A cheap, cheerful supermini that could do with more polish

What is it?

This is the new Mitsubishi Colt CZ1, the base model of the recently updated range. It is powered by the same three-cylinder 1.1-litre engine that the previous generation shared with the Smart.

It goes without saying that the Colt has some tough competition in this class. Small hatchbacks remain as desirable as ever, and at the end of last year Ford showed just how high the bar could be raised, with its sophisticated new Fiesta.

That said, the Mitsubishi Colt CZ1's main attributes are immediately apparent; it is light at 930kg, relatively economical and reasonably well equipped. And thanks to the adoption of the Lancer's aggressive nose treatment, it now comes with a purposeful new look.

What's it like?

Not brilliant, at least as far as cabin quality is concerned. No one expects a sub-£8000 car to be carved from granite, but with cheap-feeling plastic and even cheaper switchgear, the Colt struggles to exude the kind of basic toughness that normally heralds trouble-free budget motoring.

There isn't a huge amount of space inside the three-door Mitsubishi Colt CZ1 either. Adults aren't going to appreciate being asked to sit in the back for long, and the slender boot won't swallow much of the week's shopping.

Fortunately, the Mitsubishi Colt CZ1 becomes far more agreeable the moment you fire up the engine. The merry thrum of the little three-pot motor is a constant companion in the cabin, but it rarely becomes tiresome; that's largely due to its free-spinning, eager-to-please character.

The combination of this energetic engine with the new Colt CZ1's relatively low weight makes the car surprisingly satisfying to drive. The steering could certainly deliver more feedback, but it does communicate enough of the available grip to make fairly quick progress an easy endeavour.

There is also the promise of just over 50mpg from the 74bhp powerplant.

Around town the Colt's fidgety ride slightly spoils the overall experience, but not nearly as much as the vast MPV-like A-pillars, which obstruct visibility every time you come to negotiate a junction or roundabout.

Should I buy one?

Many people will overlook the Mitsubishi Colt CZ1, preferring to pay the premium for better interior materials and superior ride quality. But for those interested in a cost-effective supermini, there is still enough here to recommend the little Mitsubishi.

By not asking a likeable engine to pull too much weight, Mitsubishi has again succeeded in producing a strangely likeable car. Sure, it's outclassed by some of the more expensive European opposition, but it's hard not to appreciate the cheerful way it delivers cheap motoring.

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julianphillips 10 February 2009

Re: Mitsubishi Colt 1.1 CZ1

Cars like this and other similar 4 seat minis in the same price bracket make me wonder what on earth the point of cars like the Smart and the Toyota IQ is?