Remember the tarted-up hot hatches of yore, those
with a few go-fast stripes, alloys and some black-outs? You’d pay a few thousand
dollars more, go no faster but look a bit better.
Well, let us tell you that the Ralliart Colt is
nothin’ like that. This is one car thoroughly developed from nose to tail to go
fast on real roads.
From its upgraded brakes (not just discs but
master cylinder as well) to its radically revised suspension (dampers, rebound
springs, new main spring rate, improved lower arm rigidity, different bushes,
bigger sway bar with Teflon-lined bushes – and that’s just the front!), to its
turbo 1.5 litre MIVEC motor, this car shows thorough factory development that’s
resulted in the best sporting small car we’ve ever driven.
You want to carry four adults in comfort? You can.
You want to slide the rear seat forward and then tumble it to give you an
incredible 594 litres of cargo capacity? You can. You want to peel down your
favourite stretch of twisting tight black-top, standard ex-Evo Recaros holding
you tight as you use the small size of the car, the meaty mid-range torque and
the quick and accurate steering to despatch the kilometres in a time that would
leave your average Commodore or Falcon owner simply incredulous? Well, you can
do that too.
And all at an ADR 81/01 fuel consumption of 6.7
litres/100km or even, as we achieved on test, 8 litres/100km.
The Ralliart Colt is a car that we’ve been long
waiting for. We loved the Daihatsu Charade turbo and bemoaned the missing GTTi.
The fast Familia and the incredible Kei class Japanese were more cars we never
saw in decent numbers. But now we have just such a pocket rocket – and if it
costs a bit more than we’d really like; well, it also has more capability than
we ever expected.
So enough of the hyperbole: what of the facts?
Under the bonnet – equipped with
specific-for-Ralliart exit louvres – you’ll find a 1468cc 4G15 turbo and
intercooled engine. The long stroke design (bore is 75.5mm and stroke 82mm) uses
a very high compression ratio for a turbo engine – being quoted at variably 9 or
10:1. Peak power is 113kW at 6000 rpm (redline is 6500 and cut-out at 6700 rpm),
while peak torque is developed at a high-ish 3500 rpm. While that’s not high for
older turbo cars, it’s certainly way up there for a current turbo engine – and
you can feel it on the road. No boost gauge is provided but it feels like lots
starts happening at only about 2800 rpm. However, it should be said that on a
flowing road, the Ralliart Colt is very seldom caught off-boost.
The relatively small intercooler is tucked in the
front-left guard and the exhaust manifold appears to be hydro-formed tubular
steel. Given that the turbo feels a little big for the engine, we figure that a
bit of extra boost would really wake-up the top-end... The exhaust system is a low
back-pressure design that runs a huge oval exhaust tip and a specific centre
muffler. The exhaust noise level is generally low except when the idle is high
immediately after a cold start, where the exhaust can resonate. However, the
most irritating characteristic of the engine is the electronic throttle action
on sudden accelerator lifts, where a strong ‘dash pot’ effect can delay the
closing of the throttle.
Bolted to the end of the engine is a Getrag
5-speed transmission. The shift action is good with relatively short throws.
However, first gear is very low which has two effects: you can fall into a power
hole on the change to second gear, and it’s also easy to spin the wheels right
through first gear...
Wheelspin is puportedly controlled by the combined
electronic stability/traction control systems, but the engineers have given
plenty of latitude for the driver to play, so despite the system, there’s still
lots of squeal if you tromp it in first gear. (And it should be mentioned that
the engine in the test car was very green; we can only assume it will get even
better with more kays under the rubbers.) The clutch is by ZF-Sachs.
And if the driveline is a bit of an eye-opener in
terms of development, the chassis is an absolute class act. Together with the
9-inch booster, the big front ventilated discs and solid rear discs give braking
performance which at first feels unremarkable. It’s only when you start
punishing the stoppers with repeated real-world stops down a demanding road that
you marvel at the consistent, strong stopping power. Mitsubishi claim the brakes
have the same fade resistance as the Evo Lancer and we can believe it.
On a twisting road the Colt feels absolutely
planted. The precision and weight of the steering, the millimetre-accurate
placement that is easily achieved, and the grip provide by the 205/45 ZR Pirelli
Dragons being worn on 16 x 6.5 inch wheels all mean that it’s easy to be
embarrassed by your driving. Embarrassed? Yep, because at the end of the what
you thought was a demanding section being taken fast, you wonder why the hell
you hadn’t been entering every corner 10 or 15 or even 20 km/h faster... such was
the ease with which the Ralliart Colt had been doing it.
At speed, understeer and oversteer aren’t apparent
(well, not at sane speeds, anyway). However, in very tight corners, the front
will wash into understeer which can be cancelled by a throttle lift. We didn’t
bother trying the car with the stability control switched off: with it left on,
there was still plenty of capability to slide the car and drive it with the
right foot. This might not be the absolute best handling front wheel drive that
we’ve experienced but it is a car that is immensely secure, predictable and
Partly responsible for that handling is the much
stiffer than standard body. Incredibly, the Colt body has been given a real
engineering work-over – and not just with bolt-ons. There are 50 per cent more
spot welds than normal; reinforcement has been added to the D pillar; some body
panels are thicker than standard; and additional reinforcements are
strategically placed. This adds 60kg to body mass (total is 1130kg) but body
rigidity is up by 30 per cent. In fact, Mitsubishi state (and they should know!)
that in terms of torsional rigidity, the Ralliart Colt is the stiffest
Mitsubishi made – better, even, than the Evo Lancer.
We’ve seen some criticism of the ride but for our
money, it’s fine. It’s certainly firm but the damping control is exemplary: the
body always feels well controlled but is very seldom harsh. The unpleasant
constant jiggle afflicting some small sporting cars is also absent.
So what don’t we like about the car? More than
anything, the price. At AUD$29,990, the Ralliart Colt needs more interior
equipment. There are only two airbags, no trip computer and no cruise control.
You get a CD stacker and semi-auto climate control but the interior ambience and
general NVH (eg the astonishingly loud starter motor!) are very clearly from a
cheaper car. And as with the other current model Colt we’ve driven, the brand
new Ralliart was afflicted with the strongest of interior plastic smells: we
drove the car mostly with the windows open or else occupants starting getting
headaches and feeling ill after 15 or 20 minutes.
But with its really good interior packaging,
decent fuel economy, strong performance and on-road brilliance, the Ralliart
Colt is an absolute standout car. Small fun is back in town again, and it’s
better than it ever was....
Ralliart Colt was provided for this test by Mitsubishi Australia.
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