Full 2012 Mitsubishi Eclipse Review
What's New for 2012
For 2012, a new special-edition Mitsubishi Eclipse "SE" model debuts with a number of appearance upgrades.
Every once in a while a car's name takes on a second and entirely unintended meaning. Such is the case with the 2012 Mitsubishi Eclipse. The Eclipse coupe and Spyder convertible, both in their last year of production, were once darlings of the sport compact scene. In the last few years, however, a new breed of inexpensive, fun-to-drive coupes and convertibles have literally eclipsed the old favorite.
The problems start under the hood. Even when this latest-generation Eclipse was new, its base four-cylinder engine and four-speed automatic were pretty mediocre. Today, that combination lags in both performance and fuel economy. The 265-horsepower V6 powering the Eclipse GT is a better fit for the car's avant-garde styling, but again it's outclassed. Most current V6 sport coupes and convertibles boast at least 300 hp and better fuel economy.
Other downsides include a small backseat, lackluster interior quality and a high price. The latter might not be much of an issue, as dealers will likely have plenty of cash incentives to wave around. Even so, we'd recommend shoppers try the Chevrolet Camaro V6, Ford Mustang V6 and Hyundai Genesis Coupe. All are better choices. If you're only looking for a sexy shape and good fuel economy, put the Kia Forte Koup and Scion tC on your test-drive list.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Mitsubishi Eclipse is offered in both four-passenger coupe and convertible (Spyder) body styles. Coupe models are offered in four trim levels -- GS, GS Sport, SE and GT -- while the Eclipse Spyder comes in just those last three flavors.
The entry-level GS model comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, variable intermittent wipers, air-conditioning, keyless entry, cruise control, full power accessories, a tilt-only steering wheel, 50/50 split-folding rear seatbacks and a six-speaker CD sound system with an auxiliary audio input jack.
The GS Sport adds xenon headlights, foglights, a sunroof, heated power mirrors, a rear wiper, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a six-way power driver seat, Bluetooth and a nine-speaker Rockford Fosgate sound system with six-CD changer, satellite radio and steering wheel controls. The Spyder GS Sport includes a power convertible roof. The new SE model gets all that, plus special styling details that include distinctive dark gray alloy wheels, matching rocker panel graphics and black mirrors.
The GT adds a standard V6 engine, bigger rear brakes, a sport-tuned suspension and automatic climate control. There are no significant factory options to speak of, but there are a number of dealer-installed accessories including an iPod adapter.
Powertrains and Performance
Power for the front-wheel-drive 2012 Mitsubishi Eclipse and Eclipse Spyder comes from one of two engines. GS, GS Sport and SE models come with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that produces 162 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. The GS comes standard with a five-speed manual, while a four-speed automatic is an option. The auto comes standard on the GS Sport and SE. EPA estimated fuel economy with either transmission is 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined.
The Eclipse GT gets a 3.6-liter V6 good for 265 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic is standard. This engine requires premium fuel and its estimated fuel economy is 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined.
The 2012 Mitsubishi Eclipse and Eclipse Spyder's standard safety features include four-wheel antilock brakes, stability control and front seat side-impact airbags. Coupe models also get front side curtain airbags, while the Spyder gets taller side airbags that cover occupants' heads. The rear seats lack head restraints. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the Eclipse Spyder earned a top rating of "Good" in both the frontal-offset and side crash tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
Both the Eclipse and Eclipse Spyder offer attractive interiors, though the overall impression is cheapened somewhat by the use of low-quality plastics. Front seats are comfortable and supportive, but the lack of a telescoping steering wheel means some drivers may struggle to find an ideal driving position.
Rear seatbacks are too upright to be comfortable for more than a short trip, and taller passengers will also crave more headroom here. Those seatbacks split 50/50, however, and folding down both sections creates a healthy 15.7 cubic feet of cargo room.
The most notable difference in the Spyder's passenger cabin is that the three-layer cloth convertible top makes for limited visibility out the back. The power-operated top can be lowered in about 20 seconds, but doing so cuts cargo capacity to a meager 5.2 cubic feet.
Behind the wheel, the 2012 Mitsubishi Eclipse underwhelms. The four-cylinder engine can barely propel the hefty car with any authority. The more powerful V6 is better suited to this application, though hard acceleration usually results in spinning tires and heavy doses of torque steer.
Handling is competent, though the large turning circle hampers slow-speed maneuverability. The Spyder exhibits noticeable chassis flex over rough pavement, but not enough to detract from the joys of al fresco motoring.