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Mitsubishi takes on the big guys with its Eclipse NOIR sport-ute

The Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross NOIR is very drivable in city and highway, and is easy to park. Keith Morgan photo

By Keith Morgan

It’s a challenge to champion the subsidiary of a corporation worth around $131 billon as an underdog.

But when it comes to Mitsubishi Motors that’s exactly what it is in comparison with such Japanese giants as Toyota, Nissan and Honda.

Confession upfront, I’ve always been a fan of this “small” manufacturer. They put out sound, reliable products at a reasonable price. For me, there’s no wow factor in looks but as we know, beauty is only skin deep. They’re inoffensive in appearance but to be fair there’s not much to differentiate the profiles of their sports ute models from those marketed by the “bigger” manufacturers.

The preceding may read like back-handed compliments, excepting that last sentence. I’ll counter with some clearer positives, particularly about the that I drove recently.

I will comment briefly on the skin. I dubbed it the black beast – gloss black front and rear skid plates, black wheels, and the rest of the body painted by a guy listening to the Stones’ Paint it Black. Even the steering wheel features black and dark silver trim pieces and dark grey accent stitching.

It’s got a big bulbous front end then the rest of the exterior tapers off to resemble the profile of many in this market segment.

Ok, pile in. Five of you, if you wish. Six-way driver seat, four-way passenger seat, comfy, supportive and easily adjustable. Always wonder why the co-pilot never gets such an adjustable bum warmer. Ah yes, heated front and second row seats. Usual proviso on the back seats: three kids, two conventional-sized adults will be comfortable.

It’s a 60/40 split seat so additional room for The Big Shop or golf clubs if you are the sporty type. This essentially is a compact ute with limited stowage when all the seats are vertical. Big families might want to pass by to its Outlander sibling in the dealership.

Limited clutter space up front in the doors or centre console but enough room to toss the sunspecs, travel mugs and change for the parking meter.

Fully embracing its NOIR name, even the steering wheel on the Mitsubishi sport-ute features black and dark silver trim pieces and dark grey accent stitching. Mitsubishi photo

There’s an eight-inch infotainment screen which in my humble opinion is all you need. There’s a trend to IMAX size screens in many of today’s models. Bluetooth and USB plus Bluetooth connect to your device of choice, plus second USB plug in for the rear seats. The audio system’s eight speakers pleased with crisp sound and booming bass – when I drove alone. Am I the only one in my family who finds Led Zeppelin soothing?

Turn the key. The sound of the 1.5-litre turbo engine won’t excite but it puts out 152 horses, aided by a continually variable transmission. Plenty of power for its designed purpose, passing not spritely but adequately when full to the rafters with human and inanimate cargo.

Fuel economy wise, it’s not the best in class at 8.9 L/100kms on the highway and 9.6 L/100kms around town. Probably not a game changer for most in the market. For wannabe racers there are paddle shifters; waste of space for me. Heads up display on the windshield is always a plus, though.

Very drivable in city and on the highway, easy to park on the main street, at the supermarket and … fits all condo dweller parking spaces! Big plus with me.

The NOIR tester has a sticker price of $39,598 with delivery charges. The base Eclipse ES is just shy of $29 grand rising through, $32,500 for the SE version, $35,300 for the SEL and $38,000 for the GT. A big bonus is the 10-year powertrain warranty.

Take one for a spin and if the looks don’t thrill, remember what Montreal singer Gino Vannelli sang: “Black Cars look better in the shade.

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