15 July 2004

These are the first pictures of the new three-door Mitsubishi Colt – the sportiest small hatch the Japanese company has built. Led by a 150bhp turbocharged hot hatch, the three-door goes on sale in February.

Called Colt CZ3, the three-door is fashionably lower and sportier than the more upright five-door, which goes on sale here in September. The CZ3 is 60mm shorter and 30mm lower than its more practical sibling, and all exterior panels are specifically designed for the car, along with wider sills and a shallower windscreen angle.

Providing the bulk of sales will be 75bhp 1.1, 95bhp 1.3 and 109bhp 1.5-litre petrol engines, plus a 95bhp direct-injection diesel. All will be offered with manual or automated manual gearboxes.

But the most interesting news for enthusiasts is the range-crowning 150bhp hot hatch, which will be called the CZT and primed to take on the likes of the Seat Ibiza FR and forthcoming Ford Fiesta ST.

The CZT was penned at Mitsubishi Design Europe under the stewardship of former design boss Olivier Boulay. The turbocharged 1.5-litre engine develops 155lb ft of torque and is claimed to be good for an 8.0sec dash from 0-62mph and a 130mph top speed. Our first pictures confirm that the styling is remarkably close to that of the CZ3 concept shown at the Geneva Motor Show.

Hotter versions seem likely, too. As it does with the Evo VIII, the British importer could bring in an uprated version, likely to be badged either Ralliart or FQ, with a power boost towards 200bhp. Mitsubishi desperately needs new models like the CZ3 to spark bigger sales and counter its parlous financial state. The company is still reeling after partner DaimlerChrysler effectively walked away, and is now busy restructuring with new investment from Japanese banks.

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