Subaru Forester VS Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross
- Interesting looks
- Excellent safety
- Good space and practicality
- Not interesting to drive
- Doesn't live up to 'Sport' name
- Bit pricey to own
Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross
- Overall fresh feel
- Impressive practicality for size
- AEB standard
- Cabin plastics feel more durable than luxurious
- Sloping roof eats into back seat access
This is not the Subaru Forester Sport model they get in Japan, and it's therefore not the one most Aussies have been desperate to see launched here.
Nope, the giveaway is the 2.5i part of the name for this 2021 Subaru Forester 2.5i Sport model, which has just been added to the brand's range to add a bit more of an eye-catching variant to the line-up.
In Japan, the Sport gets a new turbocharged petrol engine, but this one instead soldiers on with the same powerplant as the rest of the Forester range, but there have been plenty of changes and additions besides.
|Engine Type||2.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross
If the hugely popular Mazda CX-5 barely fits your family's needs, why would you ever go smaller?
Because you can, with the new segment-splitting Eclipse Cross reminding us that practicality and overall size aren't directly proportional.
Straddling what we've come to define as the small and mid-size SUV segments, the new Mitsubishi sits between the top-selling ASX and the successful Outlander. The new model, however, brings one of the latter's biggest packaging benefits to make it a smaller alternative to the mid-size SUV brigade, with overall dimensions closer to the next size down.
|Engine Type||1.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
The Subaru Forester Sport is an interesting new addition to the range, despite not really moving it forward in any other way apart from its eye-catching looks. It is a competitive counterpoint to the likes of the CX-5 and CR-V, but still doesn't quite reach the same levels of refinement and driving enjoyment of the RAV4.
There is no doubt the Forester Sport will add a level of appeal that Subaru has been needing in its family SUV range since launch, but we really think the thing that would get more customers excited would be a new turbocharged top-spec model, which would certainly be more deserving of the Sport name.
Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross7.6/10
The Eclipse Cross will represent the right solution for a lot of SUV buyers. It offers better value than a few smaller rivals, and matches a few larger ones for practicality, while fitting within a smaller body.
Given its generous levels of standard equipment and value, I’d pick the LS as the sweet spot of the range, but this is dependent on where the upcoming ES slots in price and spec-wise. Either way, the new Eclipse Cross is an impressive package.
Do you reckon the Eclipse Cross's size might be just right? Tell us in the comments below.
Check out Mal's Eclipse Cross preview drive video from late last year:
If you've ever trawled the Subaru Japan website like me (high five, car nerds!), you might be thinking: "This Subaru Forester Sport model looks a lot like that Forester X-Break in Japan!". And you'd be right.
It is, essentially, the same car. Just with a considerably nicer looking set of wheels than the Japanese model. They aren't my favourite rims, but then again, I think the Forester's rims on the whole are pretty yuck.
Wheels aside, the flashes of orange around the car will no doubt catch your eye. There are plenty of them: the lower body protection has orange trim from the front bumper to the side skirts/sills and the rear bumper, too; plus there are orange bits as part of the roof rails, too.
The exterior also cops a bit of a blackout treatment, with new dark graphics front and rear, including a black garnish between the tail-lights. And of course, the rims are black, too.
Inside the style a bit more adventurous, with a smattering of orange trim highlights on the vent surrounds, the transmission tunnel, the stitching that runs on the dashboard, doors and seats, and even the eye-catching and intriguing mesh-look water-repellent trim on the seats that goes up to the doors, too. I guess Subaru assumes Forester Sport buyers will be spending a lot of time in the rain?
I really love the orange trim finishes - they really lift the ambience of the cabin and make it feel a bit more exciting than a regular Forester. In fact, it's like the Forester looked a bit further down the Subaru line-up to the XV and said, "Hey, how come you're getting all the attention?".
There are some inherently awesome SUV features that the Forester's interior design brings to the fore - we'll get to that in the next section.
Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross7/10
The Eclipse Cross builds on the edgy ‘Dynamic Shield’ looks of the recent Pajero Sport but brings a distinctive wedge-like profile and a tapered rear end akin to a coupe.
You’ll be doing well to pick the top-spec Exceed from the entry Eclipse Cross LS, with just the black roof of the dual sunroof-equipped Exceed to distinguish it visually.
When it comes to dimensions, the Eclipse Cross is 40mm longer than the ASX, but 290mm shorter than the Outlander. It's 5mm narrower than both, stands 45mm taller than the small SUV, and 25mm lower than the mid-sizer.
One clever detail is doors extending below the sills to help keep your clothes clean on entry and egress, and the whole interior is a big step forward compared to its nearest siblings.
