When I was looking at buying a car this year I couldn’t find many blogs or forums with reviews from owners, so I am doing my bit to correct that :)
I decided to look at the Mitsubishi Colt after reading some magazine reviews and checking various web sites. I was lucky enough to have a test drive in it’s native Japan, and despite the less than ideal test track it did reassure me that it was comfortable and refined. Back in the UK I test drove a Suzuki Splash and a Subaru Justy, but neither really impressed me. The Splash is nice enough but had no character at all, and the Justy was underpowered and noisy.
I decided to get the ClearTec model in an attempt to keep running costs down. The ClearTec 1.3l engine is not only more efficient than most but also has a feature called “Auto Stop & Go”. More on that later. The spec lists the “combined cycle” fuel consumption as 56MPG, and I have managed to hit that level a few times on the way to work when the roads are not too busy.
The Colt is a solid and well made car. The interior doesn’t seem cheap or flimsy and it’s pretty quiet when running. Importantly for me it’s quite a tall car with big, wide opening doors that make it easy to get in and out of. The position of the steering wheel is nicely adjustable and the seats are comfortable with good back support and ample adjustment options. All the controls are within easy reach and the displays are big and clear. They are lit evenly in orange with the lights on. All the usual features are there, as well as a few less usual ones like cruise control (which works very well), air con and fully electric mirrors. Rear privacy glass is standard, as are alloy wheels on the ClearTec model.
There are lots of little touches like being able to tap the indicator lever to indicate three times and then automatically cancel, ideal for lane changes and roundabout exits. The washers have a similar feature, as well a speed sensitive intermittent operation where the wipers speed up as the car goes faster. Overall it’s all very well thought out and implemented.
The sound system is pretty good too, with front and rear speakers. Touches like a leather wheel and gear knob add to the sense of class and refinement that I found other cars in this price range lacked. The car is also quite practical, with a decent boot and fold flat rear seats. Inside it’s very spacious.
The thing that most impressed me though is the handling. It’s the sort of thing that is hard to judge on a short test drive, but having owned it for six months I’m now really enjoying it. The suspension is pretty stiff so the car doesn’t roll when cornering, and you can fling it into a bend with confidence. It manages to absorb the many bumps and pot-holes on your average British road without sacrificing stability which is no mean feat on a relatively tall car like this. The 1.3l ClearTec engine isn’t particularly fast but still manages to shift when you ask it to and has plenty of power left at motorway speeds to not worry about overtaking etc. The breaks are very sharp too, requiring only a tap to activate.
I had parking sensors fitted to mine and have found it pretty easy to manoeuvre into narrow spaces in packed roads. The sensors are very, um, sensitive and will warn you about stuff to the side of the car as well as directly behind it. I quickly learnt that you only really use them to warn of things you haven’t seen or are trying to judge distance from, because they do go off a lot when backing up. That’s not a bad thing by any means.
Visibility is generally pretty good in the Colt, except for the side pillars which block your view at some junctions. The wing mirrors are extra large and provide good coverage.
The ClearTec engine works well. The “Auto Stop & Go” feature basically turns the engine off when the car is stationary and in neutral. The moment you put your foot back down on the clutch the engine comes on again. The idea is to save fuel when not moving while in a queue or waiting for the lights to change. When not moving you are getting exactly 0MPG. It’s quite intelligent, for example not activating if the wheels are turned in (such as when turning into a side road) or if the battery is a little bit low. Mitsubishi claim that it doesn’t do the battery any harm and the starter motor is supposed to last the lifetime of the car, but of course only time will tell on that. It does take a little getting used to as well, but once you learn not to try and second guess it everything “just works”. How much fuel it really saves I’m not sure, but the car seems pretty efficient and cheap to run overall. I spend less on petrol than I did with my old 1.0l Suzuki Alto.
About the only thing that does bother me about this car is that the air-con only delivers lukewarm air for the first few minutes until the engine heats up. It clears the windscreen in under a minute but takes longer to raise the cabin temperature on a cold winter morning. At first I wasn’t entirely convinced by the looks of the car either, but they have grown on me. It’s not ugly or anything, just an unusual shape from some angles. The addition of a spoiler really improves things I think. Colour wise you can have pearl white or red for free, or various metallic colours. It looks good in white but of course like all white cars shows the dirt up. I went for black in the end and am pretty happy with it.
There are other cars which on paper look like they might have an edge over the Colt, but spec isn’t everything. Mitsubishi have come up with a brilliant design which is well executed. The Suzuki Splash and Skoda Fabia are good examples cars which seem good on paper but which fail to impress when you get behind the wheel. The Skoda is pretty nippy but otherwise seems a bit cheap and basic inside, while the Splash is just utterly unremarkable.