Mitsubishi’s new Eclipse Cross plug-in hybrid has arrived, and it’s more spacious, more advanced and more capable than before. But is it the best plug-in hybrid SUV for under $50,000? Glenn Butler and Sam Purcell put it up against the MG HS PHEV to find out.

Overview

For a while there, the MG HS PHEV SUV was the most affordable plug-in hybrid vehicle on the Australian market. Now that mantle belongs to the just-launched Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross – by just $1500. 

Whereas the Eclipse Cross (from $46,490 plus on-road costs) is brand spanking new for the 2022 model year, the MG HS PHEV is well established in Australia, having arrived here in plug-in hybrid form in 2020, two years after the rest of the HS range arrived in 2018. 

So, which brand makes the best sub-$50,000 plug-in hybrid SUV? Let’s find out. 

Before we dive deeper, it’s worth noting that the MG HS is considered a medium SUV and the Eclipse Cross is categorised as a small SUV. That may be so, but both offer decent space for four adults and both are plug-in hybrids under $50K, so we felt it appropriate to put these two head to head.

Introduction

MG HS

The HS is a mid-size SUV from the rejuvenated MG brand. Initially, there were four variants in the range – Core, Vibe, Excite and Essence – priced from under $30,000. All are front-wheel drive and use the same 1.5-litre engine paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

Next to follow were a pair of all-wheel-drive versions based on the higher Excite and Essence grades. Both feature a more powerful turbocharged 2.0-litre engine.

The newest addition is what we’re comparing today – a sole, flagship plug-in hybrid variant that’s based on the top-spec Essence trim level – bringing the total to seven MG HS variants, presumably for all budgets and all tastes.

This MG HS PHEV is priced from $47,990 drive-away.

Petrol power comes from a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine that makes 119kW at 5500rpm and 250Nm at 4300rpm. This is teamed with a 16.6kWh battery that feeds a single electric motor.

This electric motor makes 90kW and 230Nm and turns the front wheels along with the petrol engine via a 10-speed transmission – which functions as a six-speed auto for the petrol engine, and four-speed auto for the electric motor. 

The 16.6kWh battery is placed under the rear section of the car, and on-board charging flows at a rate of 3.7kWh. When fed from a $1500 MG Australia wall box, full capacity is reached after approximately 4.5 hours. Charging via a regular power outlet takes around seven to eight hours.

A full charge is good for 63km, says MG.

The single specification on offer is on the higher end, with MG including leather trim, electric and heated front seats, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, panoramic sunroof and tyre pressure monitoring.

Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

The Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross five-seat, five-door SUV has been a long-time favourite of Australian new car buyers that prioritise value and peace of mind over frills and thrills. 

This small SUV competes for consumer attention with the likes of the Mazda CX-30Subaru XVHyundai KonaToyota C-HR and 19 other small SUVs. 

The reason the small-SUV market is so crowded is because Australians love them. Well, we love dual-cab utes and medium SUVs more, but small SUVs are the third most popular vehicle genre in 2021. 

So, with so much competition, you might think that the newest offering would have an advantage. If that’s true, then this 2022 Eclipse Cross range update, which brings fresh styling inside and out, more technology and more room, should be a winner.  

The one we’re testing today is one of the more expensive Eclipse Cross variants, priced from $49,990, but there’s a very good reason for that hefty price tag: it’s a plug-in hybrid EV. Before we dive into this PHEV in detail, it’s worth understanding where the Eclipse Cross sits in Mitsubishi’s range. 

The Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross fills a gap between the ASX city-SUV and the Outlander mid-size SUV. There are nine different Eclipse Cross variants on sale at the moment, priced from $30,990 for the ES 2WD 1.5 CVT up to $53,990 for the Exceed PHEV – both before on-road costs. 

