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Colt Cabriolet Turbo

Oh what a sweety

by Julian Edgar

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At a glance...

  • Superb turbo engine
  • Excellent steel and glass folding roof
  • Brilliant handling
  • Good equipment level
  • Resale value a question mark
  • NVH higher than dollars suggest
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Now perhaps we’ve been living under a rock for a year or so, but to be honest, until Mitsubishi handed us the keys for a week, we didn’t even know that the Colt Cabriolet was available with a turbocharged and intercooled engine.

Yes, that’s right: just about the same engine as you’ll find under the bonnet of the pocket rocket Colt Ralliart, a car that we so thoroughly loved when we tested it. And – get this - the Cabriolet turbo also comes with the same sports suspension and electronic stability control. Oh yeah – and it also just happens to have an electrically-controlled folding all-steel-and-glass roof....

Mitsubishi reckon the biggest buyers of the Cabriolet Turbo will be woman aged 30 – 55, highly educated with a household income over $120,000. The cute and funky appearance of the Pininfarina-designed (and European manufactured) Cabriolet makes that a fair bet. But there’s also another whole buyer market out there, one that wants wonderful handling, a great (and economical) turbo engine and the joy of a disappearing roof.

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We absolutely loved the Turbo Cabriolet and think that if more people knew of the car, it would be walking out the door. After all, the Astra Convertible was a huge hit for Holden – and the Colt Turbo Cab is a much more involving car in every way.

Hmmm, OK, so what’s bad about it? In short, the $37,990 price is the biggest stumbling block. Examine the car - its looks, roof, handling, performance and equipment - and then the price isn’t a huge concern. But look at the price of a base model Colt - $15,990 – and it’s easy to believe that plenty of people will be saying at Cabriolet trade-in time: you paid how much for this car? But get past the idea of a Mitsi Colt being worth more than forty grand on the road and you can step back a little and look at the design.

Each Colt Cabriolet Turbo has a fascinating genesis. The panels are stamped at Mitsubishi Motors’ NedCar plant in The Netherlands before being sent to the Pininfarina Bairo plant in Italy. The turbo engines comes from Japan, the seats from Faurecia in The Netherlands, the front bumper from Peguform in Germany and the cockpit components from Johnson Controls in The Netherlands. Webasto assembles the roof mechanism in an in-house ‘factory within a factory’ in the Pininfarina plant. Body parts used to form the Cabriolet are sourced from the three-door and five-door Colts but also with a healthy dose of specific stampings.

In short, the Colt Cabriolet Turbo feels and looks more European than Japanese – for better or worse, that includes having the indicator lever on the left-hand side of the steering column.

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The external appearance is dramatically changed over the locally-delivered Colt. Instead of following the tall-boy look, the Cabriolet looks curvaceous and low – almost more Peugeot than Peugeot. Some of the angles don’t work as well as others – take the rear view for example – but overall this is a car that looks as sweet as it is.

But step into the cabin and all isn’t positive. The controls look sparse and the plastic expanse of the dash is vast. The carpet is unforgivably cheap and nasty, not helped at all by the incredibly rough cut in the carpet ahead of the passenger’s seat. A flap is made so that the ADR plates can be riveted to the floor – we only hope that the cars the customers get have this done more neatly.

The starter motor is the loud design we commented on in the Colt Ralliart test – in fact, NVH never befits a car of the Cabriolet’s expense. With the roof on, there are wind whistles where the side windows meet the roof and the general noise and vibration – while excusable in the more performance-focused Ralliart – tend to intrude in the Cabriolet. The Cabriolet Turbo leans much more in the direction of ‘sporty convertible’ than ‘luxury convertible’ – something potential buyers should be aware of.

Two manual clips need to be undone but after that the roof electrically retracts with the push of a button. The roof’s bulk fills most of the boot but as it’s a bloody big boot to start with, the luggage situation isn’t irretrievable. With the roof down, there’s still room for a full-size suitcase; with it up, you can fit plenty in there. Given that most people packing lots would drive to the destination with the roof up, unpack the boot and then go for a roof-down cruise, the boot space and how it is organised is fine.

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The Cabriolet saw the inside of the Pininfarina wind tunnel - and they’ve done a great job. With the roof down and the side glass up, you can easily cruise all day at 110 km/h. The cabin remains exceptionally still, without even the necessity for a behind-seats wind blocker. With the side windows down, the cabin is a bit airier but is still very good indeed. Electrically heated seats make this convertible even more practical – top-down cruising should be possible down to even single digit temp figures. When we had the car it was sunny and 20 degrees C – perfect....

The engine noticeably comes on boost – peak torque is at 3500 rpm, which is high for a current turbo engine. However, this allows the driver to trickle around off-boost, getting very good economy and with none of the rush that comes from a powerful engine. However, really nail it and there’s power aplenty – more than one traffic light racer was amazed when the ‘girly’ Cabriolet sprinted off into the distance. Peak power is 110kW at 6000 rpm and the 0-100 km/h time is a claimed 8.4 seconds.

The gearing is fairly short – the engine is revving well at highway speeds – and this and the small turbo give really excellent response at mid-rpm in high gears.... perfect for overtaking.

The gearbox – a European Getrag 5-speed – is a bit notchy.

Fuel economy varies from an easy 7.0 litres/100km in highway cruise to a maximum we saw of 18.5 litres/100km over a stretch of hilly, tight mountain back-road, being taken as fast as the car would go. Expect around 8-9 litres/100km in urban conditions incorporating an occasional sprint. Open-road fuel economy is clearly better with the roof up.

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The leather seats are well shaped and supportive, but the steering wheel is height-adjustable only, resulting in a rather long-arms driving position. Rear seat room is non-existent – with the front seats right back, they touch the rear seat squab. The left-hand front airbag can be switched off, allowing a baby seat to be positioned in the front. Side airbags are also fitted. The interior is practical with big door pockets and two easily-accessible drink holders.

Handling is excellent, with plenty of grip from the (European) 205/45 Continental SportContact II tyres on 16 inch rims. There’s meaty steering weight, great turn-in and plenty of grip. The (unobtrusive) presence of stability control makes this an absolutely no-sweat proposition to set fast times on demanding roads – or to simply whiz around an urban roundabout at speed sufficient to shake pretenders. The ride quality is fine – firm but not harsh.

With the roof retracted, there is some scuttle shake - that’s when the lack of torsional rigidity of a convertible can be clearly felt. The steering wheel tends to jiggle left-right over bumps and this must degrade handling as well as feeling at times a bit disconcerting.

But in looks, heritage, performance, economy and handling, the Colt Cabriolet Turbo is an extremely competent all-round package.

The Colt Cabriolet Turbo was provided for this story by Mitsubishi Motors Australia.

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