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Subaru Outback


Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

Summary

Subaru Outback

It never used to be like this. Families used to choose a station wagon or estate car because that body style was the smartest choice. Maybe not the most desirable choice, but wagons were, and always have been, pragmatic.  

And then SUVs came on the scene. People thought they needed these stylised hatchbacks to sit higher in traffic and live out their “weekend warrior” image. Oh, those “active lifestyle” types. And in recent times, SUVs have become the go-to – accounting for half of all new vehicle sales in 2020.

But the Subaru Outback 2021 is here to stand up to those wannabe SUVs, with its own take on the up-high recipe. Admittedly it’s not like the Subaru Outback approach to the SUV formula is new – this is the sixth generation version of the venerable high-riding wagon, but this new model is apparently more SUV than ever. Subaru Australia even calls it a “true blue, mud in its blood all-wheel drive SUV”. 

So does it have what it takes to stand out in the crowd? Let’s dive a little deeper and find out.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.5L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.3L/100km
Seating5 seats

Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

The Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross was facelifted and updated for 2021, with a revised look and new tech available across the model range. 

And for 2022 the brand has introduced a high-tech new plug-in hybrid (PHEV) electrified version, giving it an interesting selling point against some of its small SUV rivals.

The Eclipse Cross, however, is hardly the best-known small SUV nameplate for Mitsubishi – that honour clearly goes to the ASX, which still sells in huge numbers despite having been on sale in its current generation guise for more than a decade.

The Eclipse Cross, on the other hand, launched in Australia in 2018, and this facelifted model still retains its eye-catching looks, but tones things down a bit in terms of the design. It’s also grown to a length that almost makes it more of a Mazda CX-5 rival than before.

The prices have shot up, too, while the new PHEV model pushes it beyond the “cheap and cheerful” level. So, can the Eclipse Cross justify its positioning? And are there any catches? Let’s find out.

Safety rating
Engine Type1.5L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.3L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Subaru Outback7.9/10

The sixth-generation, 2021 Subaru Outback has incrementally improved the large wagon-slash-SUV, with a number of important steps forward including better safety tech, a more powerful engine and smarter cabin. A turbo or hybrid powertrain would sweeten the deal even further.

I don’t know that you’d really need anything other than the base model Outback AWD, which seems like a truly great value offering. It’d be our pick of the range.


Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross7.4/10

For some buyers the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross may have made more sense in pre-facelift guise, when it had its clever sliding second row seat. But since then there have been improvements, including better rearward visibility from the driver’s seat and the inclusion of a forward-thinking future-ready drivetrain.

The changes have helped keep the turbo-petrol Eclipse Cross competitive, though I’d struggle to suggest it’s a better SUV than a number of other really good competitors in this segment. The Kia Seltos, Hyundai Kona, Mazda CX-30, Toyota C-HR, Skoda Karoq and VW T-Roc all come to mind.

With the addition of the PHEV versions of the Eclipse Cross there is a new level of appeal for a certain type of buyer, though we’re not sure how many customers there are out there looking for a small SUV from Mitsubishi that costs fifty grand or more. We'll see how the PHEV stacks up soon.

It’s an easy choice for which is the best version of the Eclipse Cross – it’s the turbo-petrol Aspire 2WD. If you can live without AWD, there’s no reason to consider any other grade, as the Aspire has the most important safety items, and a few luxury inclusions, too.

Design

Subaru Outback7/10

It’s an all-new car. It doesn’t necessarily look like it, and in fact – to my eye – it’s not as attractive as the fifth-generation model, which was an expert in being inoffensive, where this model has a few more design-lead changes that might divide opinions.

You won’t mistake it for anything other than an Outback, as it has that typical rugged high-riding wagon look that we’ve come to expect from it. But it’s almost like this is a facelift rather than an all-new car.

Like, literally – the features have all been cinched back at the front, and the wheel-arches have been tweaked so they stand more at attention… it literally looks like an age-denying citizen’s approach at looking younger. A bit too much Botox? Tell us what you think the comments below.

But there are still smart design highlights, like the roof rails with integrated roof racks that are stowable/deployable in the base and top models, while the mid-spec model has a fixed roof rack system. 

