The transition from internal combustion engine to full-electric EV (BEV) can be daunting for some. Australia is a vast country with a host of remote areas that are hard to reach yet beautiful to see. Whether venturing up the coastline to a remote surfing town or travelling interstate to any one of the famous wine regions, we ask a lot of our cars.
For many Australians, the car that drives them to work during the week is the same one they’ll take on a family holiday. Hardly a predicament when you look at the infrastructure built around internal combustion engines, but we’re consciously adopting a zero fuel future with open arms knowing they won’t be around forever.
Enter the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross PHEV – If you had to name one factor that might turn you away from battery-electric vehicles I’d hedge my bets to say it’s charging infrastructure. And while that’s getting stronger every week, a plug-in hybrid is the perfect candidate to bridge that gap between long-range EV and internal combustion dinosaur. To test the theory I jumped behind the wheel of the 2022 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross PHEV to see how the PHEV life would treat me on a weekend away to one of the country’s best wine regions – the Hunter Valley.
Friday – Driving
I’ve loved nearly every EV I’ve driven if only for their relaxing and calm nature, but this was the first plug-in hybrid I’d had the chance to test that fell into the ‘affordable’ category for most Aussies (AU$53,990 plus on-road costs). Reading the spec-sheet I was blown away by one stat, in particular, the quoted fuel economy of just 1.9 l/100km combined and the rather stout 157kW produced from the combination of 2.4-litre 4-cylinder and 13.8 kWh 300 V lithium-ion battery. Would it return anywhere near that amount? And is Plug-in Hybrid truly that convenient for a weekend away? I’ll explain below.
EV Only Impressions
I picked up the car roughly 1-hour from home and this gave me an opportunity to test the legs of the plug-in EV lifestyle. By the numbers, Mitsubishi’s internal polling of Outlander plug-in hybrid owners (the in-house alternative) spent almost 84 per cent of their time on the road in pure electric mode. It makes sense on paper too, if you had the ability to plug the car in overnight, there would be plenty to take you to work the next day – 55km of claimed EV-only range to be precise.
Five minutes into the drive and you can tell where this car loves life – the urban environment. As with most EVs, the urban environment is home. If you compare it to freeway cruising there’s less aerodynamics to worry about (air to push) and stop-start traffic is what they love most thanks to regenerative braking.
Immediately noticeable is the lack of transition between EV and ICE motor. I daily drove a Lexus CT200h for years that switched between ICE and EV like a light switch (closed-loop) whereas the Eclipse Cross PHEV is virtually seamless and far more forgiving with speeds up to 80km/h. Punching the throttle in town gives a nice jolt of EV acceleration that is enough for quick merges and lane changes. Regenerative braking is switchable in intensity (5 modes) by using the paddles behind the wheel, but you’ll struggle to one-foot drive without using a little right foot to brake.
So how did the range stack up? The Eclipse Cross PHEV had depleted the EV range by around 75% by the time I made it home (around 30km) and by the time I’d walked in the front door of the house there wasn’t much range left for my journey towards the Hunter Valley that afternoon. If you want to make the most of the PHEV life, you’ll need a charger at home no matter how good the regenerative braking is in this model.
|2022 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross PHEV Engine Specifications|
|Transmission||Single-speed reduction gear.|
|Power||94kW @ 4500rpm (ICE).|
|Torque||199Nm @ 4500rpm (ICE).|
|EV drivetrain||60kW/137Nm front; 70kW/195Nm rear.|
|EV range||55km (claimed).|
|Battery capacity||13.8kWh lithium-ion.|
Highway Drive to voco Kirkton Park
The drive to voco Kirkton Park gave me the chance to become acquainted with the different drive modes available in the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross PHEV.
EV mode: Electric only mode. This will eat into the range quickly if you use it at freeway speeds.
Save mode: I drove to Kirkton Park in save mode and the engine management did a great job switching between EV and ICE seamlessly. When coasting around at 100km/h the engine will switch off until you put your foot down to accelerate up a hill or overtake. You can actually have a bit of fun trying to regen the batteries while cruising downhill by lifting off the accelerator and using the paddles behind the steering wheel to mediate speed.