The dash binnacle-mounted head-up display on the top-spec Eclipse Cross Exceed may seem cheap and nasty compared to in-glass systems, but you’ll love the Mitsubishi version if you ever need to replace a windscreen. Another plus is adjustment for the height of the display is via a simple switch next to the steering wheel. Take note, Mazda.
One element we’re less than excited about is the Lexus-style touch-pad controller for the new multimedia system, which is just about as fiddly as it is with the luxury brand, so you’d probably find yourself using the touchscreen instead. Note that the touch-pad doesn’t work with Android Auto anyway.
The Forester could be the most practical vehicle in its class. Against the likes of the Toyota RAV4, Mitsubishi Outlander, Mazda CX-5 and VW Tiguan, it stacks up pretty well for cabin practicality, space utilisation and accommodation.
It's a nice, bright and airy place to be, with a big glasshouse that makes it feel a bit more outdoorsy than its rivals. The benefits of that are two-fold - it's easy to see out of, whether you're the driver or if you're a kid in the back.
Looking up front first, the Forester's cabin presentation is much more eye-catching in this grade. The other models in the range are, well, a bit bland. The Sport, though, is a bit more - dare I say it - sporty. And I personally hate models called Sport, but that's a story for another day.
The orange stitching everywhere and the orange metallic look finishes on the dash and the centre console - it combines for a more special feeling cabin than any of the other Foresters available.
I really appreciate the media screen Subaru offers - it's easy to use and is bright and colourful, and also the flush finish design - not a floating tablet style screen - does make it just a little easier to use. However there is a secondary screen above it, which shows you a bunch of information about the car that you theoretically will never actually need to know.
That top pod also has a driver monitoring camera system which is looking at you all the time and will warn you if you take your eyes off the road for too long. Intriguingly, it flashes a warning onto another screen - the one on the instruments, which also makes you look away from the road...
It really is a button and screen overload. If you like minimalism, you're not going to like the number of things in front of you as the driver of a Forester. But they all have a purpose (sort of), and for me, it's better than everything being run through touch screens!
The front seats are quite comfortable, with electric adjustment for the driver and passenger. Both are electric adjusted and heated as well, which is nice, and the material used is genuinely really comfortable - it's like a good quality couch.
Even though those are nice elements, I couldn't find myself a perfect driving position – I feel like I sat just a little too high and I couldn't get the steering wheel in quite the right position for my preferences.
Storage is mostly okay up front: the cupholders between the seats are a little bit deep so small takeaway coffees might be hard to get out, and there are bottle holders in the doors, a small cubby in front of the gear selector for a wallet and/or phone, and that's also where you'll find 2USB ports. No wireless phone charging, though.
The overall space for a family of four is perfectly usable. There is no seven seater version of the Forester, nor any seven-set SUV in the brand's range at all in Australia, so it's strictly a smaller family affair, or a good option for grandparents on duty.
There's very good second row seat space, with a high seating position and hip point allowing for adults to easily slot in there (I'm 182cm/6'0" and I can fit behind my driving position with heaps of leg, toe and headroom to spare), but it's also a handy height for child loading, with dual ISOFIX and three top-tether points. Weirdly, though, Subaru has kept with the ceiling-mounted centre seatbelt, and the seat is flat and a bit uncomfortable for adults in terms of cushioning and support. Great for child seats, though.
There are plenty of smart features in the second row, including twin map pockets on the seat backs, one of which is sectioned and divided for smaller items. Plus there are those two USB ports for charging devices (again, perfect for a family of four), and there are rear directional air vents. There is a fold-down armrest with cupholders, plus bottle holders in the doors.
Weirdly there are LED lighting pods for the boot and the tailgate, and up in the front of the cabin there is LED lighting, too - but in the centre, the middle lighting pod is halogen. Weird.
The boot area offers 498 litres of cargo capacity (VDA) with the seats up, but hit the electric release levers (handy!) at the sides of the boot and you liberate a total 1740L of space - enough for a pair of mountain bikes or a few weeks' worth of camping gear for a couple.
Plus there are shopping bag hooks on the outer sides of the boot area and one on the tailgate,, plus four tie down points if you need to attach things and stop it from rolling around. There's a cargo blind, and a 12 V outlet in the boot, too.
Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross8/10
You probably won't notice this on a test drive, and to be honest I only truly understood it by bringing my 14-month-old son along for the Eclipse Cross's weekend launch, but the new Mitsubishi does a better job of swallowing a rearward-facing child seat than some larger SUVs.