The fact all models have LED lighting all-around is nice, while the 18-inch wheels… well, none of them are to my taste. To me, they just aren’t as youthful as some of the other elements of the car are trying to elucidate.

And the rear-end treatment? Well, that’s the only spot where you’re most likely to confuse it with another car… and that doppelganger would be a Forester.

On the inside there are some really nice design changes, though. Check out the interior pictures below.


Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross7/10

It’s certainly a different look to its conventionally boxy small SUV counterparts, and stands as a nice counterpoint to the curvy brigade that also fills a few spots in this part of the market.

But does that design come with compromise? Of course, but not as much as it used to with the pre-facelift model.

That’s because the rear end has seen a major change – the blind-spot-inducing strip that ran across the rear glass has been removed, meaning Honda Insight fans will have to, er, buy a Honda Insight instead.

That makes it a better piece of automotive design, because it’s easier to see out of. Plus the new-look rear end is attractive, in a “I’m trying to look like a newer X-Trail” kind of way.

But there are some styling elements that remain questionable, like the choice of identical alloy wheels across all four grades. Surely if you’re an Exceed buyer, paying 25 per cent more than a base model customer, you’d like that to be seen by the Smiths next door? I know I’d prefer a different alloy wheel design, at least for the top spec.

And there are other things. Those headlights – they’re the clusters in the front bumper, not the bits at the top where the headlights usually are. That’s not a new phenomenon, and nor is the fact the brand has LED daytime running lights on all grades. But what’s not great is the fact there are halogen lights for three out of four grades, meaning you’re going to have to spend about $40,000 on the road to get LED front lighting. For context, some rival compact SUVs have LED lighting range wide, and at a lower price.

The ‘regular’ Eclipse Cross can’t really be differentiated from the PHEV model at a quick glance - only the eagle-eyed among us may pick the specific 18-inch wheels fitted to the PHEV versions, while the, ahem, large PHEV badges on the door and boot are also giveaways. The weird joystick gear selector is another giveaway.

Now, calling the Eclipse Cross a small SUV is starting to be a bit of a literal stretch, with this updated model measuring 4545mm long (+140mm) on its existing 2670mm wheelbase, and it’s 1805mm wide and 1685mm tall. For reference, a Mazda CX-5 is just 5mm longer, and it’s considered a benchmark midsize SUV

Not only did the small SUV just push the segment boundaries in terms of size, there’s also a questionable design change inside the cabin – the removal of the sliding second row seat.

I’ll get to that – and all the other interior considerations – in the next section. That’s where you’ll also find interior images.

Practicality

Subaru Outback9/10

Subaru has taken some pretty big steps when it comes to changing the interior of the Outback, with the most prominent change being front and centre of the cabin – that huge new 11.6-inch touchscreen media system.

It’s a really interesting looking piece of technology, and like the existing media screen in the Outback, is crisp, colourful and offers quick response times. It’s something that takes a little bit of getting used to – the fan controls are digital, for instance, but there are buttons either side of the screen for temperature control – but once you’ve spent some time with it, you’d be surprised just how intuitive it all is.

The Apple CarPlay worked a treat, connecting up without hassle. And while it isn’t wireless CarPlay, we haven’t yet tested a car with that tech that’s worked as it should… so, yay for cables!

There are two USB ports below the screen, and two additional charging ports in the back seat centre section as well. That’s good, but there’s no wireless charging pad at all, which isn’t great.

And while the big screen has done away with the multiple screen layout and the huge number of buttons in the old car, the new one still has a number of buttons on the steering wheel, which are easy to learn too. I had some trouble acclimating to the blinker stalk, with the one-touch indicator trigger seemingly being a bit too hard to activate at times. It’s a quiet “ticker”, too, so there were a few times when I was driving with my indicator on for ages without realising it.

Storage is mostly really well considered in the Outback, with bottle holders and storage sleeves in all four doors, plus a pair of cup holders between the front seats (they are a little large if you prefer a small takeaway coffee), and in the back there’s a fold-down centre armrest with cupholders, too.

The front also has a small storage section below the media screen (not quite large enough for a large-format smartphone), plus there’s a covered centre console bin, and the dashboard design may have been inspired by the RAV4, as there’s a neat little rubberised shelf in front of the passenger where you could put a phone or wallet. 

