2008 Mitsubishi Colt Ralliart review

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2008 Mitsubishi Colt Ralliart review

Model tested: Colt Ralliart turbo

Recommended Retail Price: $29,990

Options fitted: None

Roomy, brilliant handling, strong engine

Turbo lag, base model shows through

CarAdvice rating:

- by Karl Peskett

Waitresses are the original balance masters. It's staggering how well they do it. I'm sure you've seen them. You know, you walk into a restaurant, and there they are, stacking plates or glasses, until you think "there's no way they could fit one more on their arm". But they do. And not only one more, they manage several more.

Of course, there's only so far they can go before they end up losing all of it. And we've all seen that too. As you go higher, the centre of gravity elevates correspondingly. Just like in a car.

As a car gets taller, there's an increased risk of a roll-over. So please explain how the Mitsubishi Colt Ralliart can be so narrow and tall, yet still handle like it does. The answer is to hand it over to the Ralliart team, and let them have a tinker with it.

But can you change a leopard's spots? Were they starting from a below average package to begin with? Well consider the Lancer Evolution. The base model Lancer was a bit iffy, but the Evo series has arguably reached cult status, and no wonder. There are only a few places you can turn for that ‘bang for your buck’. Interesting, then, that a Colt been thrown into the Ralliart mix.

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Introduced in 2004 the Colt has been a quiet achiever in the small car segment. Only in 2006 was a manual variant added, and it saw sales increase slightly, but rivals such as the Swift, Jazz and Mazda 2 had already garnered more of the market.

So, in late 2006, Mitsubishi saw fit to introduce the Colt Ralliart in an effort to boost sales. Using the same 1.5-litre motor but adding a small turbocharger has upped the power from 77kW to 113kW (a substantial jump of 46%), and bumped the peak torque from 141Nm to 210Nm (a similar increase of 48%).

The respectable rise does come at the cost of turbo lag. And when the revs increase, coarseness begins to rear its ugly head, especially above 4500rpm, but fuel economy is still quite good.

Adding over 40% more power and torque can have disastrous consequences if the rest of the car hasn't been beefed up. Fortunately, suspension, brakes, tyres and wheels have all been upgraded, and the result is a makeover which, although you wouldn't call extreme, makes the car a different animal.

The increase in thickness of the stabiliser bar at the front, for instance, is only 1mm, but it's amazing what a millimetre can do. Bodyroll is contained, and combined with the uprated springs, a strut tower brace, better dampers and more rigid suspension components, the Colt Ralliart is suddenly sporting. This comes as a shock when you look at the car, which is easily perceived as top-heavy.

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It will dart left and right at only an inkling of steering input, meaning hardly any slack around the straight ahead, much like its Evo sibling. It can be a little deceiving in feel as it tends to spring back to the straight ahead, meaning an artificial weight while cornering. Feedback is pretty good though.

It sits flat when cornering too, and the seat-of-the-pants impression is one of high lateral loading. Probably the Yokohama Advan tyres help here, but the chassis balance is extremely impressive.

Keep the stability control (ASC in Mitsu speak) on because it will lift-off oversteer quite quickly, with its short wheelbase not helping the case. It is predictable, but it's better to be safe than sorry. On turn-in it stays neutral, and only pushes wide if you're going in too hot. Trail braking doesn't move the tail much though, so it's a pretty safe car to drive quickly.

Like the Evo too, is the tyre roar on coarse surfaces, and the firm ride. It's pretty easy to live with day to day though, as passengers won't complain. Indeed, I transported an 80-year-old lady around the place and she didn't mind it one bit.

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The Colt's interior is a vast improvement on the spartan Evo IX. Better quality plastics, and no faux-fibre trim leaves an impression of expense. Mitsu's press release states that ‘the front Recaros are straight from the Evo VIII MR’. This means they're a bit tight and squashy; those of the larger-derriere persuasion might need shoehorning in and out.

The boot could be a little bigger, and a little more attention to the comfy rear seats would be good too. Infact, given the $14K price gap between the top spec Ralliart and base ES colt, there's little to differentiate them. The same goes for the rest of the interior.

Only one badge appears inside the Colt Ralliart, just in front of the gearshift. Either something on the steering wheel, or on the dash would be good, so that as soon as you sit down, you know what you've spent all that extra money on.

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The fun is in the drive though, which is does well. The gearbox is a little notchy, but still snicks into the gate well, with well spaced ratios and the clutch is light and feels good. The strong engine and brakes are a nice addition but there's one or two drawbacks. The drop of boost between each gear change is a little disappointing, and although the brake feel is good, overuse will see them cooked quickly.

So this is more of a quick-blast-around-the-city kind of car. But it is common for people to use these little beasts in motorkhanas and track work. A quick pad change, sticky tyres, and an ECU reflash will see your Colt suddenly become a stallion. But even as standard, it still returns a 6.7L/100km fuel consumption average.

What about to the everyday man. Do they look at it and see the potential? Put simply, does it have cred? Judging by the comments received during the week running around in it, yup. Statements such as "It's so cute, but aggressive at the same time," and "I'll bet it'd be a bombed daily." Yes. Definitely. Whatever the hell that meant....

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It's a fun car to blast around in, and it surprises with its agility. Handling, braking, steering and performance are all a step up from the standard Colt. But the pricetag is getting up there; $29,990 is a fair whack for what essentially is a done-up Colt. Plus with Fiesta XR4, VW Polo GTI, and Suzuki Swift Sport all undercutting it by thousands of dollars, it's going to have its work cut out for it.

For those in doubt, the elements of this vehicle's name fit. This is no boxy, poxy, oxymoron of a car. It's a well sorted package that lives up to the rally heritage of the company. Yes, the Evo has a feisty little brother. It's called the Colt Ralliart.

2008 Mitsubishi Colt Ralliart specifications

CarAdvice overall rating:

How does it drive:

How does it look:

How does it go:

Engine: 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged
Power: 113kW
Torque: 210Nm
Top speed: N/A
Safety: ABS, Dual Front, Side and Curtain Airbags, ASC
0-100km/h: N/A
ANCAP rating: 3 Stars
Turning circle: 10.8 metres
Fuel tank: 45 litres
Fuel consumption : 6.7 litres /100km (combined)
Fuel type: 95RON Unleaded