The core mechanical package at the lower end of the range is a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine with a continuously variable transmission and either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. At the top of the price range sit three plug-in hybrid variants that – as the name suggests – combine a less powerful 2.4-litre non-turbocharged petrol engine with rechargeable electric propulsion to drive all four wheels

The exact variant we’re dealing with here is the Aspire middle child of Mitsubishi’s three Eclipse Cross PHEV variants, which is priced at $49,990 plus on-road costs. If you want to read more about the most expensive PHEV Exceed, we’ve got that covered here too

From the outside, there’s little to distinguish the plug-in hybrid Eclipse Cross from its regular petrol siblings, apart from a ‘Plug-in Hybrid EV’ badge on its rump and doors, and a unique 18-inch wheel design. 

Standard equipment across the Eclipse Cross range is plentiful. Highlights include 18-inch alloy wheels, an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, DAB radio, LED daytime running lights, dual-zone climate control, a rear-view camera, a rear-mounted roof spoiler, autonomous emergency braking and lane-departure warning.

The mid-spec Aspire variant adds LED headlights, active safety tech (adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, front and rear parking sensors, surround-view cameras, and lane-changing assist), as well as some interior niceties like a power-adjustable driver’s seat, suede/synthetic leather seat trim, an eight-speaker sound system, heated front seats, and synthetic leather door inserts.

Key details 2021 MG HS PHEV
2022 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross Aspire PHEV
Price (MSRP) $47,990 drive-away $49,990 plus on-road costs
Colour of test car Clipper Blue White Diamond
Options None Premium paint ($940), carpet floor mats ($144)
Price as tested $47,990 drive-away $51,074 plus on-road costs

Inside

MG HS

The interior of the MG feels quite modern in terms of design, carrying elements in common with MG’s other SUVs such as round air vents, trapezoidal shapes and a big infotainment display. It has good practicality in terms of storage, build quality seems good, and the nice touchpoints throughout the cabin lend a premium experience.

There are, however, a couple of quirks. Such as the toggle buttons that only toggle one way, and the infotainment screen and instrument binnacle software that takes a while to boot up. We’re talking enough time for you to get in, put on your seatbelt, start the car, engage D and drive away – all before the speedo has woken up. 

This doesn’t sound like much, but it can be disconcerting initially, especially if the first thing you want to do is reverse out of a tight spot, only to have to wait for the reversing camera display to wake up.

The second row in the HS feels low-slung, making it more like a comfortable sedan than a high-riding SUV. It’s comfortable with good headroom and legroom, but the low seating position and high window line make it hard for kids to see out. 

Seats are a 60/40 split with no sliding ability, which would be handy to help free up boot space from time to time. The boot floor is high-slung with no load lip to negotiate. Underneath, you’ll find a tyre sealant kit in lieu of a spare wheel, as well as some extra cooling components for the electric powertrain.

Boot space with the rear seats up is 451L to the top of the seatbacks, expanding to 1275L to the window line with the rear row folded, based on manufacturers claimed figures.

The big sunroof is a nice addition to the HS. I have my reservations about thin cloth covers and hot summer days, however. I’d imagine that the air-conditioning will have its work cut out under a blazing Australian sun.

In terms of power outlets, you’ve got two USB ports up front along with a 12V plug.

The MG HS has ISOFIX and top-tether anchor points.

Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

To anyone familiar with non-hybrid Eclipse Cross variants, there’s little to distinguish the PHEV beyond a unique gear selector that takes some getting used to, and various hybrid-related information pages on the infotainment screen and instrument binnacle. 

The Aspire’s seats are a combination of suede-look inserts and synthetic leather bolsters. The driver’s seat electrically adjusts for slide and recline, but the passenger’s seat retains manual adjustment, and the steering wheel also adjusts for reach and rake, making for a relatively comfortable driving position. 

The cabin is best described as functional rather than fancy and makes no real attempt to impress. For an example of what I mean, you only have to hear the loud, plasticky ‘clunk’ every time you activate the indicator stalk.