In terms of space for occupants, taller people will be fine in the front or the rear. I’m 182cm or 6’0” tall, and I managed to find a comfortable driving position, and was able to sit behind it with ample knee room, toe room and head space, too. The width is great, too, with plenty of room across the cabin. Three of me could easily fit side by side, but if you have children you’ll be happy to know there are two ISOFIX and three top-tether points for baby seats.

The back seat occupants should be kept happy as there are directional vents in all grades, while the top two specs score rear outboard seat heating, too. Nice.

There are some other nice inclusions for rear seat occupants, including recline adjust for the backrests of the seats, and the seatbelts are set in such a way that they should never get in the way when you lower the back seats down (60:40 split fold, actuated by triggers in the boot area).

Speaking of the boot space, there’s plenty. The new Outback offers 522 litres (VDA) or cargo capacity, with is 10L more than before. Plus, as mentioned, the seats fold flat to allow 1267L of luggage capacity. 

Equivalent mid-size SUVs priced close to the Outback can’t match it for practicality, and the cabin’s look and feel is greatly improved over the previous model. It’s a very nice place to spend time.


Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross8/10

The interior of the Eclipse Cross used to be more practical.

It’s not often you get to a mid-life update of a car and the brand decides to take away one of the best features – but that’s what happened with the Eclipse Cross. 

You see, the pre-facelift models had a clever sliding second row seat, which allowed you to apportion space effectively – either for passengers, if you didn’t need cargo space, or to the boot, if you had little or no passengers. There was 200mm of actuation to that slide. That’s no small amount in a car of this size.

But that’s now gone, and it means you miss out on a clever feature that made the Eclipse Cross impressive for its class.

It still maintains some impressive traits, including the fact it has better than average rear seat space, and better than average cargo capacity – even if there’s no sliding rear row.

The boot space is now 405 litres (VDA) for the non-hybrid models. That’s not too bad compared to some rivals, but in the pre-facelift car you were able to adjust between a big 448L cargo hold, and a 341L storage area if you needed more backseat occupant space.

And in the hybrid models, the boot is small because there is extra hardware under the floor, meaning a cargo hold of 359L (VDA) for PHEV models.

The rear seats still recline, and there’s still a space-saver spare wheel under the boot floor as well - unless you choose the PHEV, which doesn’t have a spare wheel, instead making do with a repair kit. 

We managed to fit all three CarsGuide hard suitcases (124L, 95L and 36L) in the boot of the non-PHEV version with room to spare.

The back seat is fine for adults and kids alike. Because it shares the same wheelbase as the ASX and Outlander I had enough space for – I’m 182cm or 6’0” tall – to be sat comfortably behind my own driving position.

There’s good toe room, decent knee room and good head room – even in the Exceed model, with its double sunroof.

Back seat amenities are fine. The base model has a single map pocket where higher grades get two, and there are bottle holders in the doors, and in LS, Aspire and Exceed models you get cup holders in a flip-down armrest. One thing you might like if you’re a backseat regular in the Exceed is the inclusion of second-row outboard seat heating. Shame, though, there are no rear seat directional air vents in any grade.

The front seat area offers good storage for the most part as well, with bottle holders and trenches in the doors, a decent centre console bin, a pair of cupholders between the seats, and a reasonable glove box. There’s a small storage section in front of the gear selector, but it’s not quite spacious enough for a larger smartphone.

Another thing that makes the ES non-hybrid model feel strange is its manual handbrake, which is enormous and eats into more console space than it really ought to – the rest of the range have electronic park brake buttons. 

There are two USB ports in the front, one of which connects up to the 8.0-inch touchscreen media system. You can use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto smartphone mirroring, or Bluetooth. I had no issues with the connectivity, other than – always having to hit the “Always Enable” button when reconnecting my phone.

The design of the media screen is a good one – it sits up high and proud, but not so high as to intrude on your line of view when driving. There are knobs and buttons to control the screen, and some familiar – but looking old – buttons and controls for the climate system, too.

Another thing showing the age of the underpinnings of the Eclipse Cross is the instrument cluster, and the digital driver info screen too. It doesn’t have a digital speedometer readout – an issue in nanny states – so if you want that, you have to get the Exceed model with the head-up display. That screen – I swear it was in a mid-2000s Outlander, it looks that old.

