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Does this striking, high-value entrant leave the compact crossover set in its shade?

Mitsubishi Motors must feel like an entirely different company today than it did just six years ago. When the plug-in hybrid version of its Outlander SUV arrived in 2014, the vehicle almost doubled the firm’s UK sales volume in its first full calendar year on sale.

Although that car has had a less transformative effect on Mitsubishi’s business in a global sense, increasing success for other models – notably in Asian markets – has pushed the company’s worldwide sales through the million-unit threshold. And that growing success was no doubt one of Nissan’s key motivators when it took a controlling interest in Mitsubishi Motors Corporation in 2016, and subsequently made the firm the third partner in its manufacturing alliance with Renault one year later.

The split tailgate is said to reduce drag, and also gives the opportunity for a ‘full width light bar’ – although said bar doesn’t quite light up seamlessly across its full width

The protracted pace at which the car industry develops new products means we’ve yet to see any new Mitsubishi models to be wholly designed and engineered under the auspices of alliance ownership. It won’t happen for another couple of years yet, but that fact doesn’t make the subject of this week’s road test any less important for the people behind it. With the wind well and truly in its sails, Mitsubishi is entering the medium-sized crossover segment – home to the likes of the Seat Ateca, Nissan Qashqai, Toyota C-HR and Volkswagen T-Roc – and is standing up to be counted in one of the fastest-growing automotive model niches.

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Mitsubishi has long-standing four-wheel-drive brand equity to wield here and so, as you’d hope it might and unlike certain rivals you might compare it with, the Eclipse Cross will be available with four driven wheels, irrespective of engine type. But there’s more to this car than that. As you’re about to read, it is designed to be bolder-looking, better-handling, better-performing and more upmarket than any compact Mitsubishi yet made.

Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross First drives