Mitsubishi Colt Ralliart
Added: 12th of October 2013
To a casual observer, there are few visual signs to distinguish this car from the more pedestrian versions of the Colt. External clues are the small Ralliart and Turbo badges, a modest rear spoiler and side skirts, a large oval exhaust outlet and the purposeful, low stance on wide 16" graphite-coloured alloys. Apart from the snug-fitting sports seats, the interior too is much the same as other Colts. But start the engine and the pleasant exhaust boom immediately hints that this could be an interesting drive. Pull away and the firm suspension and positive steering confirm that this is indeed a no-compromise hot hatch. The weight of the controls is perfect - good feel through the steering wheel and brakes that are not over-servoed, so heel-and-toe downshifts won't risk standing the car on its nose. The engine pulls smoothly from low revs, with a decent kick as the turbo spins up and the revs rise above midrange. The combination of an eager motor and a light car gives push-in-the back acceleration and means overtaking is almost as easy as on a motorbike, helped by the nicely-spaced upper three gear ratios. Driven enthusiastically, the car is a hoot, and can surprise much more exotic machinery away from the lights or at roundabouts. Such antics of course do have a penalty in terms of fuel consumption. But on the other hand, a light right foot and sensible driving can easily return in excess of 40 m.p.g., as displayed on the onboard computer which it shares with the rest of the range. Apart from the computer, and the inevitable ABS/EBD/ETC, the car is mostly devoid of electronic gimmickry, other than cruise control operated from slightly fiddly buttons on the steering wheel. Though one feature I could do without is the flashing of the hazard lights when braking hard - I have only triggered this a couple of times when traffic lights have changed at the last minute, but it would be a real distraction if I ever wanted to try the car on a track. For what at first appears to be a compact hatchback, the interior is surprisingly roomy, with plenty of leg- and headroom for full-sized adults in front and back. As with any three-door hatch, access to the rear seats is not recommended for inflexible elderly relatives. Luggage space in the boot is limited by the car's length, but is adequate for a big family shop or luggage for a week away. Folding down the asymmetric split rear seats gives a really useful flat loading space with just a single step. To sum up, this car is most definitely a Jekyll-and-Hyde character. Around town it's economical and in terms of practicality only really loses out to its softer siblings because of the firm ride quality on poorly-maintained roads; some might also find the steering a bit on the heavy side. Or it can happily carry a full load from one end of the country (or even of Europe) to the other. And then, when the driver is in the mood and the right kind of road comes along, it can remind you just what fun it is to bond with such a sweet-handling, responsive piece of machinery.