And the overall cabin design, while hardly special, is nice. It’s more modern than the current ASX and Outlander, but not nearly as fun or functional as newer entrants in the segment like the Kia Seltos. And nor does it look anywhere near as exceptional as a Mazda CX-30’s cabin, no matter which spec you choose. 

But it does its space utilisation well, and that’s a good thing for an SUV of this size.

Price and features

Subaru Outback9/10

The Subaru Outback range remains a value-focused option for customers out there who want a lot of car for their money. 

It still starts under forty grand in sixth-generation guise, though prices have gone up somewhat compared to the old model, which Subaru says is justified by additional equipment and safety technology.

All models have the same powertrain, so it’s purely gear and goodies that separates the three variants: the entry-level Outback AWD ($39,990), mid-range AWD Sport ($44,490) and top-spec AWD Touring ($47,490). Those prices are MSRP/list pricing, before on-road costs.

Now, here’s a rundown of the range.

The base model AWD comes with 18-inch alloy wheels and a full size alloy spare, roof rails with stowable roof rack cross bars, LED headlights, LED foglights, push-button start, keyless entry, electric park brake, rain-sensing wipers, heated and power-folding side mirrors, fabric seat trim, leather steering wheel, paddle-shifters, electric adjustment for the front seats, rear seats with manual recline, and a 60:40 split-fold rear seat with boot release levers.

The AWD entry-level car – and both the variants above – have a new 11.6-inch touchscreen media screen in portrait layout, which incorporates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring tech. There are six speakers standard, as well as four USB ports (2x front, 2x rear).

The next model up the range is the AWD Sport, which – like the Forester Sport model – gets a number of aesthetic changes to help split it from its stablemates.

They include model-specific dark 18-inch wheels, black exterior trim changes, fixed roof rails, a power tailgate, water repellent interior trim with green stitching, heated front and outboard rear seats, sports pedals, light-sensing headlights (auto on/off) and it gets sat nav as part of the media screen, too. This grade scores a front view and side view monitor for parking/low speed driving, too.

The top-end AWD Touring has a few luxury-focused extras over the other grades, including an electric sunroof, Nappa leather interior trim, a heated steering wheel, auto dipping passenger side door mirror, memory settings for driver’s seat, satin finish door mirrors, silver highlight roof rails (with stowable crossbars), and gloss-finish wheels. 

The interior also upgrades the stereo in this grade to a nine-speaker harman/kardon setup with subwoofer and single CD player. All grades have DAB+ digital radio too.

All grades have an array of safety technology, including a driver monitoring system that will warn you to keep your eyes on the road and monitor for signs of drowsiness, and in the top-spec model includes face recognition that can adjust the seat and side mirrors for you.

All models come with a reversing camera, Subaru’s EyeSight forward facing camera system that incorporates AEB, lane keeping, adaptive cruise control and more. There are full details on the safety systems and their operability in the section below.

Things missing from any grade of Outback? It would have been nice to have a wireless phone charger, and there are no traditional parking sensors, either.

Overall though, there’s a lot to like across multiple grades, here.

If you’re interested in colours (or colors if you prefer), then you might be intrigued to know there are nine colours available. Two can’t be had on the AWD Sport grade - Storm Grey Metallic and Crimson Red Pearl – but it can be had in any of the remaining colours, as can the other trim levels: Crystal White Pearl, Magnetite Grey Metallic, Ice Silver Metallic, Crystal Black Silica, Dark Blue Pearl, and the new Autumn Green Metallic and Brilliant Bronze Metallic.

The best news? None of the colour choices will cost you any extra money!


Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross7/10

This revised version of the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross introduced in 2021 saw a price hike, with cost increases across the entire model range. 

Per the pre-facelift model, the ES 2WD opens the range priced at an MSRP of $30,290 plus on-road costs (+$300).

The LS 2WD ($32,590 MSRP, +$400) and LS AWD ($35,090 MSRP, +$300) remain the next steps up the range ladder.

There’s a new nameplate second-from-top-of-the-turbo-range, the Aspire 2WD which lists at $34,990.

And the flagship turbo-petrol Exceed is still available in 2WD ($38,290 MSRP, +$1300) and AWD ($40,790 MSRP, +$1300).