Charge mode: I didn’t take advantage of the charge mode as much as I should’ve. This is the mode I’d recommend driving long distances in where the petrol engine is always on but shares some energy by recharging the batteries to be used once you reach your destination. The range can jump quite quickly using this mode and I saw an extra 10km of EV range after just 20-minutes of driving.
I didn’t spend a whole lot of time driving on the freeway in EV only mode for range reasons, however, as I arrived in the Hunter Valley with a Saturday ahead there was plenty of battery power and range to play with after a dose of charge mode. When the batteries weren’t in use, I averaged around 6l/100km which is about average for an engine of this size. One could easily spend a bulk of their time driving around EV only if they have a 40min freeway commute where they take advantage of the Charge Mode then switch to EV mode once in the city and 90% charged.
voco Kirkton Park
Address: 336 Oakey Creek Rd, Pokolbin NSW 2320
Phone: (02) 4998 7680
Dinner – Hunters Quarters
After checking into the hotel, I rolled into Hunters Quarters surprisingly refreshed considering the 2-hour drive.
Growing up in Sydney I’ve spent my fair share of time exploring the Hunter Valley region for its wines, however, what I was not expecting was some of the best food, hospitality and service I’ve received in recent times. The theme carried throughout my time in the Hunter Valley with every restaurant picking up where the last one dropped off – more on that later.
Hunters Quarters is a tightly run compact affair with enough space for thirty or so tables. The menu is simple and easy to follow with a choice of three courses for $110pp (choice of entree, main, and dessert). My partner and I both started with the Prawn and Crab Raviolo, Shellfish and Lemongrass Broth, Fennel, Spring Onion Oil, and Watercress – fresh is an understatement finding a perfect balance to not remain overpowering with the careful addition of fennel and spring onion. Next came the Wagyu Hanger Steak with brown mushrooms alongside the pan-roasted market fish with a further dashing of prawns, mussels, and rainbow chard – you could pick either and be impressed by the presentation that is both carefully constructed and delicious.
I’ve always been a firm believer that a quality dessert can elevate the entire menu offering and the Peach Melba and Caramel Popcorn Parfait was outstanding. The former featured cream cheese ice cream that sounds as good as it tastes. A dinner that set the table for all others to follow, and they did.
Located in: Cockfighters Ghost Wines
Address: 576 De Beyers Rd, Pokolbin NSW 2320
Hours: Fri-Sat 11:30am–3pm, 5:30–10:30pm, Sun 11:30am-3pm
Saturday – Interior and Infotainment
The start of a new day of exploring some more of the Hunter Valleys’ best wineries (and food) started with a breakfast at the hotel before a relaxing drive through the countryside where I had the chance to check out some of the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross PHEV interior and infotainment systems.
Connectivity – First things first, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available through a wired connection on an 8-inch touchscreen display. The graphics and themes are far from the most modern-looking available on a car at this price today, however, they worked flawlessly in our time with the car and had very little lag when processing basic requests. I can’t imagine ever using it over Carplay or Android Auto, however, satellite navigation is available on the top-spec Exceed model. You can also monitor charging remotely via the Remote Control App (for off-peak charging), as well as pre-heat and cool the vehicle.
Cabin – Sharing the exact same cabin as the regular Eclipse Cross – minus the abundance of PHEV badging – it’s a solid place to sit for a road trip. The front seats are both electrically adjustable (Exceed model) and rather comfortable, however, pale in comparison to its sibling the Outlander. Actually, the interior as a whole is greatly outclassed by the Outlander I drove earlier this year in terms of style, material and function. That’s not to say the Eclipse Cross is bad in any way, it’s just more ‘functional’ with switches and dials for almost everything and a general lack of excitement. If you’re looking to upgrade from your average daily driver it’s not going to blow you away like the Outlander.
