REVIEW DATE: 08 Dec 2008
Mitsubishi's Colt has managed to attract more of a UK following thanks to the latest generation version, a car now improved. Jonathan Crouch reports
The Mitsubishi Colt is unquestionably the Japanese marque's best stab at a supermini to date and the importers are hoping that revised styling, an improved specification and a brighter interior will keep it current. The car could use an injection of excitement with even the sporty Ralliart model hardly firing the imagination but otherwise it's a well built, reliable and spacious choice.
If you're going out to buy a supermini, then you're probably going out to buy a Ford Fiesta, a Vauxhall Corsa or perhaps something like a Fiat Grande Punto, a Peugeot 207 or a Renault Clio. Part of our job here though is to point out that away from the mainstream, there are other alternatives in this class. Here's one: Mitsubishi's Colt.
This Dutch-build design was originally launched in 2004, shocking the market by being the first in many generations of the Colt model to be truly supermini class-competitive. It's a car that has once again slipped into the background in more recent years however, hence the announcement of this facelifted version in late 2008.
So what's it like on the road? Well despite all the sporty bits on the Ralliart version, the driving experience remains more competent than cutting edge - but then that's quite sufficient for the needs of its target market. School run mums will like the way you sit quite high while their teenage sons will like the slick gearchange and the way the grippy front end hangs on through the corners.
Indeed, were it not for the slightly vague electrically-assisted steering and the slight amount of extra cornering lean from the tall body, you'd be tempted to call this supermini sporty, even in its humbler guises. The entry-level three-cylinder petrol 1.1 has a characterful engine burble, while the German-built 147bhp 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol unit takes the car from rest to sixty in just 7.4s on the way to 131mph - that's MINI Cooper S pace for over £4,000 less.
"Rather a clever choice for the thinking supermini buyer.."
In the 1.3-litre petrol version that most will choose, things can get a little raucous if you drive at this kind of pace but it's nothing too over the top and all the powerplants offer decent refinement so long as you don't ask too much of them. More importantly, parking is easy, though the thick windscreen pillars that help make the Colt a safe haven in a crash do impede a little here. The turning circle too, is surprisingly tight for what is one of the larger superminis out there with the wheel-at-each-corner layout helping on this score. Urban users will also want to consider the 6-speed AllShift automatic transmission option on the 1.3.
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 this five-door 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.
Prices are on the affordable side for this sector, ranging mainly in the £8,000 to £13,000 bracket. In real terms when it comes to list prices, you're probably looking at a £2,000-£3,000 saving over a comparable Ford Fiesta or Vauxhall Corsa, model-for-model. That's a sizeable saving. The CZC cabrio version is even more affordable sitting in the £10,000 to £11,000 bracket. It's hard to think of an affordable open top that can match that.
There are three bodystyles from which would-be Colt customers can choose - three and five-door hatchbacks will suit most but there's also the rather gender-specific CZC cabrio model with its metal folding roof, the only variant to feature the 107bhp version of the 1.5-litre petrol engine. In hatch form, your Colt will probably either come with either 74bhp 1.1 or 94bhp 1.3-litre petrol power, assuming you can resist the charms of the 147bhp turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol hot hatch version. The 1.3-litre petrol engine is also available in ClearTec from with stop/start technology.
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. From a safety point of view, it's nice that you get twin front airbags and hazard lights that flash under emergency braking but less good that most buyers won't be able to specify either side airbags or the kind of ESP stability control system that gets you out of trouble in slippery conditions or if you enter a corner too fast.
Returning 51.4 and 48.7mpg respectively on the combined cycle, the 1.1 and 1.3-litre petrol models are reasonably economical, though with Co2 figures of 130 and 143g/km, not especially green. The 1.3-litre ClearTec is far better, returning 119g/km emissions and over 56mpg. The 1.5-litre Turbo version manages 41mpg with 161g/km emissions while the CZC cabrio delivers 42.8mpg and 157g/km. You get stung with group 14 insurance for the turbo version, but otherwise you're looking at groups 4-5 for the mainstream hatches and group 8 for the CZC.
Residual values after three years/36,000 miles should be around 40%, a few percentage points down on class rivals but bear in mind that you should be paying significantly less to start with. Servicing intervals are every 12,500 miles and Mitsubishi offers a three-year unlimited mileage warranty, 12 year anti-corrosion perforation warranty and three-year pan European roadside, home and accident assistance.
Once upon a time, you used to know where you stood with a Mitsubishi Colt. It would be reliable, fairly spacious but really rather dull. These days though, it's a bit more than that, still dependable and roomy but also offering more than a splash of its own identity. You also get a supermini that's fun to drive and which won't crash in value the moment you drive it off the dealer's forecourt. That's a commendable range of qualities for any small car.
Other rivals are larger: some feel more up market or are better to drive. Only those that are unremittingly dull however, can get anywhere near its affordable purchase price, a sticker that could save you a useful amount over more obvious alternatives. All of which, you may feel, would make it rather a clever choice for the thinking supermini buyer.
|For COLT RANGE|
|OVERALL||7.0 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||8|