There are splashes of piano black, brushed alloy and faux carbon fibre to break up the otherwise black cabin, but it comes off feeling piecemeal.

The centre stack is topped by a smallish 8.0-inch touchscreen that houses phone connectivity (Bluetooth or Apple CarPlay or Android Auto), DAB radio and other functions, but there’s no satellite navigation in this $50,000 car. 

Below that are the dual-zone climate controls, which pleasingly are old-school dials and buttons, and therefore second nature to adjust quickly while driving. 

Front-seat occupants have two cupholders between them and bottle holders in each door. There’s a tiny oddments bin below the centre stack that doesn’t fit much beyond the car’s key. Back-seat occupants are well catered for in terms of legroom – the new Eclipse Cross is 140mm longer overall than the old one, which frees up some extra rear seat space – and headroom, and there are two cupholders in the fold-down leather armrest (otherwise known as the middle-seat backrest), but there are no air vents or USB ports. Just a solitary 12V port.

Because this is a hybrid vehicle, the cargo area is smaller compared to its petrol-powered siblings. Mitsubishi claims 359L of storage (compared to 405L in the petrol-only Eclipse Cross, but just larger than the 341L boot of the old petrol Eclipse Cross) or 626L with the rear seats folded, based on manufacturers claimed figures, but it feels smaller than that because of the high floor that offers no storage underneath – except for a bin taken over by one of the two recharging cables.

The other cable lives in a large briefcase that seems to have no home in the boot, meaning it slides all over the place during driving. If Mitsubishi had made the case slightly smaller, it could have fit snugly in one of the pockets on either side of the boot floor. Or Mitsubishi could have put Velcro on one side of the case so it ‘sticks’ to the boot floor, like some other manufacturers do. 

The back seat folds 60/40 to liberate more cargo space when needed. There are two ISOFIX anchor points in the outboard seats, and all three back seats have top-tether anchor points. 

The Eclipse Cross Aspire PHEV does not have a spare tyre of any kind.

2021 MG HS PHEV
2022 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross Aspire PHEV
Seats Five Five
Boot volume 451L seats up / 1275L seats folded 359L seats up / 626L seats folded
Length 4574mm 4545mm
Width 1876mm 1805mm
Height 1685mm 1685mm
Wheelbase 2720mm 2670mm

Infotainment and Connectivity

MG HS

While the MG’s infotainment display is large at 10.1 inches, the operating system isn’t particularly easy or intuitive. System functions don’t seem to be in logical locations, and the on-screen ‘back button’ goes missing on some screens, which forces you to return all the way to the home screen instead of just going back one step. But many of those problems take a back seat if you’re using Android Auto or Apple CarPlay for navigation and functionality.

I did run into some latency issues with Android Auto while using Spotify and Waze at the same time. I’m not sure if this is a problem unique to my phone or the vehicle’s software, but it’s worth mentioning.

The 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster has a modern design and plenty of information, if a little cluttered, but as we’ve found in other HS variants, the usability of all this tech could use a bit more finesse.

Those keen on a good audio system will likely be let down by the MG’s sound quality. Phone call quality is also sub-standard.

The 360-degree camera system, while not the best quality, is a handy ally for navigating tight scenarios and parking.

Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

As mentioned above, the heart of the Eclipse Cross’s infotainment system is a basic 8.0-inch touchscreen that houses phone connectivity controls, DAB radio and media playback, and Android Auto/Apple CarPlay connectivity. Satellite navigation is not standard on the Aspire variant.

The Eclipse Cross’s sound system is a basic eight-speaker system that does the job, but it won’t impress those with a fine ear for sound.

In the instrument binnacle, there are two dials – one for vehicle speed and the other telling you where your power is coming from (instead of a tachometer). This dial swings wildly around during driving as it tries to keep up with battery drain/charge and petrol engine assistance, and can be distracting. 

In between these two sits a small and basic screen for displaying trip data, driving range, fuel reserve and battery charge, and digital speedo. 