Call it nitpicking but I did have a few issues with the interior as a whole because this is NOT a cheap car – reminder AU$53,990 before on-road costs. Firstly, the spot your left knee rests against on the centre console while driving is very uncomfortable hard plastic. Secondly, the sound system is very lack-lustre for a $55K vehicle, you can find a better sound system in cars half this price. But, nothing is worse than the piano black centre console. Our press vehicle had only a few thousand KM’s on the clock and the centre console was scratched up like someone was trying to play the guitar on it, utterly ruined. I’m not talking about around the drink holder, but the entire console from general wear and tear.
Lunch – Brokenwood
Centre console aside, I cruised around the Hunter Valley wine region in silence with the sunroof open and the tunes playing. Our order of the day was the ‘Match + Dine’ experience at Brokenwood wines that encompasses a choice of main, side and dessert from the restaurant’s à la carte menu ($150pp). Other options include the Wine Tasting and Canapes ($60pp) or a simple Wine Tasting ($25pp). The lunch was delicious as were the wines, however, being smack bang in the middle of the Hunter Valley means it gets very busy. I’d simply opt for the wine tasting next time I visit.
Address: 401-427 McDonalds Rd, Pokolbin NSW 2320
Hours: Mon-Thurs 11am-5pm, Fri 11am-7pm, Sat 10am-7pm, Sun 10am-5pm
Dinner – Margan Wines and Restaurant
Situated 34km from the heart of the Hunter Valley wine region the road out to Margan Wines encompasses some classic Australian country driving roads. At this point in the day, I had depleted most of the EV range so I drove out in Save mode and were pleasantly surprised by the ride comfort from the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross PHEV across some not-so-great country roads. It’s composed across undulations thanks to its long wheelbase of 2670mm (same as Outlander PHEV) and remains punchy with its combination of motors.
Safety is paramount in this area and ANCAP awarded the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross range a five-star safety rating back in 2017, updating this to include the PHEV models towards the end of last year. In terms of safety scores, they read like this;
- 97 per cent for adult occupant protection.
- 78 per cent for child occupant protection.
- 80 per cent for vulnerable road user protection fared slightly better at 80 per cent.
Airbags are plenty with coverage across both front and rear passenger areas.
Now for the food – Margan Wines and Restaurant is without a shadow of a doubt the best experience I’ve had on my journies through the region. I decided to book the all encapsulating Twilight Experience ($150pp) that took my partner and I on a tour through the entire wine-making process before we sat down for a 5-course degustation meal that would rival any from the big smoke. Of course, some paired Margan wines were there for good measure, before I relaxed and put together my concluding thoughts about the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross PHEV.
Address: 1238 Milbrodale Rd, Broke NSW 1317
Hours: Fri-Sat 11:45am-9pm, Sun 11:45am-3pm
Related: Our First Time Living With an EV.
Should You Buy the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross PHEV?
Our time was only short with the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross PHEV, however, there are great things to like. It’s at the pointy end of the pricing when you stack it up against the internal combustion-engined rivals, however, when you compare it to other pure EVs on the market it starts to show its pricing benefit – especially with fuel costs the way they are.
So how does it work as an EV? While the regenerative braking on the car is strong and useful around town, I only found it particularly reliable for an extra few KM in stop-start traffic. Charge Mode, however, is something that came in particularly useful on my trip and is something that you could absolutely trust over longer journeys – there’s no range anxiety on the freeway, and when you arrive you’re treated to the same EV bliss as I’ve come to love from these cars. This is the car’s biggest advantage (for now) and while the competition has it beat to the mark in other areas, they can’t cruise around town as an EV at this price point.
The price you pay for the technology you can’t see is reasonable, however, the interior simply doesn’t compare well with other offers on the market, plug-in hybrid or internal combustion-engined. You only have to poke your head inside the likes of the Mazda CX-30, Skoda Kamiq or Kia Sportage to see what the new standard is for vehicles in this price bracket.
All in all, if you’re looking to kick-start your EV journey and have the capacity to install a wall charger in your home then this is a great entry point into a life we love to live. The journey to work and home will never have felt this relaxing.