Two which are definitely on this list are the Ford Escape and Mazda CX-5. Thanks to recent long-term tests of each, I've found both leave just enough room for a less than average height adult (I'm 172cm) in the front passenger seat.
A more upright, and therefore compact, forward-facing baby seat is a different story, but the lengthy rearward-facing set-up is a non-negotiable reality for the first year or so of a baby's life.
The Eclipse Cross, on the other hand, leaves ample room for this front passenger. How, you ask? It’s not a feng shui feat, but rather, simply using the sliding rear seat mechanism from the Outlander.
This allows you 200mm of choice between maximum rear seat legroom and maximum boot space, with the max legroom option creating more baby seat space than the aforementioned bigger players. The sliding function is also split 60/40 with the split-fold, so you can create max legroom on one side, while preserving max cargo space on the other.
The respective boot space adjusts between a decent 341 litres and a pretty good 448-litre maximum, which is aided by having a space saver spare tyre under the floor.
Aside from this back seat/boot party trick, the Eclipse Cross’s identical wheelbase to the ASX and Outlander gives it ample room for four adults. There’s slightly less rear headroom than the Outlander due to its sloping roofline, which also tightens up rear entry space and could be annoying for taller parents when loading children.
One other less than ideal element is the lack of directional air vents for the back seat. This is common among smaller, cheaper SUVs, but we find the under-seat vents are nowhere near as effective as adjustable outlets in the back of the centre console.
As is par for the course these days, there are dual cupholders front and rear plus bottle holders in each door, with decent storage around the cabin for things like mobile phones, plus ISOFIX child seat mounts for the two outer positions.
Price and features
The new Subaru Forester 2.5i Sport model is a $41,990 proposition - that's the MSRP/RRP, or the price before on-road costs (you might find driveaway deals if you search Autotrader, though).
It slots in between the 2.5i Premium ($39,490) and the 2.5i-S ($42,990), but it stands out compared to both of those versions with a revamped design and a number of inclusions over the models below it, but most of them are visual differentiators which we'll detail in the next section.
Let's consider the standard equipment offered here: black 18-inch alloy wheels with a full size spare, an electric sunroof, water repellent cloth interior trim, electric front seat adjustment (driver's side with memory settings), heated front seats, electric tailgate, electric folding rear seats, smart key hands-free entry and push button start, auto headlights and auto wipers.
There's also a 8.0-inch touchscreen media system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring tech, DAB+ digital radio, CD player, six speakers, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, 4xUSB ports (2x front, 2x rear), a 4.2-inch digital driver info display with digital speedo, and a leather-lined steering wheel and shifter.
The safety story is a very strong one - see the section below for all the details.
Things missing from the 2.5i Sport that you might want for include an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, a proper surround-view camera, and leather seat trim.
Colours available for this spec comprise: Crystal Black silica, Crystal White pearl (as seen here), Dark Blue pearl (exclusive to Sport), Ice Silver metallic, Magnetite Grey metallic and Sepia Bronze metallic. The green and red options are not available on Sport, but no matter the colour you opt for, it won't cost you any extra.
Obviously though, you might want to choose carefully, as there are some orange highlights inside and out that might not match up with your preferred colour choice. Let's get to that next.
Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross7/10
The $30,500 list price of the base LS is a fair bit higher than the kick-off point for its closest rivals, but Mitsubishi plans to add a base ES spec by the end of the year to help meet them head on.
For now, the LS comes impressively equipped for the price, with all of the important safety gear like AEB and seven airbags fitted as standard, plus a new multimedia interface that's compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, front and rear parking sensors, tinted rear windows, lane departure warning, auto headlights, active high beams and rain-sensing wipers, plus 18-inch alloys.
For an extra $5500, the $36,000 Exceed adds leather trim and a dual sunroof, dual-zone climate control, head up display, 360 degree cameras, active cruise control, a few extra active safety functions like rear cross-traffic alert, blind-sport warning, lane change assist, and the novel misacceleration mitigation system which is designed to avoid driving into stationary objects.
If you’re not an Android Auto or Apple CarPlay user, you will likely be miffed at the lack of built-in sat nav on either grade, but we reckon the smartphone-mirroring route is the better option for the long term.
It’s also worth noting that only the front half of the dual sunroof on the Exceed opens, but both sections have electronic shades that can block light 100 per cent.
Based on Mitsubishi’s marketing to date, you might be surprised to find that the Eclipse Cross is available in colours other than red, and possibly grateful given the new 'Brilliant Red' hue is an $890 option. All other metallic colours will cost you an extra $590, with the sole cost-free paint option being white.