Safety and Technology

MG HS

While the MG HS PHEV has not been officially rated by ANCAP, the petrol-powered MG HS earned a five-star rating in 2019, providing some context.

The non-PHEV MG HS scored 92 per cent for adult occupant protection, 83 per cent for child occupant protection, 76 per cent for vulnerable road user protection, and 77 per cent for its safety assist package.

The MG HS’s safety package, called MG Pilot, has autonomous emergency braking, rear-cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, traffic sign recognition, intelligent speed limit assist, traffic jam assist and door-opening warning.

In terms of technology, the MG has a 360-degree camera, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, digital radio, keyless entry, push-button start and electric tailgate.

Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

The Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross range was deemed a five-star car in 2017, and earlier this year that was updated to cover PHEV variants as well. 

ANCAP scored the Eclipse Cross 97 per cent for adult occupant protection, 78 per cent for child occupant protection, and 80 per cent for vulnerable road user protection.

Not all variants, however, are fitted with the full complement of safety technologies. The entry-level ES PHEV is fitted with autonomous emergency braking and lane-departure warning only, while cruise control is of the static, non-adaptive variety.

The mid-range Aspire brings added features like adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go function, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, front and parking sensors, surround-view camera, as well as lane-changing assist.

A near full complement of airbags covers both rows of occupants, although the second row misses out on side chest protection ’bags.

At a glance 2021 MG HS PHEV
2022 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross Aspire PHEV
ANCAP rating & year tested Unrated Five stars (tested 2017)
Safety report N/A Link to ANCAP

Value for Money

MG HS

The MG HS’s main rivals are the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross PHEV (from $46,490 plus on-road costs) and the bigger Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (from $48,390 plus on-road costs). As this article went to print, an all-new MY2022 Outlander is just around the corner, so we’ll leave that one parked for now. 

One other car worth considering is the ‘non-plug-in’ Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, which is far more affordable but doesn’t allow charging from the grid (or solar array). For some that may be enough, but not for those hunting for a proper PHEV.

Locking down value for money in a plug-in hybrid vehicle could come down to the type of driving you’ll do. If you can stick to less than 63km between overnight charges, then your fuel costs should be nil, but your home electricity bill will increase (by less than the petrol would have cost).

For what it’s worth, the HS PHEV’s official fuel-consumption rating is 1.7L/100km. That’s a hard number to relate to real-world driving. Instead, we ran a 120km test loop, starting with a full battery and running it down. We then let the hybrid powertrain make decisions to achieve the most efficient operation.

And after getting just about bang-on 63km out of the HS PHEV, we averaged an overall fuel consumption of 3.7L/100km for the full loop. Given that almost exactly half of that driving was electric only, you could assume that the petrol-electric powertrain uses approximately 7.4L/100km when starting off with depleted batteries. 

Bear in mind that the MG requires more expensive 95RON premium unleaded petrol. 

MG offers a seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. Servicing is every 12 months or 10,000km. Servicing costs for the first five years are reasonable at $265, $373, $265, $421 and $265 respectively for a total of $1589.

Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

According to Mitsubishi, owners of the larger Outlander plug-in hybrid (which has been on sale here since 2014) spend up to 84 per cent of their time driving in pure electric mode. That can be interpreted to mean that four out of five round trips are less than the Outlander’s 55km pure EV range. 

Or, to spin that data another way: 10,500 of the 12,500km the supposedly average Australian drives each year could be conducted on electric power alone. So, if you have a solar array, that adds up to hundreds of litres of fuel you don’t have to buy each year. 

For the record, Mitsubishi claims the Eclipse Cross will do 55km in pure EV mode fully charged. Charging the 13.8kWh battery takes seven hours on a domestic plug or as little as 25 minutes via a CHAdeMO Mode 4 DC charger. 

