MIDDLEBORO — While rumors of their impending doom have circulated for years, Mitsubishi Motors seems to be growing stronger.

Mitsubishi just brought its first compact utility vehicle, the Eclipse Cross, to burgeon a growing line of solid, stable SUV offerings and sate the American appetite for crossovers. The new offering joins the Outlander PH-EV as the line’s second new offering this year.

Supporting its quiet but solid growth, August’s calendar year to date sales were up 21 percent over 2017 with 85,693 vehicles. The popular Outlander Sport led the way last month, selling 2,980 units sold, an increase of 3 percent.

Shown years ago as a concept vehicle, Director of Product Planning Nathan Berg said the reaction at auto shows was strong and the next natural addition to buoy its SUV lineup.

The name both pays homage to the marque’s past Eclipse sports car and borrows some styling cues that are subtle, but evident when both vehicles were displayed recently in a slide show to the New England Motor Press Association.

While reviving an old name draws snarky comments from many, recycling a nameplate to sell nostalgia behind the wheel with new, fresh technologies has worked well for many other brands. I enter Alan Mulally’s reclamation of the once vaunted Ford Taurus as exhibit A, your honor.

The Ecliple Cross is offered in four models: the base ES, LE, SE and SEL. In keeping with the value added equation automakers from afar use to gain market share, a raft of standard equipment often part of higher trim models in other brands come standard with a starting base price of $23,295.

Standard features in the base ES offering include: heated power side view mirrors, rear spoiler, color multi-information display screen, high-contrast meters, Bluetooth wireless technology, steering wheel audio and phone controls, rearview camera, cruise control, automatic climate control, power door locks and windows, seven airbags and anti-theft alarm.

A 1.5-liter, 152 hp, direct injected turbocharged engine is a first for Mitsu that mates to a standard 8-speed CVT transmission with a sport mode for each trim level. The front suspension boasts MacPherson struts while a multi-link setup attends to the backside. Stabilizer bars are included at both ends for a steady ride.

The engine produces 184 lb-ft of torque and has a redline mark of 6,000 rpm.

EPA estimates for the base ES model are 26/29 but the remaining editions with Mitsu’s version of four-wheel-drive — called Super All-Wheel Control or SAWC — are listed as 25/26. 

Four-channel, four-wheel ABS with electronic brake distribution (EBD) easily scrubs speed from the 1.5-ton vehicle.

“The Eclipse Cross has been well received,” said Berg. “People are in it for different reasons. It stands out, it’s fun to drive, it’s stylish and it’s full of technology....that’s what the Eclipse meant in the past and that’s why we call this the Eclipse Cross.”

Understanding that it’s nothing like the Eclipse sports car, Berg, and most of the automotive firms today understand that there are fewer customers seeking two-door sports cars. In fact, the need for cars at the showroom has abated compared to the SUV’s popularity.

“The audiences from the past that bought sports cars have changed,” Berg said. “That audience is smaller today. But, that audience has also grown up over 20 years. They still want something that’s fun to drive, stylish and in many cases an SUV crossover and the Eclipse Cross is perfect for that audience.”

The front is making a styling statement, the three diamonds are front and center,  as does the rear in a more rounded style than the Outlander. It bears a rear spoiler midway up the rear window that skews rear visibility and smacks of the maligned Pontiac Aztek. Yes, mentioning the Aztek is a stinging style point in automotive circle and yes, Berg has heard that, too, and understands it. Instead he deftly pivoted the remark to similar styling in the rear of a Toyota Prius where a bar also cuts the rear window while noting Prius’s popularity. “Most people say they don’t even notice it after a few days and they adjust,” Berg noted of the split vision rear window. “It’s like anything else that’s new and people adjust to.”

During a short test drive the Eclipse Cross was zippy from a standing start, moved up to speed easily and absorbed the bumps and road rash in this southern Mass. community well.

Though it’s similar in size to the Outlander family, it felt roomier inside, the tested SEL had the 7-inch dash info panel, controls that were intuitive to use, and  a feeling of a well-thought interior, comfort and engineering.

For those who dislike the lack of muscle memory with knobs and dials to change the station, volume or temperature controls, Mitsu has a slick controlled pad in the console next to the driver that allows finger tip control without taking your eyes off the road. 

“It’s quite popular and customers have said they like it and adjust very quickly,” Berg noted.

