Outlander, the Eclipse Cross ES strips out a few features from the higher-grade LS model to get pricing below the $30k mark.

Under the bonnet nothing’s been changed, so the Eclipse Cross keeps its unique (in the Mitsubishi range) 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, with 110kW and 250Nm outputs, and a CVT auto, driving the front wheels.

Turbocharged though it may be, those outputs are now considered fairly conservative for the size of the engine, but the extra torque means the Eclipse Cross is able to lope around town without breaking a sweat compared to the (non-turbo) ASX which needs to rev more to tap into its torque reserves.

Unfortunately, once you’re outside of the confines of an urban setting, the Eclipse Cross feels out of its depth. The ride shifts from pert in the city to jarring on country roads, and the light and easy steering perfect for parking has a touch too much assistance and feels vague at high speeds.

The suspension is the worst offender. It’s hard to say if Mitsubishi might have been aiming for sporty handling, but it’s missed the mark, instead creating a stiff ride on rural roads and crashes and bashes through the cabin.

Refinement also drops back a peg out of town. The calm quiet facade and well-judged CVT gives way to rev slurring, road noise and a general feeling of confusion. You can pick the changeover from well mannered to lost and confused right around the 75km/h mark.

In order to reach its $29,990 (plus on road costs) price point, the Eclipse Cross gets by without a few of the features from the LS, namely a mechanical park brake in place of an electric one, a regular insert-and-twist key instead of push-button start, and heated mirrors without power folding.

Lane departure warning goes missing too, but the safety list still includes a rear-view camera, seven airbags, and forward collision mitigation. There’s also convenience items like auto wipers, dusk sensing headlights with auto high beam, not to mention the undeniable impact of a set of two tone 18-inch alloy wheels.

Mitsubishi also retains the same dual control 7.0-inch infotainment system with a touchpad on the centre console plus touchscreen capability playing home to DAB+ digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth and six-speaker audio.

There’s a feeling of remixing at work inside the Eclipse Cross. Long-term Mitsubishi owners will still recognise plenty of the parts that make up the driver interface, like the instrument dials, steering wheel, and climate controls all donated from other Mitsubishi vehicles.

Overall though the presentation is contemporary, maybe not as premium as something wearing Mazda or Volkswagen badges, but shows signs of improvement compared to the other members of the Mitsubishi family.

While it may be bundled into the small SUV class alongside the ASX, the slightly larger Eclipse Cross benefits from improved packaging with a rear seat configured for extra comfort and more generous legroom. Headroom can still be limited though, and the falling door aperture exaggerates the problem for taller passengers.

Changes to specification are minimal, and that’s a good thing, but in all honesty it seems like it might be better to stump up the extra $2000 ,or push your dealer hard for a better deal on the Eclipse Cross LS.

More importantly though, the Eclipse Cross feels generations newer than the long-in-the-tooth ASX, packs in more features at base level, and comes with a stronger turbo engine.

Budget buyers are sure to gravitate towards the cheaper-still ASX range (a top of the range ASX is only $1000 more than a basic Eclipse Cross) but those with different demands (be those performance, practicality, or design) should still find plenty to like in the Eclipse Cross ES.

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