Although a 2.2-litre diesel unit is on the horizon, the Eclipse Cross is available with a single engine option for now. This is a new 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol motor, with a turbocharger for good measure. It produces 161bhp and is available with two-wheel drive and a six-speed manual or CVT automatic gearbox, or four-wheel drive and the CVT auto ’box.
The six-speed manual in the two-wheel-drive car lets you make the best use of the engine’s free-revving nature, with the compact unit pulling strongly from 1,800rpm all the way to its 6,500rpm redline. However, an unforgiving clutch biting point makes it difficult to drive smoothly at slow speeds in town.
In four-wheel drive configuration with the auto gearbox, the engine never feels quite as strong as the numbers suggest. Floor the accelerator and the CVT ’box allows the engine revs to soar in a rather rudimentary fashion, making for a wearisome drone. There is a manual mode that enables you to select one of eight ‘gears’, but the shifts are slow and heavily slurred.
Where the Eclipse Cross does impress, however, is at a cruise. The engine is quiet at speed and sends little to no vibration through the car’s controls, even when the stop-start system is activated. Acceleration is smooth, with none of the jerkiness that you’ll find from some dual-clutch automatics.
Ride comfort at low speeds is poor; expansion joints, ruts and other sharp-edged obstacles cause noticeable suspension noise and a jolt at times, breaking the calm. We suspect the smaller 16in wheels of the entry-level car might help things, though, and at higher speeds on the motorway things do improve.
Body roll that is fairly well contained, although it does lean over more than some rivals and feels heavier when changing direction. We’ve few complaints about the steering, though. At all speeds, it has a meaty weighting that makes it easy to track in a straight line and apply the right amount of lock to get around a corner without sawing at the wheel. Even so, the Seat Ateca is significantly more agile and fun on a winding road.