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Click to view picture gallery“Everybody’s doing it,
  doing it, doing it...
  Bringing out small
  hard-topped coupé-
  convertibles, that is.
  And the latest to join
  the fray is the Colt CZC
  from Mitsubishi.

OVER THE LAST FIVE years there has been a 300 per cent growth in sales of small convertibles in the UK as more and more models from different manufacturers stimulate our deep-seated — almost obsessional — desire to be seen topless in public.

In 2001 the Peugeot 206 CC was the only car in this sector, selling 7,267 cars. And by 2005, with seven contenders, the sector had grown to 29,100 sales. Now the market has been joined by Mitsubishi with
the Colt CZC — the third derivative of the Colt three- and five-door hatchback range.

Interestingly, this is Mitsubishi's first-ever production convertible model to officially be sold in the UK since imports began way back in 1974.

By the end of last year the Mini Convertible was accounting for a third of all small cabriolet/convertible sales in this sector, with the Peugeot CC in second place just ahead of the new and very pretty Vauxhall Tigra. The Nissan Micra CC was also launched and is now starting to make an impact on sales, as too are the Citroen C3 Pluriel, Ford StreetKa and Daihatsu Copen. The Colt CZC Cabriolet completes the sector line-up — so far!

Not that the launch of the chunky Colt CZC is going to trouble the leaders in the sector — because Mitsubishi only expect to sell around
a 1,000 units in the UK each year. Four out of five buyers are likely to be women aged between 30 and 45 and, because of its all-weather two-piece electrically-operated metal roof, it is likely to be used as a second car all year round.

Introduced in April 2006, the Colt CZC comes in two model forms: the 1.5-litre petrol CZC and the 1.5 CZC Turbo — priced at 13,999 and 15,999 on-the-road respectively. Both models have a 5-speed manual transmission as standard and sixty-five per cent of customers are expected to go for the well-specified standard CZC variant.

Mitsubishi says that the CZC convertible is an important car for them
in the UK — not in terms of huge sales numbers, but in terms of niche appeal. And they also expect the CZC to have a halo effect on the rest of the Colt range.

The CZC is partly-manufactured in The Netherlands at Mitsubishi's Nedcar facility before being transported, along with other components, to Pininfarina in Italy — Pininfarina designed the CZC version of the Colt. In Italy, the parts are assembled and the roof fitted before the CZC is distributed to Mitsubishi importers throughout Europe. Around
65 per cent of the parts in the CZC are the same as used in the Colt three- and five-door hatchbacks.

The CZC has a semi-automatic two-piece metal roof which is operated by three electric motors and moves from the fully-closed position
to be stowed within the upper section of the boot in 22 seconds. Electrically-operated windows complete the convertible package.

As you'd expect, the CZC — as with all convertibles and cabriolets — gets extra body strengthening for the chassis, the windscreen's A-pillars and the doorframes. This, plus the electric hood mechanism, adds just 130-150kg of extra weight (depending on the model) over the hardtop Colt three-door hatchbacks.

So far as passenger accommodation goes, the CZC is classed as a 2+2. This really is 'stretching' the facts. The CZC is a relatively short car — only 12.5 feet long — and with the relatively large rear boot section necessary to house the roof, the individually-shaped rear seats are only big enough for very small children. Best plan is to use the space as additional storage. With the roof folded away in the boot, luggage volume is pretty small anyway.

Looks are always a matter of individual taste and I think the CZC's styling will not be everybody's cup of tea. Compared to most of its competitors in this sector, the rear section is a touch on the bulky side. I prefer Vauxhall's neat and pretty Tigra and even the MINI Convertible's pram-style soft-top, which has a classic look when folded back. The similarly constructed folding metal top of the long-serving 206CC has a better shaped and a more compact rear end.

