REVIEW DATE: 12 Jun 2009
Mitsubishi's greenest Colt has got a petrol engine. Steve Walker reports.
By now, we're used to car manufactures trotting out eco-friendly versions of their products to tempt buyers seeking to cut costs and cleanse their consciences. Mitsubishi was promptly aboard the bandwagon with its Colt ClearTec, a vehicle that initially looks like more of the same but on closer inspection, turns out have a trick or two under its bonnet.
When fashioning one of these special environmental models, most manufacturers take the apparently logical step of starting with their most fuel-efficient standard car. They'll then make a series of modifications to render that model even more fuel-efficient. One problem with this approach is that the most fuel-efficient model in most small car ranges tends to be a diesel and it usually comes at quite a price premium over the petrol alternatives. In a car which has low costs as one half of its dual focus, this can look a little incongruous. Mitsubishi has taken a different approach and used its 1.3-litre petrol engine as the basis for its Colt ClearTec. This is primarily due to the complete absence of diesel engines from the current Colt range but it has the happy coincidence of giving the ClearTec both a low asking price and an important edge over its rivals.
The 1.3-litre petrol engine isn't even the Colt's smallest. There's a 74bhp 1.1-litre unit that sits below it in the standard range but the 94bhp 1.3-litre got the nod for conversion into ClearTec guise. Most other manufacturers have employed numerous small tweaks to achieve superior fuel economy on their environmentally-friendly models. The ClearTec Colt has these too but also goes for a big headline-grabber in the shape of Mitsubishi's Auto Stop & Go technology. The system turns the engine off when the Colt is stationary like the other similar devices that are on the market but it has an extra bit of intelligence built in. Auto Stop & Go monitors seven of the car's systems to determine whether or not cutting the engine when the car reaches a standstill would be appropriate. It checks stuff like engine temperature, battery power, electrical load and brake pressure but also takes account of the steering angle. If more than a quarter turn of steering lock is applied, the system assumes you're at a junction and might want to make a quick getaway, so the engine stays running. The aim is to make the system more user-friendly.
".buyers intent on actually saving money are likely to appreciate the Colt ClearTec"
In general, the Colt is a sparky little supermini with an enjoyable driving experience but it can't live with the best performers in the sector and never feels as sophisticated a proposition as the likes of Ford's Fiesta or Volkswagen's Polo. At least that fact is reflected in the price. The 1.3-litre engine gets the ClearTec to 60mph slightly faster than it does the standard car. The sprint takes 10.4s in the eco-focused model and 11s in an ordinary 1.3 Colt. The top speed is also improved by 1mph to 112mph, another side-effect of the ClearTec's efficiency modifications.
Does this front end remind you of a jet fighter? No, us neither. Still, that was apparently Mitsubishi's objective with this facelift. What they have managed to do is to give the car more of a shared family resemblance to their iconic Lancer Evo X performance models, which can't be a bad thing. It's also quite an achievement given that such a tall shape would normally bring a utilitarian MPV to mind rather than something racy. The revised front end includes restyled bumpers and headlamps while, at the rear the car gets darker lamps, a redesigned tailgate and revised rear bumper. Overall though, the look remains much as before with a nuggety compactness to the shape that pleases.
Inside, the high roof level makes it all feel quite spacious for passengers with decent leg and headroom everywhere, but it is worth pointing out that if you prioritise bootspace, you'll have to put up with less than is offered by most supermini rivals - 186 litres with the rear seats in place and 568 litres with them folded. Still, the space that is on offer is uniformly shaped, so sliding in bulky items should be a straightforward task.
At the wheel, the dash is simple, with large, clear instruments and buttons which you should find to be easy to find and use. It's a pity that the steering column adjusts for height only, but the Colt isn't alone as a supermini in this respect and we reckon that most people should still be able to get comfortable.
The premium for a ClearTec Colt is a very reasonable £500 over a standard 1.3-litre CZ2 petrol model. The prices being asked by Mitsubishi start to look better still when you consider that a Ford Fiesta ECOnetic is over £3,000 more, a SEAT Ibiza ECOmotive is nearly £2,500 more and a Vauxhall Corsa ECOFlex is over £2,000 more. These alternatives all use diesel engines and are more efficient than the ClearTec but with the cost of diesel factored in, along with these large price premiums, it isn't too hard to make a financial case for the Mitsubishi.
All models come with a CD player featuring MP3 connectivity, lighting that stays on to guide you to the front door at night, plus power steering, a vehicle immobiliser, electric front windows and remote locking. The CZ2 trim level that the ClearTec models are based on also comes with cruise control, air-conditioning and keyless entry. Les impressive is a modest safety specification that only includes two front airbags, ABS brakes and hazard lights that flash under emergency braking.
The bottom line of all the fuel saving measures employed by the Colt ClearTec is emissions of 119g/km and 56.5mpg economy. Rival models using diesel engines typically get well over 60mpg and over 70mpg in some cases but the Colt can hold its own. As well as the Auto Stop & Go technology, it features a revised engine compression ratio and different gearing from the standard cars, there's a special alternator that recaptures energy under braking to charge the battery and low rolling resistance tyres also put in an appearance.
It's been hinted that petrol engines and not diesels will be the next big thing in efficient small cars with the cost of the engines and of the fuel itself eventually putting the brakes on the oil-burning boom. Mitsubishi's Colt ClearTec is a step in that direction even if there's nothing special about the 1.3-litre petrol engine under its bonnet. With Auto Stop & Go stop/start technology allied to numerous other efficiency modifications, Mitsubishi has achieved a desirable blend of strong environmental credentials and a low price.
The Colt isn't one of the slickest supermini models currently on the market, lacking the quality and composure to challenge the class leaders. What it can do in ClearTec guise is provide a roomy, fun and well-equipped small car with very low running costs at an attractive price. If you want to boast about the incredible fuel economy you're getting, this might not be the car for you but buyers intent on actually saving money are likely to appreciate the Colt ClearTec.
|For COLT CLEARTEC|
|OVERALL||7.3 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||8|