Engine & trans
Instead, the 2.5i part of the name indicated a carryover 2.5-litre four-cylinder horizontally-opposed 'boxer' engine producing 136kW of power (at 5800rpm) and 239Nm of torque (at 4400rpm). No turbo here.
The Forester is available solely with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) Lineartronic automatic gearbox, and as it's a Subie, of course it has the brand's "Symmetrical" all-wheel drive (AWD) system standard, too.
The Sport grade isn't available with the brand's hybrid powertrain, though that's no great loss. Read our review where we compared that version against the excellent RAV4 hybrid to see how it fared
The 2.5i models have seen a towing upgrade for 2021, with the unbraked rating set at 750 kilograms, while the braked towing capacity is now 1800kg (up from a meagre 1500kg in earlier models).
Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross8/10
Another element that probably propels the Eclipse Cross to the top of the small mid-size SUV class is its new engine and transmission.
Australia misses out on the diesel option available overseas, in favour of a new all-aluminium 1.5-litre petrol turbo motor that sports both direct and multi-port injection as well as variable valve timing.
This smaller capacity, turbocharged formula is still spreading through the mainstream brands, and brings the key benefit of delivering maximum torque from lower in the rev range (from 1800rpm in this instance).
There is the opportunity to have your Eclipse Cross with all-wheel drive (4WD), however, with the top-spec Exceed available in all-paw form for an extra $2500.
Another surprise is the Eclipse Cross’s braked towing capacity of 1600kg. Applying to both front- and all-wheel drivetrains, this comfortably eclipses its closest rivals and is backed by a healthy gross vehicle mass of 2100kg, which results in a generous gross combination mass of 3700kg.
The official combined cycle fuel consumption figure for the Forester 2.5i Sport is identical to the rest of the range: 7.4 litres per 100 kilometres, with emissions claimed at 168g/km CO2.
On test, we saw an at the pump fuel economy of 9.5L/100km across a mix of urban, highway, country and open road driving (plus a very short unsealed off-highway stint).
Fuel tank capacity is 63 litres. It can run on the more affordable 91RON regular unleaded.
Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross7/10
Official combined fuel economy figures of 7.3L/100 km for the front-wheel drive versions and 7.7L/100km for the all-wheel drive are only average for a car of this size, but are somewhat balanced by the engine’s surprising ability to cope with Regular 91 RON unleaded.
Most small turbo motors insist on Premium 95 RON to do their best, so the Mitsubishi’s actual fuel costs would look a bit rosier than what the windscreen label suggests. Using this week as an example, Regular 91 is 12.4 cents per litre cheaper than Premium 95 on average in Sydney.
Over a 448km weekend, our Eclipse Cross two-wheel drive was showing 9.6L/100km on the trip computer, which isn’t brilliant, but we did cover plenty of urban driving and bush exploration.
The Subaru Forester is a smooth and decent family SUV, one that doesn't necessarily do anything exceptionally well, but nor is it terrible at anything when it comes to on-road driving.
In fact, my biggest complaint is the noise intrusion - there's quite a bit of tyre roar through even normal road surfaces, and coarse chip roads are louder again. There's also wind noise up around the windscreen and mirrors, and the engine is noisy under acceleration because of the CVT automatic transmission, and it doesn't sound overly delightful, either.
That said, the 2.5-litre engine's response is pretty good, offering decent and linear power delivery. It's not fast, not overly fun, and the CVT auto does rob it some of the excitement you might want. However, it jumps away from a standstill pretty nicely, and if you can hit the sweet spot when you're accelerating you might be surprised by its brisk response.
There are paddle shifters to take matters into your own hands - though even if you use the SI drive mode selector (Sport or Intelligent drive modes), it's less thrusty than turbocharged competitors (Ford Escape) or even hybrid-powered rivals (Toyota RAV4).
The ride comfort is quite good, there's a nice supple attitude to the suspension and the way it controls itself over bumps, but it is quite soft and that means that there is some noticeable body roll in corners.
Thankfully the seats are really quite nice and offer good support, and while the steering is decently weighted and accurate enough it's hardly the last word in excitement for thrills. I'm also not much of a fan of the lane keeping system and how it affects the steering, as it interrupts the smoothness of your steering a little too much. There's a button you can hit to turn it off, but you have to do it every time.
And that driver-monitoring camera system really does make you realise how much you're not looking at the road ahead. I'm a constant glancer, looking at whatever is driving past or whatever I see parked in people's driveways, and the system really made me realise that.
Because it's a Forester with all-wheel drive, I took it for a brief light off road review expedition, where it lived up to the brand's adventure-focused persona.