While the Colt CZC may not score on looks, it does better for value-for-money, although the standard 1.5 version — priced just 1 shy of 14,000 — puts buyers temptingly close to the range-starter prices for the larger Renault Megane, Peugeot 307, Astra TwinTop and even the Mazda MX-5 cabriolets and coupés. If you go for the CZC Turbo at 16K, look around first because you can widen your choice of open-top motoring still further with a bit of astute price haggling.

The CZC comes equipped as standard with ABS with Electronic Brake-force Distribution, driver and passenger front and side airbags, air conditioning, alloy wheels, six-speaker MP3-compatible CD and radio, keyless entry and remote locking with deadlocks, 16-inch alloy wheels shod with 205/45 rubber, front fog lights, electrically-adjustable and heated door mirrors, multi-info display, one-touch electric front windows, electrically-assisted power steering, tilt-adjustable multi-functional three-spoke leather steering wheel and leather gear knob and height-adjustable seats for both the driver and passenger.

If you want the go-faster turbo version, the extra 2K will buy you more performance (but less fuel economy), heated seats, part-leather interior trim, a stability and traction control system, sports suspension, uprated brakes and various other sporty garnishes.

My test car was the volume selling CZC with a normally-aspirated four-cylinder, all-alloy petrol engine developing 107bhp and 107lb ft of torque at 4,000rpm. This unit is Euro IV compliant, has four valves per cylinder with electronic variable valve timing control and is thoroughly modern and competitive in its sector.

The fuel economy is quoted as 42.8mpg overall — very close indeed to the 41mpg returned by my test car and top speed is 114mph, with the 0-62mph dash taking a respectable 10.5 seconds.

For the record, the turbocharged model uses the same 16-valve, double overhead cam 1.5-litre engine but produces 147bhp and 155lb ft of torque — good enough to push the CZC Turbo to a top speed of 126mph with the 0-62mph sprint despatched in a brisk 8.4 seconds. And 39.8mpg.

I'd choose the standard version every time — not because I'm getting old, but in real-life it's perfectly adequate for the motoring this type of car does So why pay more? The 1,499cc engine is responsive and smooth and the pick of the bunch of the small petrol engines offered in other Colt models. The gearbox is slick, with well-stacked ratios that deliver a very good overall driving experience.

Thanks to aerodynamics honed in the wind-tunnel, buffeting inside the car with the roof down is acceptably light. And on motorways — with the windows up, top out of sight in the boot — it's very pleasant to cruise along at high speeds. Roof up, the car appears to be well insulated from the British weather, so I would expect it to be driver-friendly throughout all four seasons. The roof operation is smooth and simple to use.

Handling, like any small convertible, is dependent upon the speed
being travelled and the conditions of the road surface. The Colt Hatchbacks give a pretty uncomfortable ride, with the suspension not absorbing bumps and potholes too well. The stiffer CZC cabriolet makes these faults slightly worse, so don't expect limousine ride comfort — particularly when travelling top-down. And this is another reason I wouldn't go for the Turbo version with its sports suspension. Handling is good however, and the car is predictable with no real vices. Blindspots around the car are evident at all four corners and certainly rear-parking sensors would be an advisable option.

Make your mind up time. Beauty is most definitely in the eye of the beholder and the rather chunky looks — especially around the rear — don't do it for me. Rear space is very limited, but if you take it as a two-seater with extra cabin luggage space that won't worry you. Ride quality can be on the harsh side but offsetting all of that is that fact that you won't see many on the roads and you get an easily-operated and secure metal roof along with a good level of standard equipment. With just 1,000 available each year the Colt CZC Cabriolet should find 1,000 happy owners. — David Miles

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Mitsubishi Colt CZC Cabriolet
| 13,999
Maximum speed: 114mph | 0-62mph: 10.5 seconds
Overall test MPG: 41mpg | Power: 107bhp
| Torque: 107lb ft
Visit Mitsubishi's website Click to go there now

----------------------------------------------- Mitsubishi Colt CZC Cabriolet