By on December 1, 2008

You already have Schadenfreude, Rucksack, Kindergarten, Fahrvergnügen. May I offer another useful German compound word? Verschlimmbesserung. Meaning: making something worse (in the process of trying to improve it). Car companies are good at Verschlimmbesserung, as proven by the Mitsubishi Colt.

The Mitsubishi Colt is like a slightly less sophisticated but cheerful cousin to the Honda Fit. It was developed in cooperation with Daimler (the Smart ForFour was almost identical but bombed in the market, and got discontinued soon after its 2004 introduction). Both Colt and ForFour had great roominess and versatility. There is more interior space than in a Golf and the sliding rear seats provide E-class rear legroom upon request.

To me, French designer Olivier Bouley did a fine job of making the Colt look tidy, coherent and well-proportioned. I have no qualms with the Colt’s tidy handling either, which is closer to the floaty, comfortable French ideal than to the jitteriness of the Fit. One Colt I drove was equipped with the tiny 1.1L, 75HP, three-cylinder engine. Pre-recession Americans would find it pathetically wanting in torque, but when I drove it in Lisbon and through the hills of central Portugal, I liked how the engine enjoyed being revved endlessly, felt lightweight over the front suspension and never got loud. I have also driven the 1.3L four, but to me that’s an underwhelming, generic engine that has none of the charm of the basic package.

For 2009, Mitsu has facelifted the Colt: new sad-agressive styling (thumbs down), no more sliding rear seats (running out of thumbs!), better interior plastics (which doesn’t make that great a difference), and better noise insolation (now, this is very welcome; the old-style Colt was a boomy box). I still prefer the old one, now selling at discount prices, starting at 8.9K Euros (in Europe), which is a bargain. I’d recommend this car to anybody in Japan, Germany or Australia (it seems they’re being sold everywhere except in the U.S.), who is looking for very pleasant, basic transportation at a price point way below the Fit.

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9 Comments on “Capsule Review: 2005-2008 Mitsubishi Colt...”


  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    This sounds like yet another vehicle that would be interesting over here if it weren’t for the US’s different pollution and crash standards. High time to make the Euro standards standard (as in: we can import Euro cars without going through hoops).

  • avatar
    RayH

    I miss my ’91 Plymouth Colt, it was a nice runabout bought with 150,000 miles, burned and leaked a quart or so of oil per tank of fuel, although quarts of oil were 69 cents at the time. I might still have it today had I not put a wheel bearing off so long it ruined the knuckle. The 92hp was pretty sprightly, and close to 40mpg to boot. There was no shame in the badge engineering, the key said mitsubishi, as well as the engine. An uncle had an early 80’s baby poop brown Dodge colt/champ?… I remember being little and the inside badge even saying by mitsubishi right under the colt/champ. And the 2 range gearbox… priceless.

    Nice review, it would be interesting to see a current NA version had they continued this line (I believe 2000 was last year of the mitsu Mirage, which was the Colt, and still had the 92 hp engine available in 2000!)

  • avatar

    I’m unclear as to which is the new and which is the old. The white one looks OK. The red one looks like a Pontiac from the front. Which means ugly.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    David, the red one is the old one, so I’m sorry to say we have different opinions on this. All the better for Mitsubishi if people like you appreciate the facelift.

  • avatar
    James2

    What is it with these designers who feel compelled to “improve” (aka uglify) a good thing. First it was the Mazda 3 and now this Colt. The old one looks epically better than the new one.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Martin, please test a Golf VI with the 160hp 1.4TSI and DSG! It sounds excellent, with near-diesel economy.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    Two more thumbs down:

    -no more diesels (used to be available with a Mercedes 1.5 3-cylinder)

    -no more 1.5 NA gassers

    I like the pre-facelift Colt, I also like the Forfour, with it’s glass roof and cloth-covered dashboard. Making the Forfour RWD like all the other smarts would have been better though.

  • avatar
    Michal

    Test drove one a few years back. Pretty good handling and decent power. CVT transmission took a little getting used to. However I found the seats oddly uncomfortable. They seemed to cut off the circulation to my legs… leading to numbness after less than 10 minutes driving. It’s unusual as I own a similar vintage Lancer and have no issues with it. Must be a very different seat design.

    The foot park brake is a demented idea, from a practicality and safety point of view. I have seen seasoned manual transmission drivers get into an auto and instinctively try to press the clutch… guess what would happen here. Foot brakes feel unnatural and there’s something odd about overruling decades of common sense design. And no, the Colt doesn’t have a front bench seat.

    The indicator ticker was on the far left in a right hand drive car. It sounded odd… very odd for a Japanese built car. Shows through the European design underpinnings.

    Cargo cover was an optional extra at time of test drive. I consider this an absolutely mandatory item for any hatch. Who wants potential thieves to have a good look at the goodies in your boot?

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    @Michal
    Where did you drive one? Europe didn’t get CVTs or foot-operated park brakes. All European Colts were made in the Netherlands at NedCar (the former DAF car factory that used to make the Mitsubishi-platform Volvo S/V40)

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