But the fifth generation of the Colt (yes, there have been that many) sees the Japanese manufacturer breaking new ground with a supermini that is more of a mini-MPV/ hatchback crossover, similar to the Honda Jazz, which will be one of its biggest rivals.
The Colt is the first all-new car to come from the alliance between Mitsubishi and DaimlerChrysler. Built at Mitsubishi’s NedCar plant in the Netherlands, it shares 40% of the same componentry as its cousin, the Smart ForFour, but the Colt is a better proposition, visually and behind the wheel.
Its clean, sharp lines and well proportioned looks make it appear a lot smaller than it is inside, while its low stance, coupled with 15-inch alloy wheels gives it a sporty appearance. The new grille and front end, already seen on the Grandis and Outlander, is the new family face of Mitsubishi, setting Colt apart from identikit rivals.
The interior has a stylish and modern feel with quality plastics and an uncluttered dash – illuminated translucent blue centre bar and switch surrounds complete the look.
It will be available with four engine options in the UK, 1.1, 1.3 and 1.5-litre petrol units and a 1.5 DI-D diesel. The 3-cylinder 75bhp 1.1-litre engine may be the smallest, but is ideal for town and is surprisingly quick, if a little thrashy when revved hard. A 5spd manual gearbox is standard and there is a 6spd ‘AllShift’ semi-automatic , which works well, partic-ularly with the 1.5-litre unit.
Mitsubishi is expecting to sell 3,000 Colts in the four months from September, increasing to 15,000 registrations in its first full year. It will initially be available as a five-door, with a three-door version being launched in early 2005. The manufacturer is expecting a high rate of conquest sales – around 85%. With its unique blend of style, looks and equipment levels this target looks achievable.
Strengths: Styling, drive, equipment
Weaknesses: Entry level is pricey
Opportunity:Colt name still well recognised
Threat:…but not always for the right reasons
The USP: Super supermini
Prices: £8,999 - £11,499
Engines: 1.1-litre 75bhp, 1.3-litre 95bhp, 1.5-litre 109bhp, petrol; 1.5-litre turbodiesel 95bhp
Transmissions: 5spd manual, 6spd automatic, fwd
Performance: 0-62 mph 10sec-13.4sec, top speeds 103mph-118mph
Efficiency: 45.6-64.2mpg combined; 130 - 148g/km CO2
Rivals: Toyota Yaris, Peugeot 206, Honda Jazz, Mazda2, Forfour