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Mitsubishi Colt 1.3 CZ2 ClearTect 5-door

Click to view picture galleryStop & Start — and hopefully Go
  for Mitsubishi
s new ClearTec Colt.
  But while it claims to be a Friend
  of the Earth, is it as much a Friend
  of Mankind?

THE ARRIVAL OF THE NEW COLT HATCHBACK RANGE of three-and five-door models, and now the addition of their ClearTec low emission variants, could jump-start Mitsubishi sales currently they're down by over 61% this year; one of the highest falls in the new car industry.

It appears that what few new car customers there are actually buying in the market are choosing small and fuel efficient vehicles, sales of which have been boosted by the scrappage scheme to the tune of 35,000 new car purchased.

Mitsubishi would dearly love some of that total and have taken the bold step to offer customers a scrappage allowance on cars of over five years of age rather than the Government's minimum 10 year old limit. Mitsubishi's low interest rates and deposits could further boost sales.

The new Colt is a little larger than the model it replaces so it is roomier and with more load space. Mitsubishi say only 35% of the 'old' Colt is carried over to the new range. It has a 'boxier' shape with sharper styling lines than the rounded previous version — the latest Colt is instantly recognisable from the old as it sports the Mitsubishi family signature 'Jet Fighter' grille.

The long, shapely doors remain from the previous Colt as they offer easy access for passengers, while a redesigned interior offers new higher-grade materials throughout. Along with increased carrying capacity there's now an adjustable cargo floor height and full-flat floor providing both space and practicality.

The Colt is in the 'supermini' sector of the new car market — the right place to be for 'down-sizing and 'down-pricing' customers.

Mitsubishi have kept a straightforward line-up, with four trim levels available — CZ1, CZ2, CZ2 ClearTec and Ralliart in both three- and five-door body styles. Prices range from 7,999 up to 12,849 for the top go-faster Ralliart version. ClearTec 1.3-litre petrol model prices are 9,599 for the three-door and 10,099 for the five-door version or, looked at another way, only 500 more than the standard 1.3-litre versions. Deduct a further £2,000 for the scrappage scheme — assuming you have an old 'un that qualifies — and the prices begin to look attractive.

The new Colt in CZ1 form includes a CD player, electric front windows with anti-trap function, ABS with EBD, engine immobiliser, remote central locking and colour-coded front and rear bumpers as standard.

The CZ2 gains 16-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, remote audio controls, front fog lights, cruise control and heated electric door mirrors. All models, by the way, come fitted with 'coming home' lighting and the latest safety technology — Emergency Stop signal System (ESS).

Both three- and five-door versions are offered with a choice of three petrol engines: a 74bhp 1.1-litre unit features in the CZ1 while the CZ2 gains a 94bhp 1.3-litre. A turbocharged, 147bhp 1.5-litre engine powers the new flagship Ralliart model. All the Colt's engines are Euro IV compliant.

Most volume car manufactures now have 'green' or 'eco' models in their most popular model ranges and the new Colt range is no different — theirs versions are called ClearTec. This supposed economy champion utilises Auto Stop & Go to switch off the engine when it's not required.

Mitsubishi claims this, along with an extensive list of other fuel and emissions saving technologies (such as low-rolling resistance tyres and a revised final gear ratio) allow the Colt ClearTec to return 56.6mpg on the combined consumption cycle instead of the 48.7mpg for the non-ClearTec 1.3 versions while at the same time producing just 119g/km of CO2 instead of 138g/km and thereby qualifying for a 35 road tax bill.

From my own experience, many of the so-called 'eco' models offer little more in real-world fuel savings and they cost significantly more than the standard models on which they are based — VW's BlueMotion being the exception.

More often giving a 'green' badge to a car is more to do with creating a marketing appeal than saving the planet. Officially, they all offer lower CO2 emissions and that means a saving in road tax but get them on the road and in practise the better mpg promised does not materialise unless they are driven in a very sympathetic way. The downside is that most have a higher top gear ratio so acceleration and performance suffers.

The Colt ClearTec falls into this category although Mitsubishi's 500 price hike over a 1.3 standard model is not unreasonable and by paying just 35 in road tax savings can be had over the longer term of ownership. My views are that just as much fuel can be saved by driving a normal car sympathetically and avoiding carrying unnecessary weight in the car. In reality, the Colt ClearTec 1.3 returned a real-life 43mpg — disappointingly down on the 'promised' 56.5mpg. The engine struggled under acceleration due to the high top gear ratio although once at cruising speed the car coped well enough.

The Auto Stop & Go stop-start system is simple to use and can be switched off and it doesn't come into operation if the heater fan or air conditioning is switched on. Put the gearlever into neutral when the car is stationary and take your foot of the clutch and the engine switches itself off. It starts again when you put your foot back on the clutch and select a gear. A very simple and effective system for easy stop-start commuter driving.

The Colt ClearTec also comes with low-rolling-resistance tyres fitted to 15-inch alloy wheels. These tyres do firm up the ride and make it jittery. There have been some reports that such hard compound low-rolling resistance tyres (now used by many manufactures) offer less cornering and braking grip in dry or wet road conditions. Certainly the Colt suffers from a fair amount of understeer during cornering but my test drive was done during the recent dry spell when adhesion whilst braking seemed fine.

On the plus side the new Colt ClearTec has distinctive looks, offers competent (rather than engaging) performance, the Auto Stop & Go is simple to use, road tax is just 35, it's well equipped for the price and feels well put together and it provides versatile seating and load carrying options. Against that there's no outstanding advantage in real-life driving fuel economy, the low rolling resistance tyres give a hard and jittery ride and the higher gearing blunts the acceleration performance.

That said, as a versatile 'supermini'-sized hatchback the new Colt is a good choice both in terms of price, equipment and its user-friendly character — it gets the job done without fuss. It might not set any new standards in performance but the ClearTec version does keep the annual road tax to a very manageable 35. And whilst the fuel economy appeared to be little better than the standard 1.3-litre car, the ClearTec satisfies financially and has an 'eco' label for those concerned about saving the planet. — David Miles

Mitsubishi Colt 1.3 CZ2 ClearTec
5-door | 10,099
Maximum speed: 111mph | 0-62mph: 10.6 seconds | Overall test MPG: 43mpg
Power: 94bhp | Torque: 92lb ft | CO2 119g/km | Insurance group 5E