Smarter than a Smart

According to the latest research, two thirds of European drivers would never even consider buying a Japanese car. It’s exactly this kind of PR problem that companies such as Mitsubishi are striving to address with cars like the Colt – a thoroughly modern supermini created by the firm’s Mitsubishi Design Europe (MDE) studio in Frankfurt.

While the three petrol units shared with its sister Smart Forfour are the handiwork of Mitsubishi, the Colt 1.5 DiD’s turbodiesel comes from partner Mercedes. Combining the latest common-rail technology with a three-cylinder layout, the DiD pumps out 95bhp and 155lb ft of torque at 1800rpm. Emissions figures are yet to be released, but Mitsubishi claims that this five-door machine will return a competitive 61.4mpg on the combined run.

Unfortunately, it does so far from quietly. With a noticeable clatter at idle and a deep-chested thrum that echoes around the cabin at high revs, it’s simply not in the same league as Fiat’s 1.3 Multijet or Ford’s 1.4 TDCi in terms of refinement. What it does have, however, is a remarkably fat, flat torque curve.

Keep the engine spinning between 1500 and 4500rpm – easy enough, thanks to the five-speed manual’s light, positive shift action – and there’s always enough thrust on tap to haul past slower traffic. And what it might lack in noise-reduction it more than makes up for in character; like its 1.1-litre petrol sibling, the 1.5 DiD emits a pleasantly offbeat warble under load. A cruising speed of 70mph also translates into a relaxed 2500rpm in fifth.

Whether it’s down to the extra 95kg that the 1.5 diesel carries over its petrol counterpart, or simply superior suspension tuning, is unclear, but the Colt seems to ride with more composure than its Smart-badged rival. It fills ruts and potholes more effectively and feeds less kickback through the wheel.

The driving experience remains competent rather than exciting, but the lack of road noise, accurate electric power steering and highly versatile, spacious interior add up to a remarkably mature overall package. The Colt has come of age.

Heinz Bitturger

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