REVIEW DATE: 10 May 2007
Today No Supermini Range Is Complete Without A Diesel Engine Option. The Mitsubishi Colt Range's Representative Is The 1.5-Litre DI-D. Steve Walker Reports.
A little car in one sense, Mitsubishi's Colt is definitely a big car in terms of its importance to the Japanese company's future prospects. The profitability of the supermini market is such that every manufacturer with designs on mainstream status needs a competitive contender - something that Mitsubishi were manifestly lacking for too long. With the arrival of the latest Colt, however, they gained a supermini to make rivals sit up and take notice, with the 1.5-litre DI-D models providing access to the burgeoning diesel supermini sub-sector.
In years gone by, diesel power was not an option readily considered by the average supermini buyer. Diesel engines tended to be large, heavy units that didn't lend themselves particularly well to fitment in small cars. The fuel economy and cost benefits of a diesel were largely outweighed by the noisy unrefined nature of the engines, especially on the kind of short trip, urban motoring that a supermini typically undertook. Today, as you're probably aware, things are different. Diesel engines are smaller, significantly more refined and more economical. As a result, they're an increasingly popular choice for supermini buyers - especially those who value muscular performance and harbour a phobia for filling station forecourts.
This brings us to the Mitsubishi Colt's diesel engine, the 70bhp 3-cylinder 1.5-litre DI-D. It's a direct injection unit rather than one of the common-rail injection alternatives favoured by many other manufacturers. Direct injection can't match the smoothness and refinement that the best common-rails achieve but the high pressure, variable injections still help produce respectable urge through the mid-range and fuel economy that's out of the top draw. The 1.5-litre DI-D Mitsubishi Colts can break the 62mph barrier from a standing start in 11 seconds flat but the flexibility available in the middle of the rev range makes the car feel a little quicker than that. There's not much going on below 1,000rpm but by the time maximum torque of 210Nm hits at 1,800rpm, the Colt feels like its really motoring. Few superminis can surpass the Colt DI-D's 59mpg average fuel economy and it's claimed that the car will even return 45mpg around town. Mitsubishi have a tidy little diesel unit on their hands and it's likely that buyers will be keen to get their hands on it.
"Few superminis can surpass the Colt DI-D's 59mpg average fuel economy."
The Colt is one of these superminis that take a kind of truncated MPV approach. Its one-box exterior shape helps to create a degree of interior space and flexibility that the sector's more conventionally styled products can't really match. The downside to this type of small car can be a rather nondescript exterior appearance but here, Mitsubishi's design department have done sterling work. The clean lines are simple but memorable enough and the neatly abbreviated rear with its long corner-mounted light clusters looks particularly smart. Inside, the urge to over-complicate matters has been resisted but there is some very nice detailing with only the quality of the plastics occasionally letting the Colt down. The round dials with their silver centres are highlighted with white surrounds that glow a pale green in the dark. Then there's the white column fabricated from the same luminous material, that runs from the centre console down to the base of the gearstick. It's unusual but overall the interior pulls together very nicely.
The 1.5-litre DI-D engine is available in five-door form from £10,499 with the CZ2 trim level that most choose and the option of automatic transmission. Go for a three-door and there's only a manual CZ3 variant, priced at £10,499. Either way, basically, most of the items buyers at this price will be looking for are included. On the safety front, there are twin front airbags and the brakes are marshalled by an ABS system with EBD.
On a practical level, the Colt cabin feels spacious but it should do in light of exterior dimensions on the 5-door version that are amongst the largest in the class and a wheelbase of 2,500mm. Passenger accommodation is class leading, though boot space isn't as extensive as you might expect. 315 litres are on offer in a cargo area which is bettered by most rivals but fold the rear seats down and the 645-litre loadbay that's created should be enough for most. The space itself is uniformly shaped, so sliding in bulky items should be a straightforward task.
The Mitsubishi Colt is a fun little car to drive with a grippy front end, accurate steering and a first class gearshift. When you do get your foot down, the diesel engine can become a little raucous but it's nothing too over the top. The turning circle is surprisingly tight for what is one of the larger superminis out there with the wheel-at-each-corner layout helping on this score. If the manual 5-speed box isn't to your liking, Mitsubishi are offering their 6-speed AllShift automatic transmission with the 1.5-litre DI-D. It costs £500 more but it'll do the shifting for you or convert to semi-automatic mode let you flick up and down the ratios yourself. We're not talking about one of the slickest automatic set-ups on the market but if you're determined to dispense with the clutch, it does an adequate job.
The Mitsubishi Colt DI-D comes across as a desirable, well-rounded package. The manufacturers have steered clear of the more overt styling devices favoured by some rivals and kept it simple without bordering too closely on the boring. Interior space is class leading and the DI-D diesel engine, though not the last word in performance or refinement, is well priced and very capable. Fuel economy in particular is a trump card. It seems Mitsubishi have a competitive diesel supermini to play with, rival manufacturers should take note.
|For COLT 1.5-LITRE DI-D|
|OVERALL||7.5 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||8|