But that’s not where the pricing story stops. The 2022 Eclipse Cross takes a step into new territory with the brand’s new PHEV powertrain

The high-tech hybrid drivetrain is offered in the entry-level (read: fleet-focused) ES AWD at $46,490, while the mid-spec Aspire costs $49,990 and the top-end Exceed lists at $53,990. All the powertrain details can be found in the relevant sections below.

As we all know, Mitsubishi plays hardball in the transaction price stakes, so check out the Autotrader listings to see what driveaway prices are out there. Even with stock shortages, let’s just say there are deals to be had. 

Next, let’s take a look at what you get across the model range.

The ES grade opens things with 18-inch alloy wheels with a space-saver spare wheel, LED daytime running lights, halogen headlights, a rear spoiler, cloth interior trim, manual front seat adjustment, an 8.0-inch touchscreen media system with Apple CarPlay and Android auto, a reversing camera, four speaker stereo, digital radio, climate control air-conditioning, and a rear cargo blind.

Choose the LS and your extra expenditure will net you auto high-beam lights, LED front fog-lights, auto wipers, heated folding side mirrors, black roof rails, privacy glass at the rear, keyless entry and push-button start, a leather trimmed steering wheel, electronic parking brake, rear parking sensors and lane departure warning.

The next step up offers some impressive inclusions, with the Aspire gaining dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, micro-suede and synthetic leather interior trim, auto-dimming rearview mirror, adaptive cruise control and added safety items – blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and more. See below for full details.

Go for the range-topping Exceed and you get full LED headlights (yes, you’ve got to spend nearly $40k for those!), a double sunroof, head-up display (making the Exceed the only grade with a digital speedometer, even in the PHEV models!), built-in TomTom GPS satellite navigation, a heated steering wheel, power adjustment for the front passenger seat, and full leather interior trim. You also get rear seat heating in the turbo-petrol models, but not the PHEV, oddly.

The colour options for Eclipse Cross models are very limited unless you’re willing to pay extra for premium paint. Only White Solid comes at no cost, while the metallic and pearlescent choices add $740 – they include Black Pearl, Lightning Blue Pearl, Titanium Metallic (grey) and Sterling Silver Metallic. Those not special enough? There’s also Prestige paint options, by way of Red Diamond Premium and White Diamond Pearl Metallic, both of which cost $940. 

There’s no green, yellow, orange, brown or purple options available. And unlike lots of other small SUVs out there, there is no contrast or black roof option.

Engine & trans

Subaru Outback7/10

The engine in all Subaru Outback 2021 models is a “90 per cent new” 2.5-litre four-cylinder “boxer” horizontally opposed petrol engine.

The motor produces 138kW of power (at 5800rpm) and 245Nm of torque (from 3400-4600rpm). Those are modest increases – 7 per cent more power and 4.2 per cent more torque – compared with the old Outback. 

It is only available with a “refined” Lineartronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) automatic, but all grades come with paddle-shifters as standard, so you can take matters in to your own hands – Subaru says there’s an “eight-speed manual mode”.

Towing capacity for the Outback range is 750kg for an unbraked trailer and 2000kg for a braked trailer, with a 200kg down weight for the tow bar. You can option a towbar as a genuine accessory.

Now, the elephant – or elephants – in the Outback are that it doesn’t launch with a hybrid powertrain, which means it’s falling behind the class leaders (yes, we’re talking about the likes of the Toyota RAV4, but even the Forester has a hybrid powertrain option!).

And the old diesel engine has been axed, plus there’s no six-cylinder petrol variant as there was in the previous model.

Plus while other markets get a four-cylinder turbo engine (a 2.4L with 194kW and 375Nm), we don’t have that option here. So, it’s naturally aspirated 4-cyl petrol power, or bust.


Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross8/10

All models in the Eclipse Cross get a turbocharged engine that really puts the ASX model below it to shame.

The 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder motor isn’t a horsepower hero, but it does offer class-competitive outputs on par with the likes of the Volkswagen T-Roc.

The power output for the 1.5L turbo is 110kW (at 5500rpm), while torque output is 250Nm (at 2000-3500rpm).

The Eclipse Cross is available with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) automatic gearbox only. There is no manual gearbox option, but all variants come with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters so you can take matters in to your own hands.

