16 February 2004

The legend is reborn. After a generation of rally-bred Mitsubishi Evo saloons, the company is on the verge of launching a new breed of Evo, depicted here in our artist’s impression: a four-wheel-drive superhatch that could pump out 250bhp.

Power would come from a heavily reworked version of the 1.5-litre turbocharged unit in the donor three-door Colt. Although the Evo plans are yet to be rubber-stamped, top execs, including motor sport boss Sven Quandt and design chief Oliver Boulay, have openly discussed the project.

They have confirmed a hot road-going spin-off from every car they race – which could signal the arrival of a Colt Evo to compliment a renewed push in the World Rally Championship for the 2006 season.

It will be based on the three-door Colt, seen in concept form in our scoop pictures below. Evo membership should be cheaper than ever, with prices rivalling the likes of the Mini Cooper S Works and Focus RS at £20k.

Although initial talk is of a Colt Evo with power ‘topping 200bhp’, Mitsubishi UK has both the experience and technical know-how to give that figure a substantial push. With a target weight of some 1100kg, it will endow the baby Evo with phenomenal performance: 0-60mph should take little more than 4.0sec, with a top speed around 140mph.

Standard Evo fare of four-wheel drive, firm ride, active yaw control and aggressive styling, complete with bonnet intake and big spoilers, will be maintained on the hot Colt. Insiders say it will be as extreme as the traditional Evo and appeal to motor sport enthusiasts, whereas the 150bhp turbo Colt will be a more useable, less compromised machine.

Mitsubishi is also considering a paddleshift dual-clutch gearbox. ‘That’s my wish, but there are cost implications,’ said design chief Boulay.

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Back at the 2001 Tokyo motor show, Boulay told Autocar: ‘We want to share the Evo experience with other cars in the range.’ And Mitsubishi Motors chief exec Rolf Eckrodt hinted at the hot Colt’s potential: ‘We don’t do show cars; those fancy things. It is representative of what will be produced.’Lancer Evo IX, X and XI are already planned: IX is a modest evolution from today’s Evo VIII, while the next X and XI are more radical cars that could be sold as coupés, rather than traditional saloons. ‘Why not? The FTO and GTO were great cars, but it is important that the Evo spirit stays as it evolves,’ said Boulay.

And as radical as it sounds, an Evo version of the next-generation Shogun is also under consideration, capitalising on Mitsubishi’s success in the gruelling Dakar rally. The company is even talking about putting ‘Evo blood’ into the Grandis MPV and others.

Moves are also afoot to launch a sub-Evo Ralliart brand to plug the gap between the blistering Evo and mainstream models.

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