The Eclipse Cross also has Vehicle to Everything (V2X) capabilities, which means it can be used as a power source to charge other cars or feed electricity into your dwelling. This might come in handy during a blackout, but other than that, I don’t see a lot of point. 

The Eclipse Cross’s official fuel-consumption rating is 1.9L/100km on the urban/country combined cycle. During our test week, we covered 250km and charged it each night, so the fuel tank indicator hardly moved. I won’t be able to say the same for my electricity bill, though, because I don’t have solar.

All Mitsubishi models come with a conditional warranty of up to 10 years or 200,000km when serviced through the Mitsubishi network. Outside those conditions, the warranty may only cover a more industry-standard five years (or 100,000km). There’s an eight-year/160,000km warranty on the EV drive system and battery. 

Servicing intervals are 12 months or 15,000km, and Mitsubishi’s Diamond Advantage capped-price servicing plan says you’ll pay $1695 for the first five years’ servicing. The next five years, however, will cost $3095 for a total of $4790 over the 10-year warranty period.

At a glance 2021 MG HS PHEV
2022 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross Aspire PHEV
Warranty Seven years/unlimited km 10 years/200,000km (conditional on servicing at Mitsubishi dealers)
Service intervals 12 months/10,000km 12 months/15,000km
Servicing costs $903 (3 year) / $1589 (5 year) $997 (3 year) | $1695 (5 year)
Fuel cons. (claimed) 1.7L/100km 1.9L/100km
Fuel cons. (on test) 3.7L/100km 2.0L/100km
Fuel type 95 octane petrol 91 octane petrol
Fuel tank size 55L 45L

Driving

MG HS

Plug-in hybrids are often laden with myriad drive modes and regenerative braking options, making the ideal operation strategy tricky to locate. What’s refreshing about the MG HS PHEV is that there are two very simple settings.

On start, it defaults to auto hybrid mode, which targets optimum range and fuel economy by using both the petrol engine and electric motor together. There’s no other configuration in this mode and regenerative braking is always on.

The system recuperates quite heavily, meaning you need the brake less often than some other cars. The amount of deceleration is easy to manage, and you quickly become accustomed to lifting earlier instead of using the brake pedal.

Performance on offer is decent, as nearly all electrically assisted vehicles are. A quick jab of the throttle manifests torque instantly, which you feel physically. With the hammer down, the MG HS will get from 0-100km/h in a claimed 6.9 seconds.

In-gear acceleration is good, too, but feels different to what’s usual. Transitions between electric take-offs and combined hybrid drive are seamless and reminiscent of what you find in other alternatives. But you will feel the petrol engine’s vibrations coming through the accelerator pedal, which is quite off-putting after enjoying smooth, vibration-free electric motoring.

What is also noticeable is a sensation between each of the internal combustion engine’s gear changes, as the electric motor continues to provide drive. During those movements, there’s a small feeling of torque delay, as the petrol engine’s oomph is faded in and out between each ratio change. It’s reminiscent of the waft you get from constantly variable transmissions, albeit dialled up and more potent.

In terms of ride quality, the MG HS PHEV is pleasantly on the softer side. Over the prescribed roads it felt comfortable, and easily passed over road imperfections without jittering or corruption. At times the ride can feel heavy and a touch cumbersome, particularly on undulating roads. The damping needs additional tuning to better control aftershocks too.

Steering is on the heavier side, but as per the regular HS range it remains direct and natural. Given plug-in hybrids can operate silently, road noise and cabin rattles can become magnified. I noticed nothing intrusive during the drive, nor a single rattle from the cabin.

Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

First up, the plug-in hybrid Eclipse Cross has the same driving controls as a conventional petrol- or diesel-powered car, so it’s easy to just jump in and drive. But if you want to make the most of your EV, you’ll need to learn how to extract the best from the drivetrain. 

