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Car reviews - Mitsubishi - Colt - Ralliart hatch

Launch Story

2 Aug 2006

MITSUBISHI is turning its attention to the fastest growing market in Australia in 2006, the light-car segment. Realising that the near-invisible RG Colt range needs some sexing up, prices have dropped, manuals have been added, and some sizzling pint-sized performance enters the fray in the form of the Ralliart Turbo, a $30K bombshell that Mitsubishi hopes will blow away a whole range of hot-hatch rivals. With contenders as devastating as the Renault Clio Sport, is there room for another – even one as fiercely focused as the force-fed Colt? Place your bets now, because we have the answer.

We like:
Rawness, subtle performance, Ralliart bodykit, sweet steering, Recaro seats

We don't like:
Hefty price tag, constant loud ride and engine, firm ride

WE AT GoAuto have long rated the Mitsubishi Colt much more highly than its lowly sales figures suggest.

An award winner abroad, as well as a distant cousin to the Mercedes A-class and Smart ForFour, the light-car replacement for the popular old CE Mirage seems to have hidden its deep-seated accommodation and efficiency capabilities under a boxy bushel.

High pricing and having no auto didn’t help. And exhuming the tired old ‘Colt’ name couldn’t have done the little Japanese hatchback too many favours either.

So here are the MY06 editions, complete with wider choices, keener pricing, a welcome manual gearbox… and a defibrillator of a hot hatch debutante, designed to revive the moribund heart of the mini Mitsubishi.

It goes by the name of Colt Ralliart Turbo.

And just like its tamer city-slicking siblings, time is needed to truly understand the Turbo’s place in the sun.

At $29,990, it seems expensive against the $26,990 VW Polo GTI. And, frankly, the Mitsubishi is noisier and less refined.

But dig deeper.

One of the current Colt’s best features is its functional, attractive cabin presentation, with its big-car solidity, easy to use switchgear, ample ventilation and excellent driving position.

Now the junior Evo-style interior ambience is a bonus, distancing the Ralliart from your regular cooking hatchback.

Red instrumentation on white faces, metallic trim finishes, chunky little steering wheel, and gloriously supportive Recaro sports seats set a sporty tone inside, while the black wheel arch extensions, bonnet scoop and fat alloys help do the same outside.

Yet nothing quite prepares you for the sheer ‘bass’ of the engine and drivetrain, reverberating and engulfing you into a pretty intense hot hatch rhythm.

What we’re trying to say here is that there is an intimacy with the Ralliart’s oily bits.

This unexpected rawness to the Colt’s power and drivetrain delivery makes it feel hard and fast.

The 113kW 1.5-litre turbo and intercooled engine is loud all the way to the 6500rpm cut out – and believe us, you are soon zapped there by the wave of torque that builds up to its 210Nm maximum from 3500rpm.

In fact everything comes as an assault – the suspension is loud, the tyres underneath are loud – you are in no doubt that this is meant to be a rowdy little runabout. Some people may find it annoying after a long drive, but it isn’t a bad thing.

The Ralliart’s eager little engine may not quite have the lungs of the Polo GTI’s 110kW/210Nm 1.8-litre 20-valve turbo.

And a short drive might leave boyracers disappointed because there isn’t the firecracker launch performance that you expect in a lightweight turbocharged hatchback. There seems to be a little bit of inertia.

Explore the upper reaches of the rev range, however, and you are likely to be pleasantly surprised and delighted by the linear power and torque delivery this little Colt has.

In second gear, the 6500rpm red line comes in all too quickly, and you’re left wanting more, but an upshift to third gear suddenly opens up a wide arc of performance that comes on fast and strong.

There is some turbo lag in the lower reaches of the rev range, but then the whole power deliver is akin to a little Japanese V6 – you just need to row those gears.

At 100km/h it cruises at a busy 2750rpm in top gear.

Speaking of which, the five-speed manual gearshift is a curious thing, since – on first acquaintance – the skinny stubby lever feels light and insubstantial.

But give it some stick by ramming the box through each gear with the turbo on song, and the shift quality comes to the fore, with a weighty and well-oiled motion, light-switch positivity, and crisp gear selection.

It’s the type of gearshift that encourages you to row it along with enthusiasm.

Yet the Ralliart’s best feature is saved for the corners.

Aided by one of the best steering set ups this side of the costlier Renault Clio Sport and Peugeot 206 GTI 180, the Colt Turbo simply relishes a tight set of curves, punctuated by sweeping bends and a switchback or three.

It handles with true fluency and finesse, and that comes as a real shock. Indeed, so do brakes that keep on doing their thing time and again.

Next to a Polo GTI, the Colt Ralliart seems altogether sharper, rawer, louder and harder – more of a spiritual successor to, say, the Lotus-massaged Proton Satria GTi. Yet it is a complete hot-hatch package.

Mitsubishi says that there are enough enthusiasts out there who appreciate the engineering effort that goes into a car wearing the Ralliart touch, to justify its premium pricing.

Not just a racier engine, firmer suspension and fancier add-ons either: Ralliart bolsters the body, suspension and steering to a degree that exceeds the legendary Lancer Evolution IX it’s also responsible for.

We were sceptical at first, but the right road and conditions soon had us seeing a wilder side to Mitsubishi’s underrated little wallflower.

Much more importantly, will you?

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