4 November 2003

Mitsubishi is planning a mass of new models as part of a product offensive that will see no less than 14 new models launched over the next five years.

Most important is the European-built Colt hatchback – seen here testing ahead of its Geneva show debut next year – which will lead the charge in concert with a crossover SUV and cabriolet spin-offs.With the help of the Colt supermini, a new city car and replacements for the Carisma, Space Wagon and Shogun, Mitsubishi’s ageing range is finally being overhauled three years after DaimlerChrysler took control. The new models should bring coherence to a confused line-up that has failed to match the appeal of its Japanese rivals.

Mitsubishi’s range renewal builds on fresh design themes inspired by modern Japanese architecture, masterminded by French design chief Olivier Boulay. ‘We will match craftsmanship to our sporty heritage and engineering skill. We must move upmarket,’ he said.

Boulay confirmed the Colt range would have four variants: three- and five-door hatchbacks, plus a cabriolet and ‘something else’. The mystery model is expected to be a crossover 4x4 to replace the Shogun Pinin, currently assembled in Italy by Pininfarina.

All the new Colt models will share the new front-drive Smart ForFour platform and will feature a grille and dashboard unique for Europe, based on the CZ2 concept. Power comes from 1.1-, 1.3- and 1.5-litre petrols and a 1.5-litre diesel. Production at the Dutch NedCar factory starts next spring.

The much-needed Carisma replacement will arrive in late 2006 and will be based on an all-new Focus-sized platform being co-developed with Chrysler. It, too, will be built in Europe and will be rebadged Lancer.

This will spawn an Evo model based on a hatchback body, creating a strong link between the World Rally Championship and a key model. That’s a connection missed with today’s Lancer Evo series, whose four-door namesake was never a big seller here.

A new Shogun is still four years off, but Boulay hints that a coupé version based on the desert rally special is in the pipeline.

The i concept car will spawn an unusual city car for Europe, featuring an underfloor engine and rear drive. Boulay says the European version will be wider than the Japanese version (shown right) for improved high-speed stability. The wacky Sero concept could even be built as a niche spin-off.Mitsubishi is likely to axe the Shogun name, which is unique to Britain. Instead, the big 4x4 is expected to switch to the Pajero name used elsewhere in Europe.

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