For starters, there’s an EV mode switch that tells the petrol engine to take a holiday and leaves the battery and motors to do all the moving (as long as you stay under 135km/h). Next to that is a ‘save charge’ button that does the opposite. This button is handy in Europe where owners need to safeguard their electrons for use in EV-only built-up areas, but not so handy in Australia unless you’d prefer to consume fuel.

In between those two buttons is the most confusing part of driving the Eclipse Cross PHEV, but it doesn’t take much to master.

Instead of a conventional automatic gear selector, this car’s selector needs to be pulled right before going down into drive or up into reverse. And, once you’re in drive, you can pull it down to go into B mode. 

B mode allows you to adjust the regenerative braking function, which basically captures kinetic energy that’s usually lost during deceleration and braking, and channels it back into the battery to be deployed the next time you accelerate. 

B mode has six sensitivity settings from 0 to 5, the latter being the most aggressive, which can be changed using the gear selector paddles mounted on the steering wheel. Confusingly, you use the minus paddle to go up the numbers, and the plus paddle to go down. 

During our test drive, we left it in ‘5’ to recapture the most energy. But, even in ‘5’ the ‘braking’ effect is not very strong. This is not a car you can drive on a single pedal like some other EVs.  

Apart from all that, the Eclipse Cross is competent to drive, though it does suffer from a little wind noise kicked up by those big wing mirrors. 

At times the suspension is harsh, and the steering wheel can load up during fast three-point turns, but in general, it’s hard to fault this little Mitsubishi. Probably the most interesting thing about the way it drives is the spaceship-like electric whoosh it makes as it drives by.

But hey, not everyone wants cars that put a smile on their dial. Some want transport that gets them reliably, safely and comfortably from A to B, and back to A. The Eclipse Cross does most of that.

Key details 2021 MG HS PHEV 2022 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross Aspire PHEV
Engine 1.5-litre, four-cylinder turbo petrol 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol
Power 119kW @ 5500rpm / 90kW (front electric motor) 94kW @ 4500rpm / 60kW (front electric motor) / 70kW (rear electric motor)
Torque 250Nm @ 4300rpm / 230Nm (front electric motor) 199Nm @ 4500rpm / 137Nm (front electric motor) / 195Nm (rear electric motor)
Drive type Front-wheel drive All-wheel drive on-demand
Transmission Six-speed automatic (petrol) / four-speed automatic (electric) Multi-mode front transaxle (petrol), single-speed (electric) automatic
Power to weight ratio 67kW/t 49kW/t
Weight 1775kg 1895kg
Tow rating 1500kg braked, 750kg unbraked, 1500kg braked, 750kg unbraked,
Turning circle N/A 10.9m

Conclusion

Despite the category classification differences that place the MG in the medium SUV bracket and the Eclipse Cross in the small SUV bracket, these two vehicles are not worlds apart in useable space inside. Even though the Eclipse Cross is 3cm shorter in length and 7cm narrower, it will carry four adults and their luggage in almost as much comfort as the MG.

Both cabins are hospitable, although in this regard the MG’s endearing but sometimes flawed attempts to add panache make it harder to live with than the uninspiring but perfectly functional Eclipse Cross. The Eclipse Cross has the edge in terms of features and equipment, although the MG’s price advantage does mitigate that somewhat.

Then there are the two plug-in hybrid experiences to compare. Whereas the MG promises 63km on a charge, the Mitsubishi claims only 55km. During our testing, we learned that both will deliver on those promises, and both take roughly seven hours to recharge from a domestic outlet.

The Eclipse Cross is the more competent of the two on-road. Its petrol/electric drivetrain is more polished, steering takes less effort, and the suspension tune copes better with Australian roads.

But for us, the Mitsubishi is the more complete – and more finished – package. Everything just works a bit better than the MG, from the powertrain to the in-car infotainment system and beyond. Add to that the peace of mind of a 10-year warranty, and the relative fuel savings of regular unleaded compared to the MG’s seven-year warranty and thirst for premium unleaded, and the Mitsubishi is the one we recommend.

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