REVIEW DATE: 20 Mar 2009
Mitsubishi is broadening the horizons of its Ralliart brand with models like the Colt Ralliart. Steve Walker reports.
There was always the suspicion that Mitsubishi should have been making more of its legendary Lancer Evolution. Not by enhancing the turbocharged rally replica itself but by forging stronger links between this high profile head-banger that tops its UK range and the volume-selling cars further down. At some stage, the penny must have dropped because we're now seeing the brand intent on making up for lost time in this regard. The Colt Ralliart might be a million miles away from the brutal Evo but the Ralliart branding suggests a link and that could be enough to convince fans of fast Mitsubishis looking for an affordable piece of the action.
The Ralliart brand has been associated with the Lancer Evo models for years. These days, it's Mitsubishi's motorsport division, responsible for the development of the marque's highly successful rally programmes that have seen cars compete and win in the FIA World Rally Championships and the formidable Dakar Rally. The name is also being used as a sub brand for sporting versions of the Colt and Lancer, emphasising the links between Mitsubishi's competition exploits and the road cars that customers actually buy.
The Colt Ralliart is powered by a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine producing 147bhp. It can whisk the lightweight Colt to 60mph in just 7.4s which is extremely sprightly for a budget hot hatchback and will do a lot to give the car and edge against rivals like Fiat's Abarth 500 and the Renault Twingo Renaultsport. The Colt Ralliart also sets out to emulate its Evo big brother in the handling department with a stiffened chassis courtesy of thicker anti-roll bars and firmer suspension. The threshold of the M-ASTC stability and traction control system has also been eased off a little to allow greater degrees of slip and slide before its intervention.
The Colt has always been a fun car to drive with a grippy front end, accurate steering and a first class gearshift. The Ralliart models take this competence a step further with extra power and a greater focus on lively handling. The 1.5-litre engine produces its full power at a lofty 6,000rpm but it will pull strongly up to that point partly thanks to the 210Nm of torque that's available at 3,500rpm and a kerb weight of just 1060kg.
".the little Colt is no shrinking violet"
In terms of styling, the Colt always looked rather functional in its latest generation form, so what Mitsubishi call a 'Jet Fighter' design facelift was introduced, aiming to echo the looks of the larger Lancer and Lancer Evolution X models. To be honest, it's still hardly the bell of the ball, that tall shape bringing utilitarian MPVs to mind rather than racey superminis, but there's a nuggety compactness to its shape that pleases. In Ralliart form, the looks are enhanced by side sill extensions, bigger wheels and tyres, privacy glass, a rear spoiler and a sports exhaust. The interior displays a certain amount of innovation and seems tough enough but the plastics miss that quality that makes you feel good about the class leading supermini products. Aluminium pedals, sports seats and racier instruments mark the Ralliart out inside.
On a practical level, the Colt cabin feels spacious but it should do in light of exterior dimensions on the 5-door version that are on the large side and a wheelbase of 2,500mm. Passenger accommodation is very good, 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.
They might reside at the upper end of the Colt range but the Ralliart models still look decent value for money, especially on a performance per Pound basis. The three-door model comes in at under £13,000 with the five-door at around £500 more. That outlay gets buyers air-conditioning, cruise control, a CD stereo with an AUX port and front fog lights, as well as all the Ralliart extras.
The Colt Ralliart also gains side and curtain airbags for the front seat occupants to go with the dual front airbags and ABS brakes that already feature on all Colts. Combined with the M-ASTC stability control system, this constitutes a detailed safety specification in a supermini of this price.
Fuel economy will take a hit if you drive the Colt Ralliart as its buzzy turbocharged engine begs you to but stay relatively restrained and the combined cycle economy figure of 41.5mpg may be attainable. Emissions of 161g/km reflect the car's sporty character, as does insurance is in group 14.
Applying the famous Ralliart brand to sporty versions of its more ordinary models may prove a shrewd move by Mitsubishi. Inextricably linked to the maniac Lancer Evolution models and to the brand's rallying exploits, the name should raise the profile of models like the Colt Ralliart. With its Evo-esque front end and 147bhp from a feisty turbocharged engine, the little Colt is no shrinking violet and looks a sound bet for buyers seeking fast hatchback fun on a budget.
|For COLT RALLIART|
|OVERALL||6.8 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||6|