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Mitsubishi Colt 1.1 CZ1 5-door

Click to view picture galleryTheres no shortage of new small
  and fuel-efficient models sitting in
  showrooms right now just waiting
  for buyers. Joining the Mitsubishi
  stable is the frisky new Colt in five-
  and three-door body styles

THE NEW EUROPEAN DESIGNED AND BUILT COLT arrives right on cue for today's market requirements. It has grown in length by 70mm and only 35% of the body parts are carry-overs from the previous generation Colt.

The newcomer is well priced, more user-friendly in size and comes with more load space. It also looks better balanced thanks to new front-end styling taken from the Lancer Evolution which, they say, links the impression of a jet fighter air intake with the look of a shark. All I know is that it looks good and at last gives the Colt some real character.

The new Colt three- and five-door hatchbacks, costing from 7,799, have also arrived at just the right time for Mitsubishi, who are currently struggling with low new vehicle sales. Last year their car sales dropped by 18% and in January this year fell again by nearly 73%, so the new Colt and the new Lancer Sportback are desperately needed to compete in today's depressed market.

Selling the new Colt in the 'supermini' sector is not going to be easy as it has to contend with numerous other very new and fine cars. The sector benchmark Ford Fiesta, priced from 9,195, is just one of them and the new five-door budget priced Hyundai i20 costing from 8,195 and with a five-year warranty will appeal to many.

My Colt test model was the cheapest five-door hatchback, the 1.1 CZ1 — priced at an attractive 8,299. The three-door version would save 500 but what's the point in having fewer doors and less convenience from a roomy everyday four-seater car? The load space is also significantly improved with the new Colt's 186-1,032 litres well up on the previous model's 168-854 litres.

The interior of the new Colt has also improved significantly. Gone are the translucent Tupperware-type controls and trim sections, replaced by hard but well-textured black plastics and the overall quality is altogether much better.

However, I do have an issue with the new range's model structure. If I wanted the slightly better CZ2 specification I would have to pay 1,000 more; but I would also then be forced to have the larger 1.3-litre engine which perhaps I would have no need for. Yet the CZ2 specification would give me other items I want even with a small car, such as air conditioning, steering wheel-mounted stereo controls, electric and heated door mirrors, cruise control, front fog lights and alloy wheels. Clearly, what the range needs is a CZ2 trim option for the 1.1-litre engine.

The CZ1 specification is not stingy: it includes a CD player, electric front windows with anti-trap, ABS with brake-force distribution, engine immobiliser, 'welcome home' lighting, remote central locking and colour-coded front and rear bumpers. However, there are only two airbags provided and, shamefully, there is no electronic stability control system offered.

The 1.1-litre, three-cylinder petrol unit develops 74bhp and 74lb ft of torque and is a 'cracker'. It sounds a bit gruff but that gives it character; and it revs so easily. It is also very fuel efficient in real-life motoring conditions — my test average was 49.7mpg and that included several long motorway trips as well as the usual stop-start urban crawl. Officially, this engine will return 51.4mpg on average with a CO2 rating of 130gkm, meaning road tax will cost a relatively-high 120 — the same, in fact, as the 1.3-litre unit.

Top speed is officially 101mph and 0-62mph takes 13.2 seconds — not fast but it sounds lively. The Colt CZ1 five-door I drove coped very happily with maintaining the legal maximum motorway speed which, incidentally, didn't seem to harm the fuel economy. Steep hills slowed its progress but for a car of this size and price it was no problem — I just sat back and thought of the petrol money I was saving! The gearchange is also good to use — and it does get used quite a lot, although the engine is still surprisingly flexible at low speeds.

Equally as pertinent today as mpg figures is information regarding a customer's 'investment' in their new car. Figures from industry future values specialists, CAP Monitor, show that the new Colt CZ1 and CZ2 3-door variants have a predicted residual value of 75% of their new price after 12-months/10,000 miles and 41% after 3-years/60,000 miles. The 5-door is no slouch either, with 74% and 40% residual values predicted over the same one-year and three-year periods.

Worth a mention, too, is Mitsubishi's 3-years/37,500 miles Service Plan that costs from 225, depending on the model. All versions are covered by their usual 3-year unlimited mileage warranty.

So while the new Colt line-up is not very flexible for engine/equipment combinations, and there's no ESP and only two airbags for most models, it is of a better size with a much roomier and improved quality interior, has an eager, fuel-efficient engine and copes well with motorways and city travel — and don't forget the excellent low cost service plan.

For use as a main car or even a second car, for young or old users, in its latest form the new Mitsubishi Colt is definitely worth looking at and it comes at a good price. — David Miles

Mitsubishi Colt 1.1 CZ1 5-door
| 8,299
Maximum speed: 101mph | 0-62mph: 13.2 seconds
Overall test MPG: 49.7mpg | Power: 74bhp | Torque: 74lb ft
CO2 130g/km | VED Band C 120 | Insurance group 5