REVIEW DATE: 10 May 2007
It's Been A Long Time Since There's Been A Small Mitsubishi Worth Getting Excited About. The Colt 3-Door Looks To Change All That. Andy Enright Reports
Here's a question to chew over. When was the last time you got excited over a small Mitsubishi? I may be going out on a limb here but I'd hazard a guess at never. There have been some fun big cars bearing the three diamonds and the Lancer Evo series is a cracking steer but get any smaller than that and it all becomes a bit moribund. Until lately that is. The latest Colt five door has provoked a good deal of interest and there's also a sassily-styled three-door version offered. Just getting the Mitsuishi brand onto the radars of small car buyers was an achievement. The 3-door version could well convert these maybes into firm sales.
Swaying potential buyers away from a Volkswagen Polo or a Ford Fiesta isn't going to be an easy task but if styling counts for anything, the Colt 3-door has a clear head start. Although designer Oliver Boulay has had his off days - witness the Maybach limousine - this effort is spot on. Stylists have a good deal more leeway when it comes to penning a sexy shape for a three-door car than the rather frumpier five-door shapes. Because the back seats are used less, they can get away with rakish angled windowlines and arced tailgate sections. The shape of the Colt 3-door reflects this although it's still a bit of a stretch to call it 'coupe like' as Mitsubishi are wont to do. Prices start at £7,499 for the entry-level 1.1-litre version.
The most notable detail is the rear overhangs or rather the complete absence of them. This gives the this car a real squat, aggressive, foursquare stance that even the long doors and teardrop profile side windows can do nothing to disguise. There are certain elements of the Peugeot 206 in the glasshouse but it's certainly a very appealing styling job. What's more it shares only its bonnet and front bumper with the five-door model. Every other exterior body panel is unique to the Colt 3-door.
Of most interest to those who are after a 'mini-Evo' will be the £12,999 150bhp turbocharged range topper, dubbed the CZT. This sort of power in a car this small should provide ample entertainment and a viable option for those previously considering a Fiesta ST or a Citroen C2 VTS. This engine features double overhead cams, 16 valves, and an intercooler and will punt the CZT to 60mph in 7.8 seconds and on to a top speed of 130mph. The 210Nm of torque on offer isn't to be sniffed at either: it's more than a Honda S2000 roadster can come up with. With Nissan, Honda, Toyota and Mazda all lacking a credible supermini snorter, the CZT looks the hottest of the Japanese tots.
"Exactly how Japanese is the Colt 3-door? That's a question open to debate"
But exactly how Japanese is it? That's a question open to debate. Built in Holland in the Nedcar facility, the Colt 3-door was developed at the specific request of Mitsubishi Motors Europe and styled by Boulay, a Frenchman. Debuting at the '04 Paris Motor Show, it seemed an all-European party and Great Britain was earmarked for a big proportion of its global sales figures.
It's a landmark car for Mitsubishi in any number of ways. It needs to be too, as Mitsubishi is a company that has lost its way in recent years. Yes, the Lancer Evo and the L200 Warrior pick up may garner some appreciative nods but little else in the Mitsubishi range is a big enough draw. Part owners Daimler Chrysler have taken a tough line with Mitsubishi of late and the company needs to sort itself out rather than rely on hand outs. If they keep turning out cars like the this one, things may well be looking up.
Although Mitsubishi has had some lean years in terms of European sales, the UK importers - somewhat confusingly called the Colt Car Company - have seen sales double over the past four years. If Mitsubishi can capitalise upon our natural predilection for the three diamonds, the Colt 3-door is set fair to give rivals in the supermini class something to think about.
Although the CZT will doubtless garner all of the column inches, the big sellers have proved to be more prosaic models. Four powerplants are included in the line-up: the 75bhp 1.1-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, a 95bhp four-cylinder 1.3-litre powerplant that looks set to be the most popular and a 109bhp four-cylinder 1.5-litre unit. There's also a 1.5-litre three-pot Mercedes-derived turbodiesel developing 95bhp. Five speed manual gearboxes are fitted as standard but a six-speed Allshift automated manual is also available should you want to splash out. If the Colt five-door is anything to go by, the 1.3-litre engine is presently the best compromise between economy and performance, the 1.5-litre unit being a little sibilant in the upper reaches of the rev range.
Perhaps the Colt 3-door will score for Mitsubishi where they've failed to find the back of the net before. The fundamentals have always been in place but buyers these days are a demanding bunch. Merely having top line safety and reliability isn't enough. On top of this you also need slick styling, neat detailing and excellent dynamics. Mitsubishi are confident that this car meets all these counts and have priced it aggressively to boot. At the moment it's hard to see the catch.
|For COLT 3-DOOR RANGE|
|OVERALL||7.4 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||8|