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Mitsubishi Colt 1.5 T Ralliart 3-door

Click to view picture galleryMitsubishis new Ralliart Colt
  comes with a kick: 147bhp to be
  precise. In performance terms
  it doesn
t hang about, getting from
  zero to 62mph in 7.6 seconds
  and running on to a 131mph top
  speed. All that and 45.4mpg for a
  very reasonable 12,049

MITSUBISHI HAS ADDED A RALLIART 'GO-FASTER' VERSION to their efficient but perhaps boring Colt three- and five-door hatchback range. Standard Colt model prices start at 7,799 for three-door models and 8,299 for five-door versions but they can be even cheaper if the scrappage allowance is used. The 131mph, 1.5-litre turbocharged Ralliart versions cost an attractive 12,049 in three-door body style and an extra 500 for the five-door version.

Mitsubishi estimate they will sell around 6,000 Colts in the UK this year — marginally more five doors than three — but only around 180 Ralliart versions. They also expect that 69% of customers will choose the slightly sportier three-door bodyshell.

The Colt range sells against the usual A/B-segment players: Vauxhall Corsa, Ford Fiesta, MINI, Hyundai i20, Suzuki Swift, Renault Twingo and many more. When compared with price adjusted specification, the fully equipped Ralliart versions severely undercut go-faster versions of the Corsa, Fiesta, MINI Cooper/Cooper S, RenaultSport Twingo and the Abarth 500. A further sweetener for the deal is that the Colt comes with a 3-year/30,000 Service Plan for just 295.

The latest European Colts launched earlier this year are relatively tall hatchbacks with an easy-to-use MPV-type box-shaped passenger compartment fronted by a distinctive new — as Mitsubishi calls it — 'jet fighter' face. At last the Colt has got some 'character'.

There is only a 35% carry-over of components for this latest — larger and more useable — Colt. The length has increased by 70mm and consequently, and importantly, the load area is larger and now stetches from 854 to 1,032 litres. Thankfully it now has also a full-length flat floor to maximise load carrying when required — the hallmark of a really useful car in the B or 'supermini' segment.

With uninspiring but frugal petrol engines ranging from 1.1 to 1.3-litres, the mainstream Colts sell to customers wanting a commuter car which has the capability to cope with longer journeys — and so young families and older couples seem to be the most likely buyers.

To give the Colt range extra appeal, Mitsubishi recently played their 'green' card with the introduction of ClearTec 1.3-litre, low-CO2 versions with a Stop & Start function and which incur a low 35 road tax bill. Now in complete contrast, and to boost the Colt's image, Mitsubishi has launched the Ralliart versions: go-faster models with 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engines and 147bhp.

Ralliart was once the famous high-performance engineering and motorsport arm of Mitsubishi in Japan and Europe, responsible for the works WRC cars, Dakar Raid Rally vehicles, F3 engines and after-market tuning components.

Fast when needed but
frugal when life is in the
slow lane
But it is only recently, following the demise of their motorsport activities, that the Ralliart name has actually appeared as a model. Even the ferocious Lancer and Colt Turbo models of the late 70s and 80s didn't carry the Ralliart name — and neither did the highly-rated Lancer Evolutions although they were supplied by Ralliart. Now it appears Mitsubishi is quite happy to tack the once famous Ralliart badge onto the less than fearsome modern Colt and the Lancer models.

However this new generation Mitsubishi Colt 1.5 T Ralliart, to give it its full title, is a very swift little number. The four-cylinder MIVEC variable-valve timing, DOHC turbocharged petrol 147bhp engine gives this Colt a top speed of 131mph with 0-62mph taking 7.6 seconds. Drive to the front wheels is through a five-speed manual gearbox but with a traction control and electronic stability programme. Torque steer is, of course, evident but to no great detrimental extent.

This is a quick car and although the suspension has been significantly uprated and the bodyshell strengthened, the pace out-performs the handling and certainly ride comfort. Being a tall car, the Colt Ralliart suffers significant body roll during cornering and the suspension, being stiff, isn't compliant; it just cannot absorb any bumps or ripples in the road surface so the ride is always unsettled.

There seemed to be reasonable grip, some understeer but the steering felt so dead it was difficult to feel at home driving this car at speed. For short fast bursts it was certainly fun and I guess that is how we use our cars these days given the pervasive traffic congestion.

Officially, this Ralliart version of the Colt will return 41.5mpg in the combined cycle. My driving period returned much better than that at 45.4mpg on average, and that included fast (where possible!) motoring and normal day-to-day stop/start commuter trips. I think that is a totally realistic mpg figure and unless the Colt Ralliart is going to be thrashed all the time, it can be an economical car to run.

This is where this Colt Ralliart impresses; it is fast when needed but frugal when life is in the slow lane. Priced at 12,049 for the better selling three-door version, it is relatively cheap, fun motoring. Cheaper still if you chop-in an old banger: go 'scrappage' and the price drops to a bargain 10,049. On the downside the CO2 emissions are 161g/km which means 150 in road tax and the insurance group rating is 14E.

But does it look good? Well, no, because unfortunately the Colt Ralliart has only minimal external badging to show it is a sporty number. No body strips or decals but very nice alloys and a distinctive exhaust tailpipe — however it doesn't shout 'hot performer'. It will lose out in the image stakes for many customers who will just see it as another functional Colt.

Inside the Ralliart model is quite pleasant with its sports front seats but again it could do with more visual appeal please — and get rid of the cheap plastics. To sum up: not so hot is the low street-cred image, non-compliant suspension and poor handling at speed. Plus points include pace with space, can be fuel miserly, low cost servicing package, well equipped and the 'quick to go' price. — David Miles

Mitsubishi Colt 1.5 T Ralliart 3-door
| 12,049
Maximum speed: 131mph | 0-62mph: 7.6 seconds | Overall test MPG: 45.4mpg
Power: 147bhp | Torque: 155lb ft | CO2 161g/km | Insurance group 14E