It’s the off-beat thrum that gives it away. Mitsubishi’s new sixth-generation Colt might be created by the Mitsubishi Design Europe (MDE) studio in Frankfurt, but the fact that 60 per cent of the underpinnings are shared with the Smart Forfour is never more obvious than when the 1124cc triple is growling through its rev range.
We’ve driven the 1.3 four-cylinder petrol and 1.5 three-cylinder diesel, but this is our first steer in the baby of the range – and our first on UK roads.
The Colt’s engine is a cylinder short compared to the majority of its opposition, but 74bhp and 74lb ft are more than respectable outputs for this class. Nevertheless, this Colt feels sluggish, and you have to use full throttle to get up to traffic speeds.
Peak torque is developed at 3500rpm and below that the Colt struggles for meaningful forward motion. Stick with it, however, and the three-pot revs enthusiastically – if rather noisily – to its red line, endowing the Colt with a decent turn of pace (0-62mph in 13.4 seconds). Strangely, the higher the revs, the weaker the throttle response: there’s a pronounced pause when coming off and then getting back on the throttle.
You’ll either view the three-pot’s soundtrack as a dose of cheeky small-car character or quickly tire of it, especially when working the engine hard. It is reasonably refined at motorway speeds, though, the engine note fading to a busy hum at an 80mph cruise.
The Colt features MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam rear axle. It’s a competent set-up: the chassis washes wide into safe understeer when pushed hard, but without ever feeling inert or clumsy. Oddly, the steering’s almost too heavy and it imparts little feedback, but at least it’s accurate.
The ride is quite firm, yet the car absorbs most road irregularities well, although large intrusions can generate suspension noise. For such a small, upright car, the body control is good, especially at higher speeds. Only a slight vertical bobbing motion occasionally afflicts it over undulating roads.
It’s neither a chassis nor a driving experience to generate much excitement, but the Mitsubishi suits its intended market well and utilises the components available better than its Smart cousin.
Unfortunately, neither the Colt’s exterior nor interior design are truly cohesive. From the front, the nose is aggressive, with an Evo-esque ‘spine’ running down the centre of the bonnet and swept-back headlights. But the rest of the car is less striking: the sides featuring a number of shapes and lines that fail to sit well together.
Inside, Mitsubishi has attempted to inject its own idea of design flair into a mainstream shopping hatch. The translucent blue control knobs and details are a nice touch, but their flimsy feel means most will view them as cheap, rather than designer chic. In general, though, everything feels well put together and, despite a steering wheel that only adjusts for rake, the driving position should be comfortable for most drivers – helped by the upright MPV-style driving position.
But the Colt’s real trump card is space. There’s excellent headroom and elbow room up front, plus fine visibility, and things are even better in the back. Here there’s class-leading leg- and headroom, albeit at the expense of an average-sized boot.