It is available in front-wheel drive (FWD or 2WD), and there is the option of all-wheel drive (AWD) in the LS and Exceed variants. Note – this isn’t a proper 4WD / 4x4 – there is no low range, but the electronically adjustable drivetrain system has AWD Normal, Snow and Gravel modes to suit the conditions you’re driving on.

The plug-in hybrid version runs a larger, non-turbocharged 2.4-litre Atkinson cycle petrol engine, with that four-cylinder unit producing just 94kW and 199Nm. Those are only the outputs for the petrol engine, and don't factor in the additional oomph offered by the electric motors front and rear, and this time around Mitsubishi doesn't offer a maximum combined power and torque output when everything is working together.

But it is backed by two electric motors - the front motor has outputs of 60kW/137Nm, while the rear motor produces 70kW/195Nm. There is a 13.8kWh lithium-ion battery pack good for an electric driving range of 55km based on ADR 81/02 testing. 

The engine can power the battery pack in series hybrid driving mode, too, so if you want to top up the batteries before you get to a city, you can. There is regenerative braking, too, of course. More on recharging in the next section.

Fuel consumption

Subaru Outback7/10

The official combined cycle fuel consumption figure – that’s the claimed fuel economy the brand reckons you should achieve across a mix of driving – is stated at 7.3 litres per 100 kilometres.

That’s pretty good, and it’s aided by the engine’s start-stop technology that even has a readout that tells you how many millilitres of fuel you’re saving when it’s active. I like that.

In our real world testing we saw a return – at the pump – of 8.8L/100km across highway, urban, back road and traffic jam testing. That’s not bad, but in similar driving in a Toyota RAV4 hybrid I’ve seen economy of about 5.5L/100km.

We assume Subaru Australia will add a hybrid version of the Outback at some point (like it has with the XV Hybrid and Forester Hybrid), but at this point in time, the petrol engine is your only choice.

Fuel tank capacity is 63 litres, and it can take 91RON regular unleaded.


Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross7/10

Some small SUVs with downsized turbocharged engines stay close to the official combined cycle fuel consumption figure, while others have sticker fuel economy that seems impossible to achieve.

The Eclipse Cross falls into the latter camp. The 2WD models have official fuel use figures of 7.3 litres per 100 kilometres, while the AWD models are said to use 7.7L/100km. 

I drove it in ES FWD guise for a return of 8.5L/100km at the pump, while in the Exceed AWD I tested, the real-world bowser return was 9.6L/100km.

The Eclipse Cross PHEV has an official combined cycle fuel consumption figure of 1.9L/100km. That’s astounding, really, but you need to realise that the test calculation is only for the first 100 kays - there’s a really good chance your real-world consumption will be a lot higher, as you can only deplete the battery charge once before calling on the engine (and your petrol tank) to juice it back up.

We will see what kind of real-world figure we can achieve when we get the PHEV through the CarsGuide garages. 

It offers AC charging with a Type 2 plug that can fully recharge the battery in as little as 3.5 hours, according to the brand. It is also capable of DC fast charging with a CHAdeMO plug, filling from zero to 80 per cent in 25 minutes. 

If you’re just wondering about recharging from a standard 10-amp household plug, Mitsubishi says it should take seven hours. Park it at night, plug it in, charge off-peak, and you could pay as little as $1.88 (based on a 13.6c/kWh offpeak electricity price). Compare that against my real-world average in the petrol-turbo AWD, and you could pay as much as $8.70 to cover 55km.

Of course that calculation is predicated on the notion that you will get the cheapest electricity rate and you will achieve that entire EV driving distance… but you need also consider the additional purchase cost to get into the PHEV model over the regular Eclipse Cross. 

Driving

Subaru Outback8/10

If you’ve driven a previous-generation Subaru Outback, you’re not going to feel like this is unfamiliar territory.

That’s because this version, well, it sticks to the formula. Even if you’ve driven the new Forester, it might feel pretty familiar.

Much of that comes down to the engine and transmission. The 2.5L four-cylinder boxer is a strong engine, but not a punchy one. It offers good response and smooth power delivery for the most part, and it will push you back in your seat if you plant your foot, but not in the same way a petrol-electric hybrid or a turbocharged four-cylinder might.

