REVIEW DATE: 10 Aug 2006
Mitsubishi's 3-Door Colt Is Doing Decent Business For The Japanese Marque, Helped Largely By Cars Like This Affordable Blue Model. Jonathan Crouch Checks It Out
Mitsubishi has never had much success in the small car market. Not at least until the arrival of the latest generation Colt supermini. Though sales have been steadier than the importers would have liked, they're a lot more buoyant than anything the brand has managed in this sector before. The reason? Well most experts are agreed that this car is up there with the class-leading small runabouts.
Many models of this kind work best in their cheapest guises and the Colt is no exception. Here, we're looking at the value-packed Blue variant, priced at an eminently reasonable £8,499 in three-door form (the only bodyshape offered in this particular trim level). 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.
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.
Equipment on the Blue version we look at here is a lot more comprehensive than you might expect. As well as the Atlantis Blue metallic paintwork and colour-coded bodywork features, this Colt sits on a set of smart 16-inch alloy wheels. And the colour co-ordination continues inside. The blue interior is complemented by a blue and black leather steering wheel and gear shift knob, while the kit list includes the remote central locking, electric front windows, CD player, sliding rear seat, ABS and twin airbags fitted to all Colts. To this tally, the Blue adds automatic headlights, automatic wipers, seatback pockets, an upgraded MP3-compatible six-speaker sound system and side airbags. Air conditioning is the only extras box you might want to tick. Free insurance and three years' free servicing are included as part of the deal.
"The Colt Blue aims to help the broader Colt 3-door Range score for Mitsubishi where they've failed to find the back of the net before.."
But exactly how Japanese is it? That's a question open to debate. Built in Holland alongside the Space Star and the smart fofour 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 seems an all-European party and Great Britain is 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.
Under the bonnet of the Blue, there's a 75bhp 1.1-litre three-cylinder petrol engine allied to a five speed manual gearbox. The unit propels the lively Colt to a maximum speed of 103mph. The sprint timing from 0 to 62mph in 13.4 seconds is reasonable, if not spectacular, for a car of this size. Still, the average fuel consumption figure of just over 50mpg isn't at all bad.
The Colt Blue aims to help the broader Colt 3-door Range 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. Try one and see if you can find the catch.
|For COLT BLUE|
|OVERALL||7.0 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||8|