REVIEW DATE: 10 May 2007
Mitsubishi's Colt Has Gone From Nowhere To Class Leadership In The Supermini Sector. Jonathan Crouch Checks Out A 1.3-litre Model In A Bid to Find Out How And Why.
For once, the advertising strapline told a truthful tale. When it emerged, the little Colt on test here was hailed by the copywriters as 'the new Mitsubishi' - and that's exactly what it was. This car has little in common with some of the tired designs we've seen from this company in previous years and even less in common with its dowdy predecessor.
From nowhere, the Colt surged into contention at the head of the supermini class, quite a result for a company with virtually no track record in this, the most competitive (and important) of market sectors. So how was this achieved?
Well, part of the answer is that the development budget for this all-new design was subsidised by Daimler Chrysler's smart division. In return for which, smart's forfour was produced alongside the Colt and rolled down exactly the same Dutch production line until smart's financial woes called a halt to the forfour's innings. You wouldn't know to look at the two cars side by side that they shared the same origins, so carefully were they differentiated, but the Colt is the only part of the double act that's still in business and that can only help sales.
Prices are competitive. Take the 5-door 1.3-litre petrol Colt model we're looking at here. It costs £9,499 in manual CZ2 guise or, if you're after the 'Allshift' automatic, you'll pay £9,999.
Behind the wheel, everything is neat but sensibly styled with no dials sprouting from the fascia top as we saw on the ill-fated smart version. It's certainly a major leap forward from the uninspiring Colt interiors we've been accustomed to. If you expect supermini dashboards to be fussy, cheap and cluttered, the elegantly minimalist Colt fascia will be a very pleasant revelation.
"From nowhere, experts have now hailed Mitsubishi's supermini entrant as a class leader."
One nice touch is the Apple iPod-like white plastic strip that runs between the seats and behind the gearlever, glowing a cool green at night. We liked the seats too - far more supportive than in most superminis. Forward visibility is good as well but the lines of sight are not so clear at the rear.
The Colt has some of the best passenger interior space in this market sector and there's little doubt that for a supermini at least, this car has been generously cut. Sitting on its front-wheel drive platform, the 5-door Colt is 3,870mm long, 1,550mm high and 1,695mm wide, creating a wide and tall profile, with a long 2,500mm wheelbase. Generous 1,460mm front and 1,445mm rear tracks maximise interior accommodation and offer class-leading cabin space. As well as having the best total legroom in the segment, the Colt's versatility comes from a novel rear-seating arrangement with 40/60 split rear seats which can be individually reclined, folded or removed altogether, creating 645litres of load space. The backrests of the front passenger seat can also be folded forwarded to accommodate longer items, resulting in a small car that can suit many purposes.
Even with a six-footer at the wheel, there's enough room in the back for all but the rangiest adults and the boot is a prodigious size. A long wheelbase and compact suspension set up - Macpherson struts up front and a low volume torsion beam arrangement at the rear - help to maximise available space. That wheelbase being a good deal longer than most rivals.
The Colt feels a good deal more assured on the road than that high rise styling might suggest. The suspension is fairly firm but on rutted city streets, only the worst that local government negligence can throw at it will upset its uncanny composure. The flipside of this is that the Colt offers a surprisingly generous dose of entertainment with decently weighted steering and better than adequate body control. The brakes are discs up front and drums at the back, except for the range-topping 1.5-litre petrol model which gets discs all round. Anti-lock and electronic brakeforce distribution are standard on all models, as is electrically assisted power steering.
The 1.3-litre engine we're looking at here is presently the best compromise between economy and performance across the range, but there are of course other options. These include an entry-level 75bhp 1.1-litre petrol unit and two 1.5-litre engines, one a petrol, the other a diesel. As an engine, the 1.3 is reasonably quiet and eager to pile on the revs. Those in search of something that will spend plenty of time on the motorway might prefer to bargain their way up to a 1.5-litre model which is more refined and an easier companion on longer trips.
Though this Colt still isn't the most charismatic of cars, it's now one of the very best when you take into account the factors that really count when you're buying a modernday supermini. It's certainly one you can't afford to leave off the list when shopping around for a Fiesta or Corsa-sized car of this kind. And we never thought we'd end up saying that about a Mitsubishi.
|For COLT 1.3-LITRE RANGE|
|OVERALL||7.1 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||8|