And while there is still some Subaru “boxer” rumble from under the bonnet, it’s largely a pretty hushed place to be when you’re driving it in normal circumstances. If you accelerate hard you’ll hear the engine more, and that’s down to the behaviour of the CVT automatic.

Some people will hate it because it’s a CVT, but Subaru does a pretty good job with these transmissions, and in the Outback it’s as inoffensive as they come. And yes, there is a manual mode with paddle shifters if you want to take matters into your own hands, but for the most part, you shouldn’t really need to.

The steering is direct and offers good weighting and response, pivoting pretty well in corners while also allowing you to turn the car easily when you’re parking. There’s not much feel to the steering, but that’s not what this car is about, and thankfully the trademark Subaru visibility from the driver’s seat means it is easier to park than some other SUVs out there. 

The ride is mostly good, with a supple character that is more about comfort than anything else. It’s a little more softly sprung and a touch underdamped than some people might like, meaning it can be a little wobbly or jittery depending on the road, but I think it’s the right balance for the intent of the car – a family wagon / SUV that has some potential off-road chops.

It is all-wheel drive after all, and there is Subaru’s X-Mode system – with snow/dirt and deep snow/mud modes – that should be helpful if you find yourself off the beaten path. I did some light gravel track driving in the Outback, and found its 213mm ground clearance to be plentiful, while the suspension was pretty well sorted.


Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross7/10

Don’t go thinking that because the Eclipse Cross has a thrusty little turbo engine that it’s going to be sporty to drive. It isn’t.

But that’s not to say it’s not rapid in its acceleration. It can get moving pretty quickly, provided you catch the CVT in its sweet spot.

That’s the thing with CVTs and turbo engines – sometimes you can have laggy moments that you’re not expecting, while at other times, you might be greeted with better response than you think you’ll get. 

I found the Exceed AWD to be particularly prone to confusion when it came to acceleration, with some noticeable hesitation and sluggishness compared to the ES 2WD I also drove. The ES felt comparatively rapid, while the (admittedly 150kg heavier) Exceed AWD was lazy.

And when it comes to other driving attributes, the Eclipse Cross is just fine.

The suspension doesn’t do anything untoward – the ride is good for the most part, though it can be a bit wobbly in corners and lumpy over bumps. But it’s comfortable and could make a great commuter car.

The steering is accurate enough, but it’s a bit slow when you’re changing direction, meaning you feel like you’d want more aggressive response. That could also come down to the Toyo Proxes tyres – they’re hardly sporty numbers.

But at city speeds, when you’re parking the car in tight spots, the steering does a good enough job.

And that’s actually a pretty apt ending for this segment of the review. Good enough. You can do better – like in a VW T-Roc, Kia Seltos, Mazda CX-30, or Skoda Karoq.

But what about the PHEV? Well, we haven’t yet had the chance to drive the plug-in hybrid model, but we intend to see how it stacks up in the near future, with a real-world range test and full detailed driving and charging impressions in our EVGuide part of the site. Stay tuned.

Safety

Subaru Outback9/10

There is no ANCAP crash test safety rating as yet for the 2021 Outback range, but it has a lot of the technology and safety goodies that customers shopping for a family SUV or wagon would expect. 

As standard there is Subaru’s EyeSight stereo camera system that reads the road ahead, and it incorporates forward/front autonomous emergency braking (AEB) for vehicles that works between 10km/h and 160km/h. There's also pedestrian AEB (1km/h to 30km/h) and cyclist detection and AEB (60km/h or less), and it has lane keeping technology with emergency lane keep assist that can swerve the car to avoid impacts with cars, people or cyclists (approximately 80km/h or less). Lane departure prevention works from 60km/h to 145km/h.

All grades also get blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, a driver monitor camera that watches the driver and warns them if they’re not paying attention to the road or starting to get drowsy (the top-spec model’s version of this also includes seat and mirror adjustment memory based on your face!), plus there is speed sign recognition, too.

All grades have a reversing camera, while the top two specs have front view and side view cameras, but none have a 360-degree surround view camera. All models also have rear AEB, a system Subaru calls reverse auto braking (RAB) that can halt the car if it detects there’s something behind it when you’re backing up. It also doubles as reversing sensors for all grades, but none have front parking sensors.

