REVIEW DATE: 14 Aug 2008
June Neary checks out Mitsubishi's hot tot
The Mitsubishi Colt name has been around for years, usually attached to cars that were about as exciting as a quiet night in reading the European Constitution. Therefore when I heard that a Colt was winging its way to chez Neary, I prepared for the worst, cancelling appointments for that forthcoming week and limiting myself to a three-mile radius of the house. In truth, I needn't have bothered. Neatly styled and very well equipped, the Colt delivered to me, a 1.5-litre DI-D diesel 5-door in CZ3 trim, was most presentable. In fact I had to go grovelling in order to get myself back onto the guest list of the party I'd blown off only half an hour previously.
If the dimensions of this baby Colt are giving you a little deja vu, it's because it shares most of its basics with the now defunct Smart Forfour. In fact, fully sixty per cent of its parts are common with the ill-fated super-sized Smart but you'd be hard pressed to guess this when seated behind the wheel. Everything is neat but sensibly styled with no dials sprouting from the fascia top. 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. Mitsubishi can claim the crown for most interior space in this market sector and there's little doubt that for a supermini at least, this car has been generously cut. 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 help to maximise available space, the 2,500mm wheelbase being a good deal longer than a Renault Clio or a Fiat Punto. The feel of the car is certainly a good deal more modern with plenty of headroom and an airiness lacking from many of its rather claustrophobic rivals. 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.
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 it's 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.
I was initially a little wary of the Mitsubishi Colt but once sampled, it's a car that's at once remarkably vice-free and intensely likeable. If Mitsubishi can get more people to realise quite how good it is they could well have a sleeper hit on their hands.