The rear hatch reveals a large cargo space and hides a temporary spare underneath.

For anyone car shopping, the addition of the Eclipse Cross with its outstanding 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty, room and styling made the choice of a crossover that much tougher.

2018 Eclipse Cross Specs

Wheelbase: 105.1 in.

Length: 173.4 in.

Height: 66.5 in.

Width: 71.1 in.

Engine: 1.5L MIVEC + Direct Injection Turbo Charger

Horsepower: 152 hp. @ 6,000 rpm

Torque: 184 lb.-ft.

Drivetrain: Super All-Wheel Control (LE, SE, SEL); 2WD (ES)

Transmission: 8-speed CVT with Sport Mode

Wheels: 16 x 6.5 J aluminum alloy (ES)

18 x 7 J aluminum alloy (LE, SE, SEL)

Tires: P215/70 R16 all-season tires (ES)

P225/55 R18 all-season tires (LE, SE, SEL)

Interior Features

7.0” Smartphone Link Thin-Display Audio (SDA) System with touchpad controller with Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™ and SiriusXM® Satellite Radio with 3-month subscription (LE, SE, SEL)

Mitsubishi Connect with Safeguard and Remote services and 24-month trial subscription (SE and SEL)

LCD color multi-information display with high-contrast meters

Rearview camera (ES,LE,SE,SEL)

Multi-View Camera System (Available on SEL)

Head-Up Display (HUD) (SEL)

S-AWC drive mode selector (4WD Models)

Automatic climate control (ES,LE)

Dual Zone Automatic Climate Control (SE,SEL)

2 12-volt accessory outlets

Eco indicator

FAST-Key passive entry system with push button start and panic feature (SE,SEL)

Front map lights, rear dome light and cargo light

6-way adjustable driver’s seat (ES, LE, SE)

8-way power adjustable driver’s seat (SEL)

Heated front seats (SE,SEL)

Heated Rear Seats (Available on SEL)

5 passenger seating

Heated steering wheel (Available on SEL)

Remote hood and fuel door release lever

Exterior Features

LED headlights (SEL)

Fog lights and LED running lights

LED rear combination taillights

LED high mount stop light

Color-keyed front and rear bumpers

Color-keyed outside door handles

Chrome beltline molding

Wheel arch moldings

Heated power side-view mirrors

Dual pane power panoramic sunroof (Available on SEL)

Front windshield rain sensing wipers (SE, SEL)

Rear window intermittent wiper/washer with defroster

Roof spoiler

Shark fin antenna

18-inch two-tone alloy wheels (SE, SEL)

18-inch black alloy wheels (LE)

16-inch alloy wheels (ES)

Exterior colors: Red Diamond, Bronze Metallic, Rally Red Metallic, Octane Blue Metallic, Mercury Gray Metallic, Alloy Silver Metallic, Diamond White Pearl and Labrador Black Metallic

Safety Features

Advanced seven air bag SRS system including driver’s side knee air bag

Anti-lock braking system (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA)

Active Stability Control (ASC)

Traction Control Logic (TCL)

Hill Start Assist (HSA)

Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)

Electric Park Brake Switch with Auto Hold (SE,SEL)

Blind Spot Warning (BSW) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) and Lane Change Assist (LCA) (SE, SEL)

Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Automatic High Beam (AHB) headlights, Forward Collision Mitigation (FCM) and Lane Departure Warning (LDW) (Available on SEL)

Three-point seatbelts and head restraints for all seating positions

LATCH child-restraint system

Child safety rear door locks

Anti-theft engine immobilizer and alarm system

RISE body construction

Mitsubishi Motors’ patented Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution (RISE) safety cell body construction

Factory Option Packages

SEL Touring Package

Port Option Packages

Exterior Package

Towing Package

Chrome Package

Protection Package

LED Illumination Package

Cargo Package

Premium Exterior Package

Garnish Package

LED Interior Enhancement Package

All Weather Package

Quick Value Package

Port Option Packages

Rear Park Assist Sensors

Hood Protector

Tonneau Cover

Wheel Locks

Front and Read Mudguards

Roof Rack Crossbars

Black Lug Nuts & Wheel Locks

Warranties

Fully transferable 5-year/60,000-mile new vehicle limited warranty

10-Year/100,000-mile Powertrain Limited Warranty1

7-year/100,000-mile anti-corrosion limited warranty

5-year/unlimited roadside assistance