JUST when you thought the compact SUV/Crossover market was already bulging with choice along comes another offering.
This time it is Mitsubishi getting in on the booming action with their new Eclipse Cross which sits above their ASX and below the Outlander.
The Japanese company is now part of the large Nissan Renault alliance but the Eclipse was designed before the deal was done and it will be the last Mitsubishi vehicle to be styled completely in-house.
And the designers have certainly made a good job of it because the Eclipse Cross is very stylish with classy looks and a smart modern interior.
With prices starting at just £21,275 the Eclipse Cross is only available with one engine - a 1.5-litre petrol turbo which punches out 163bhp.
In the base model that is mated to a six speed manual transmission with front-wheel-drive.Automatic versions cost from £23,850 and can be had with all-wheel-drive from £25,350.
The automatics use the best CVT system I have come across and are slightly quicker than the manual versions with 0 to 60 in 9.3 seconds for the two-wheel-drive models and 9.8 for the 4x4 while the manual comes in at 10.3 seconds. Both versions can top 120mph if you can find anywhere to do that legally.
Given the choice I would opt for the automatic which provided a really smooth quiet drive. It was ideal for town centre driving and proved to be agile and easy to manoeuvre and park. All-round visibility is good and the ride and handling out on the open road was as good as anything else in its class.
The steering is light and accurate and the four-wheel-drive versions benefit from Mitsubishi's automatic drive set up which adjusts the power to each wheel depending on the traction and also offers settings for gravel and snow. The auto also ditches a manual handbrake for an electronic parking brake which creates more space and comes with an auto-hold function and active cruise control.
A hybrid version is on the way and Mitsubishi has not ruled out diesel power but the petrol unit is up to the job and can deliver 42.8mpg on the combined cycle with the manual transmission, 42.2mpg for the manual all-wheel-drive version and 40.4mpg for the automatic. Emissions range from 151 to 159g/km.
A striking First Edition model which features a new type of metallic paint in bright red as well as silver and carbon styling features at the front and side is available but you will have to hurry if you want one. Only 250 are up for grabs and 180 have already been sold. They cost £26,825 for a manual and £29,750 for the auto.
Normally there will only be three trims on offer 2,3 and 4 and all offer good value for money. The interior provides room for five to travel in comfort and the layered dash is well thought out with a seven-inch display screen which can be operated via a touchpad in the centre consule.
All models also come with forward collision avoidance, lane departure warning and a reversing camera - resulting in a five star safety award.
The mid-range models, which start at £22,575, add additional 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.
Top models start from £24,975 and the 4 specification adds a premium sound system, LED headlamps and a surround view camera as well as leather. You also get extra safety features including rear cross traffic and blind spot alerts.
Surprisingly the Eclipse Cross is not offered with factory-fitted sat nav and you have to rely on a smartphone or other device being connected.
Another feature which may not please everyone is the tailgate window which is split by a spoiler. It is there to make the car look sporty and thankfully it doesn't have a drastic effect on rear vision, although it does mean you get a rather small rear wiper.
Opening the tailgate allows you to utilise up to 448 litres of luggage space - enough room for four golf bags according to the Japanese designers. The split 60:40 rear seats can also be folded to increase luggage space and they can also slide forward and back to adjust the rear leg room.
The Eclipse Cross may not bring anything new to the crowded compact SUV/crossover market but it is good looking, keenly priced and a good drive, so Mitsubishi should have no problem in reaching and passing its 6,500 sales target.