And there are other elements to the safety matrix, including Lead Vehicle Start Alert (the cameras tell you when the car in front has driven off) and lane centring (to keep you in the middle of your lane), both of which operate between 0km/h and 145km/h, and there is adaptive high beam lights on all grades, too.

The airbag count for the Outback is eight, with dual front, front side, driver’s knee, passenger centre-front, and full-length curtain coverage.


Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross7/10

The Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross was awarded a five-star ANCAP crash test safety rating in 2017 for the pre-facelift model, but you can bet your backside that the brand isn’t anticipating a re-do – so that score still applies across the petrol-turbo and PHEV model range,

The brand does, however, take a different tact to the likes of Toyota, Mazda and other leaders in safety spec. It still has that old world mentality of “if you can afford to pay more, you deserve to be safer”. I don’t like that.

As such, the range has increasing levels of safety technology the more you spend, and that’s the case across the petrol-turbo and the PHEV models.

All versions come with forward autonomous emergency braking with forward collision warning, which operates between 5km/h and 80km/h. The AEB system includes pedestrian detection, too, which works between 15km/h and 140km/h.

All models also come with a reversing camera, seven airbags (dual front, driver’s knee, front side, side curtain for both rows), active Yaw control, stability control, and anti-lock brakes (ABS) with brake force distribution.

The base model car misses out on things like auto headlights and auto wipers, and you’ll have to get the LS if you want rear parking sensors, lane departure warning and auto high-beam lights.

The step from LS to Aspire is a worthy one, adding adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and front parking sensors.

And from Aspire to Exceed, there’s the addition of the brand’s Ultrasonic Misacceleration Mitigation System, which can dull throttle response to prevent potential low speed collisions in close quarters.

Where is the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross built? The answer is “made in Japan”.

Ownership

Subaru Outback7/10

Subaru doesn’t go beyond expectations in the mainstream class, with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty now par for the course.

The brand also has shorter maintenance intervals than some, with services scheduled every 12 months or 12,500km (most are 15,000km intervals).

The costs of maintenance aren’t that low, either. After an initial free checkup at one-month, the services cost: $345 (12 months/12,500km); $595 (24 months/25,000km); $351 (36 months/37,500km); $801 (48 months/50,000km); and $358 (60 months/62,500km). That averages out at about $490 per service, which is high. 

If you’re worried about budgeting for that cost every year, you can bundle a service plan into your financing – a smart move, if you ask me. There are two options available: a three-year/37,500km plan and a five-year/62,500km plan. Neither saves you money over pay-as-you-go, but these plans also include three years roadside assist and the option of a free loan car when it comes time to service your own Outback. And if you decide to sell, you can pass that service plan on to the next owner.

 Just make sure you don’t smash the windscreen – the camera system integrated into the glass means a new windshield is a $3000 part!


Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross8/10

Here’s where Mitsubishi could win over plenty of buyers who aren’t sure what small SUV to get.

That’s because the brand offers a 10 year/200,000 kilometre warranty plan for its range… but there’s a catch.

The warranty is only that lengthy if you maintain your car with Mitsubishi’s dedicated dealer service network over the 10 years/200,000km timeline. Otherwise, you get a five-year/100,000km warranty plan. That’s still decent.

The PHEV model comes with a caveat - the traction battery is covered for eight years/160,000km, no matter where you have the car serviced, despite Mitsubishi’s website stating “it’s a good idea to get your Mitsubishi electric or hybrid vehicle serviced at an authorised PHEV dealer to that your vehicle performs at its best”.

But why wouldn’t you service with the dealer network, given the maintenance costs are pegged at $299 per visit, due every 12 months/15,000km? That’s good, and is applicable to the first five services. The maintenance costs vary from six years/75,000km, but even over a 10-year period, the average cost is $379 per service. That’s for the turbo-petrol job, anyway.

The PHEV’s service costs are slightly different: $299, $399, $299, $399, $299, $799, $299, $799, $399, $799 - making an average cost of $339 for the first five years, or $558.90 per visit over 10 years/150,000kn. That’s another reason the PHEV might not make sense for you.

Mitsubishi also gives owners four years of included roadside assist when they service their car with the brand. That’s not bad, either.

Worried about other potential reliability issues, concerns, recalls, automatic transmission quibbles, or anything else of that ilk? Check out our Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross problems page.