To stake your claim on a slice of the increasingly congested sports utility market you need to be able to outshine the opposition.

Lining up against the likes of the SEAT Ateca, Peugeot 3008 and Nissan Qashqai, the mid-sized Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross comes jostling through the throng complete not only with distinctive, stylish looks and a refined interior but a five-star package of safety equipment.

Externally, the Eclipse Cross blends chunky 4x4 and coupé-like styling to deliver a bold profile that stands out from the crowd.

At present the Eclipse Cross is available with a single engine, a new 1.5-litre, turbocharged, four-cylinder petrol that produces more than 160 horsepower, which is available with two-wheel-drive and a six-speed manual or continuously variable automatic gearbox, or as in the car driven here, four-wheel-drive and automatic gearbox.

Push the accelerator hard and the automatic gearbox lets the revs rise rapidly without much happening. But driven smoothly with an eye on economy and comfort and the car transforms into a little gem. At speed it cruises quietly along with an equally unobtrusive engine and a supple ride.

Whatever speed you are travelling, the steering has a solid weight and body roll is pretty well contained.

Inside the cabin, Mitsubishi has started using much nicer materials, with lots of squashy plastic covering everything from the door tops to the dashboard along with sleek piano-black trim and metal-effect inserts.

The dashboard itself is dominated by a seven-inch touchscreen, complete with an easy-to-operate touch-pad controller between the front seats.

The switchgear also feels chunkier and apart from a line of buttons tucked away at the bottom of the dashboard, all the controls are easy to find and use.

Thanks to a long wheelbase, there is plenty of space for five adults, along with a versatile load space that matches any family hatchback.

Comfort for passengers is given a lift by slide-and-recline adjustment for the 60:40 split rear seat that has eight different recline settings and a base that can be pushed backwards and forwards by up to 20cm.

The Eclipse Cross is priced from £21,275 on-the-road and comes in three trim levels with all models fitted with a touch-pad controller, smartphone display audio that is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, rear view camera, DAB radio with six speakers, cruise control, climate control air conditioning, LED daytime running lights, Bluetooth connectivity for hands-free calls, 16-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass and heated door mirrors.

Mitsubishi is not offering a built-in satnav, arguing that smartphone users already have access to navigation.

All versions also have lane departure warning, forward collision mitigation that uses radar technology to detect a risk of collision, anti-lock brakes, active stability control, hill start assist, brake assist, seven airbags, dusk and rain sensors and automatic operation of the headlights’ dipped beam.

Jump to the test model in top-of-the-range specification and in comes everything from leather trim, electrically-adjustable driver’s seat and an electric opening panoramic roof, to nine-speaker Rockford Fosgate sound system and a collection of driver assistance systems including LED headlamps, 360-degree parking camera, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, lane change assist and adaptive cruise control.

While the car has a higher starting price than some of its rivals, it comes with an impressive level of equipment that is more than enough to secure its place against an imposing array of rivals.

Auto facts

Model: Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross 4 Auto 4WD

Price: £28,165

Insurance group: 20E (1-50)

Fuel consumption (combined): 40.4mpg

Top speed: 124mph

Length: 440.5cm/173.4in

Width: 180.5cm/70.9in

Luggage capacity: 15.8 cu ft

Fuel tank capacity: 13.8 gallons/63 litres

CO2 emissions: 159g/km

Warranty: Five years/ 62,500 miles