The most impressive element was a combination of nice high ground clearance (220mm), plus the way that soft suspension rolled over rocks and bumps allows decent travel to the suspension, and good control to the driver's hands, too.
The drive mode selection system allows you to choose "snow/dirt" or "deep snow/mud", meaning soggy camping trips or drives to the snow should be pretty well catered for. Like most soft-roading vehicles and crossovers, though, the tyres will be your biggest letdown but also your easiest upgrade.
The hill descent control system worked really well, and while I wasn't pushing any boundaries of what to expect a SUV like this to do, it was pretty well sorted of the whole.
Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross8/10
If you’ve been hanging out for the Eclipse’s arrival, you may recall our very brief experience with a prototype version in the Northern Territory late last year. Driven back-to-back with the now aged Outlander and even older ASX, the Eclipse Cross felt smoother, quieter and more comfortable in general. As you’d hope.
Now that we've driven it extensively on the road, I can tell you it's still a nice thing in reality.
The ride comfort is particularly good - even on 18-inch wheels - and noise insulation is impressive for a mainstream model like this.
We didn’t push it too hard with the family on board, but it felt stable around corners and the engine had plenty of urge around town, at highway speeds and up hills. If I were to quite a 0-100km/h figure (not that Mitsubishi quotes one) it would hardly do the drivetrain justice. It just works well in the real world.
We’re generally not a fan of CVT autos because of their tendency to groan and flare engine revs, but the turbo’s low down grunt means the new transmission rarely gets the chance to make its presence known. The two complement each other very well.
The steering feel is vastly better than the numbness of the Outlander, with the only real criticism being the rather rough leather on the wheel itself.
Driver visibility is quite a surprise considering the sloping roofline and split rear window, in that it’s quite good, and the door-mounted mirrors help eliminate blind-spots up front.
We didn’t take the Eclipse Cross too far off-road at its Tasmanian launch event, but we did manage to safely traverse two hard-packed beaches on Bruny Island. These were Jetty Beach and Cloudy Bay if you’re ever in the area, and provided a nice little taste of adventure considering we were piloting a two-wheel drive Exceed.
For those interested in taking the Eclipse Cross further, both two- and all-wheel drive versions have a useful ground clearance of 183mm, with 18.8 degree entry and 29.2 degree departure angles. We plan to put the all-wheel drive through its paces on a proper adventure test shortly.
That said, the Forester has an extensive safety technology specification list, starting with auto emergency braking (AEB) that works both in city and inter-urban settings up to 80km/h, and it features pedestrian and cyclist detection, too.
There's also lane departure warning with an active lane keeping assistance system that works from 60km/h to 145km/h, and there's adaptive cruise control that works through the brand's stereo camera EyeSight system. Blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are standard, as is a rear AEB system to stop you bumping into cars or walls at low speeds, rear parking sensors, a reversing camera that is complemented by a front and front kerbside camera (not quite surround view, but close).
The Forester has seven airbags (driver's knee, dual front, front side, full-length curtain), and there are dual ISOFIX outboard child-seat anchors and three top-tether points.
Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross8/10
All Eclipse Crosses are covered by a maximum five-star ANCAP rating (tested 2017), with the key pluses being standard AEB plus dual front, side head and chest airbags, plus a seventh airbag for the driver’s knees.
The LS also comes with lane departure warning, but the top Exceed adds 360 degree cameras, active cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-sport warning, lane change assist, and a novel 'Misacceleration Mitigation System' which is designed to avoid driving into stationary objects.
Subaru Australia backs its cars with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which is on par with its main rivals but behind the likes of Mitsubishi (10 years if you service with them) and Kia (seven years).
The brand offers just 12 months of roadside assistance when you buy a new car, where some others offer seven years or more.
The company also has unusual service intervals of 12 months/12,500km, with a capped price servicing plan that spans five years/62,500km. The average cost per service over that period is high, at $476.50 per annum - and it'll be even higher if you do a lot of kilometres.
There are also three-year and five-year service plans available. If you sign up for those, you get three years roadside assist plus a loan car when you get your car serviced. The costs for those are $1281.81 (three years/37,500km), or $2382.52 (five years/62,500km).
Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross8/10
Like all Mitsubishi vehicles, the Eclipse Cross is covered by a five-year/100,000km warranty, which also covers perforation corrosion for five years. Five years still beats the industry standard of three, but some brands offer unlimited kilometre coverage.
Service intervals are 15,000km or 12 months, with capped price servicing for the first three services of $300, $400 and $400 respectively.