REVIEW DATE: 18 Jun 2009
Models Covered: 2dr convertible (1.5, 1.5T petrol [CZ1, CZ2, CZ3])
A folding hard-top roof is a big piece of apparatus to fit into a supermini bodyshell but Mitsubishi's engineers managed it with the Colt CZC and did so without too many drawbacks. The styling with the roof up is somewhat gawky but roof-down, the shape is much better resolved. The rear seats are really only suitable for children or baggage but space in the front is fine and build quality is strong. Mitsubishi's cute little convertible won't be to everyone's taste but as an affordable way into open-topped motoring, it's one of the more sensible options out there.
If your heart is telling you that you want a convertible car but your bank manager doesn't quite concur, there is still hope. On the used market, some of the most desirable drop-tops around take on a new air of affordability and if they're still on the outside of your price range, compact cabriolets like Mitsubishi's Colt CZC should make an acceptable alternative. A folding metal roof grafted onto the Colt supermini platform won't carry the high street wow-factor of an Audi or BMW effort but when the sun gets its hat on, fans of open-topped driving won't give two squirts of their factor 25.
The Mitsubishi Colt on which the Mitsubishi Colt CZC cabriolet is based made its debut in 2004 but the CZC version loitered in the shadows until 2006 before putting in its appearance in UK showrooms. It arrived at a time when supermini manufacturers were adopting folding hard-top technology in increasing numbers with the aim of grabbing a piece of the action that Peugeot had cornered with its 206CC model. Aside from that Peugeot and this Mitsubishi, notable protagonists in this emerging supermini-based convertible market included the Nissan Micra C+C and the Vauxhall Tigra. A couple of engines were offered in the Colt CZC. A 1.5-litre petrol unit with 107bhp and the 1.5-litre turbocharged effort that powered the feisty Colt CZT warm hatch. With 147bhp, the latter unit could produce a spiky turn of speed even with the extra weight of the roof mechanism to content with. Trim levels were a simple CZ1, CZ2 and CZ3. Towards the end of 2008, the Colt supermini received a hefty facelift that looked to bring a touch more aggression and sporty intent to the range with styling cues from the Lancer. The Colt CZC carried on with the front end of the pre-facelift cars, Mitsubishi presumably figuring that the leaner, meaner look wasn't the way to go in its lovable little convertible. It was probably, a wise move. The 1.5-litre Turbo engine was dropped from the line-up at around this time.
Mitsubishi based the CZC prototype on the chassis and running gear of their existing Colt five-door hatch. Which means that they needed to engineer a folding hard top roof and space for two adults up front plus two 'occasional seats' behind into a wheelbase of no more than 2,500mm. That's quite a task and the results, while impressive from a utility standpoint, won't win Mitsubishi any awards for aesthetics. That may be a little harsh as with the roof folded into the boot, the Colt CZC is a cheeky and rather appealing looking thing, with a pleasantly wedge-shaped profile and a pugnacious wheel-at-each-corner stance. It looks less happy when the roof is raised, giving it a rather odd push-me-pull-you appearance thanks to the relatively short bonnet and long rear deck. Rivals, such as Vauxhall's Tigra, showed that it is possible to produce a small coupe-cabriolet that doesn't look like a spud when the roof is in place but that car has only two seats. The CZC comes from decent stock, as the hatchback Colt is a roomy vehicle. There's only so much space between the front and rear wheels, however, and the folding hard top, while extending the rump of the car backwards, also eats into the space available for the rear seats. Unlike the relatively generous knee room on offer in the hatch, the CZC's rear seats are best left for shopping or very small kids. Get a tall driver or passenger up front and the available rear leg room virtually vanishes. Still, the CZC isn't targeted at growing families, instead aiming at twenty and thirtysomethings looking for an inexpensive, reliable, cheeky and fun car. The interior is functional but well executed. 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. Compulsive button-prodders probably won't find a whole lot to keep them amused but if you appreciate pared-down cleanliness, you'll get on just fine with the Colt CZC's cabin. Mitsubishi may have given the CZC a minimalist look and feel inside but it's actually fairly well equipped. It comes laden with standard equipment, including alloy wheels, air-conditioning, leather trimmed steering wheel and gear lever, radio/CD/MP3 stereo, four airbags, anti-lock brakes with EBD (electronic brakeforce distribution) and integrated front fog lights.
Don't be too hard on yourself if you've never seen or heard of a Colt CZC before. The car never provoked stampedes of chequebook wielding customers at Mitsubishi dealerships. Modest sales mean a modest selection of vehicles for used buyers to choose from and prices are tough to pinpoint as a result. An 08-plate model will be around £6,000 and buyers will be looking at something closer to £4,000 for one of the first models registered in 2006.
Mitsubishi's reputation for reliability is well deserved and with even more than usual to go wrong in a folding hard-top car, this has got to be a big point in the CZC's favour. The engines are used in a number of other Mitsubishi products and should prove durable but check cars featuring the turbocharged unit carefully to make sure they haven't been thrashed. Avoid anything with a hint of damp about the interior as leaky roof can be a nightmare to sort out.
This normally aspirated 1,499cc engine in the 1,110kg Colt CZC produces 107bhp at 6,000rpm and 107lb/ft of torque at 4,000rpm. It's enough for a 10.2 second sprint to 60mph and a top speed of 114mph, while 42.8mpg is possible on the combined cycle, as is a CO2 level of 157g/km. The 1.5-litre turbo unit will be harder to track down but with 148bhp, it's usefully rapid. The 0-60mph sprint takes just 8.3s, a time that few models in the supermini-based convertible sector can challenge. Considering the weight of the folding hardtop arrangement and the reduction in stiffness caused by removing the fixed roof of the standard car, the CZC handles reasonably well. There's the usual thuds and shudders on poor road surfaces but nothing too dramatic. The light steering and stumpy nose make it easy to thread the CZC through city streets but owners might wish for a little more weight in the helm at higher speeds.
BY STEVE WALKER
(based on a 2006 Colt CZC 1.5 CZ1) Consumables are reasonably priced for the Colt and Mitsubishi have been part of a committed drive to reduce spares prices across the board. A fuel filter works out at around £8 and an oil filter about £11. Original equipment spark plugs are £6 each.
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