THE boom in SUVs shows no sign of slowing and the latest to pitch in is Mitsubishi with the new Eclipse Cross.
It's a medium-sized crossover that slots into the Mitsubishi range between the ASX and the larger Shogun and Outlander models and it's out to make a mark.
Impressively styled and with an upmarket interior, the Eclipse Cross has enough presence to make it a fine alternative to the likes of the Nissan Qashqai, the Kia Sportage and Peugeot's 3008.
Priced from Â£21,275 the Eclipse Cross is powered by a 1.5-litre petrol engine boosted to 163bhp and in base form it's mated to a six speed manual transmission and is front-wheel-drive.
Automatic versions, which use a CVT transmission, cost from £23,850 and can be had with all-wheel-drive from £25,350.
The automatics have a slight edge in terms of acceleration at 9.3 seconds 0 to 60 for the two-wheel-drive models and 9.8 for the 4x4 while the manual comes in at 10.3 seconds although it has a top end of 127mph compared to 124 for the auto.
Fuel economy is also marginally better with the manual, rated at 42.8mpg with emissions of 151g/km although the auto is almost as efficient at 42.2mpg (154g/km) and 40.4 to the gallon for the all-wheel-drive with a CO2 figure of 159g/km.
In reality, we found little difference with the manual averaging 34 to the gallon and the auto 4x4 31 over similar routes and with either powertrain the Eclipse Cross drives well, is lively enough and has plenty of feel through the steering.
It's also nicely balanced when it comes to handling. If anything, the auto is smoother to drive and has the bonus of an electronic parking brake which not only frees up space in the interior but comes with an auto-hold function that's very useful in traffic and the added attraction of adaptive cruise control.
The 4x4s use Mitsubishi's automatic drive set up which varies power to each wheel given the traction and also offers specific settings for poor conditions with snow and gravel modes available.
At the moment, four specifications are on offer with a limited run of 250 First Edition models priced from £26,825 for a manual and £29,750 for an auto and these come with bright red metallic paint set off with silver and carbon styling at the front and side.
When those are gone the range will comprise of three trims, topping out at £24,795 and £27,900 for the auto 4x4 and that places the Eclipse Cross is a very competitive position.
Mitsubishi interiors have never been lacking and the Eclipse Cross is kitted out smartly and practically with a seven-inch display screen at the top of the dash which can be operated via a touchpad in the centre console.
The car has a five star safety rating and all models come with forward collision avoidance, lane departure warning and a reversing camera.
Mid-range models, which cost from £22,575, see some upmarket features as standard including a head up display, dual zone climate control and keyless operation as well as heated front seats, additional soundproofing, parking sensors and smart silver side sill covers.
That's high specification and the extra Â£2,400 for the top grade car adds a premium sound system, leather trim, LED headlamps and a surround-view camera. There's also some extra safety kit including rear cross traffic and blind spot alerts.
Pound for pound the Eclipse Cross represents very good value for money although if there is a downside there is no factory-fitted sat nav available. That either comes from the likes of a TomTom or Garmin device or from a smartphone - and all versions are compatible with Apple and Android handsets.
From a practical perspective the Eclipse Cross is a proper family-sized SUV with a sliding rear seat offering plenty of leg room in the back.
Boot space ranges from a minimum of 341 to 448 litres depending on the rear seat position while there are other handy features such as a split shelf glove box to a sliding oddments tray in the centre console.
Even the distinctive tailgate design, which incorporates a double rear window separated by a spoiler, does not impinge on vision through the mirror unlike other models which have featured similar designs.
Mitsubishi is now part of the Nissan Renault Alliance making it the largest car maker in the world.
The Eclipse Cross was signed off before the expansion and is wholly Mitsubishi. Not only does it show what it brings to the party but it also gives the three a commanding presence in the crossover market alongside the Nissan Qashqai and the Renault Kadjar.