Mitsubishi's Colt: a Renault Clio in disguise? Comparing comfort, performance, and price
If this were a sponsored article, you might be reading about the ninth-generation Mitsubishi Colt. I find that assertion quite a stretch. Yes, there is a product called the Colt, which is indisputable, but technically, we are discussing a Renault Clio that is being sold under the Mitsubishi brand and the Colt name.
For this review, we tested the optimal version with a one-liter gasoline engine and a manual transmission. An automatic transmission isn't even available for an additional cost, unless it's with a hybrid. This model comes in one of three engine versions, which also include a less powerful non-turbocharged gasoline engine and a stronger hybrid one - the latter offers an automatic option. If we disregard the base engine that only delivers 89 HP and is suitable mainly for city use, and the pricier hybrid costing over $32,500, our test Colt, priced at about $23,500, appears to be the optimal selection.
Impressive driving experience, particularly in rural areas
The engine provides a pleasing dynamic, but do bear in mind the extended gear ratios, making it more suited to flexible driving rather than high-speed sprints. According to the car's specs, the Colt accelerates from zero to 62 mph in 12.2 seconds. Although not groundbreaking, you can accelerate from 31 mph to highway speeds in fourth gear.
A drawback of the Colt's long gear ratios manifests as the necessity to downshift frequently in urban environments. While typical B-segment cars manage just fine in fifth gear, the Colt requires a fourth.
Regrettably, despite satisfactory parameters and responsiveness, the engine does seem to exhibit signs of fatigue. Even the mildly disconcerting idle speed may cause those accustomed to 4-cylinder units to question whether everything is functioning appropriately. The engine emits a growl during acceleration and vibrates at low speeds.
This may not initially inspire confidence in the French mechanics, however, once you adapt to this, it becomes irrelevant. Furthermore, we're discussing one of the most reliable small-capacity gasoline engines with a turbocharger currently on the market, still using multi-point injection.
The six-speed gearbox, which generates similar feedback as the engine, deserves mention. The engagement of the clutch triggers a sensation of elasticity and the mechanism's slipping, along with a moderately precise gear change. The gears engage with significant resistance.
Despite these less than positive aspects, the drive unit complements the car exceptionally well. It not only performs well in terms of acceleration, but also fuel consumption. Covering 62 miles at a speed of 87 mph with just 2.2 gallons of fuel is a commendable achievement for the B segment. During our test, the Colt consumed 1.5 gallons for every 62 miles covered at a speed of 75 mph.
For daily use on fast roads without exceeding speed limits, expect fuel consumption around 2 gallons per 62 miles. The figure improves significantly on local roads, where a consumption rate of less than 1.3 gallons per 62 miles isn't uncommon. However, with varied driving, expect fuel consumption to be around 1.45 gallons per 62 miles. Urban usage slightly increases this figure to between 1.6 and 1.85 gallons per 62 miles, depending on conditions.
Smooth and assured
The Colt's suspension is ideally balanced for this power unit. Despite the low-profile tires, the suspension is resilient, comfortable, and enjoyable to handle. However, at low speeds, there's an apparent lack of tire cushioning, occasionally leading to the impression of a flat tire. When forced into a greater effort, the running gear responds with a larger wheel stroke, but also reduced compactness, indicating a tendency towards excessive looseness. This, in turn, alerts the responsive anti-slip electronics to reinforce safety measures.
To my mind, the Colt's suspension is fine-tuned to meet customer expectations of a high-level comfort from a B-segment car. It performs excellently on highways, where even at high speeds, you feel as though you're driving a predictable, wind-resistant car that adheres to the specified direction.
The car's on-road performance positively showcases the driving position, the fairly comfortable seats, clear indicators, and the overall simplicity in handling the vehicle. On the downside - a hard elbow rest on the door armrests, an intrusive center tunnel impacting the right knee, and a centrally placed armrest that's too low.
Making matters worse, the car's insulation leaves a lot to be desired - noise filters in from the vicinity of the chassis and body gaps (doors, seals). This surprised me because when I tested the Clio, I recalled its insulation to be satisfactory. On the positive side, the Colt features excellent lighting, an exceptionally comfortable adaptive cruise control, and an effective lane-keeping assist.
The Clio isn't one of the few B-segment models that can claim to offer universal subcompact appeal. Entering the rear seat requires navigating through a narrow opening into a space that isn't particularly expansive. There's a dearth of passenger amenities here, like USB ports or air vents. While the bench has a short seat, at least it's at a reasonable height. Children not requiring car seats should find the rear comfortably accommodating.
On the bright side, the spacious trunk is commendable. The manufacturer claims a hard-to-believe capacity of 14 cubic feet, which is more than most compacts can offer. This seems to be a gross overestimation to me, but it still offers plenty of luggage space. It comes with shopping hooks, proper lighting, and a double floor feature for segregating smaller everyday items from bulkier, occasionally transported objects.
Comparing prices of Clio and Colt
Such a comparison is inevitable, given that we're essentially examining the same product packaged differently. Clio seems the more evident choice due to its popularity and established reputation. The Colt might prove to be quite a revelation for many potential customers. Disregarding brand loyalty or aesthetic preferences, as the visual differences are minimal, we'll compare both manufacturers based solely on their price lists, without accounting for any discounts.
The Clio starts at $20,130, and the Colt at $19,544. However, the discrepancy lies in that the Clio is equipped with the TCe engine standard from the onset, while Mitsubishi offers a naturally aspirated engine with reduced power as standard. If we bring the engines to parity, then you'll pay $23,500 for the Colt! Which is $3,250 more.
Does it justify a significantly improved range of equipment? I conducted a comparison based on truly useful features, and determined that there is minimal difference, but the Colt closely mirrors the Techno variant of the Renault Clio. That is, the second-tier equipment standard priced at $22,520. A smaller difference, but significant nonetheless.
The most significant contrast between the Colt and the Clio lies in the number of equipment versions offered. Mitsubishi provides six options (five for this engine), while Renault offers only three. Hence, it's possible to acquire the Clio in a lower specification than unavailable with the Mitsubishi for this engine. Mitsubishi presents more versions, but they are not customizable, only the paint job can be selected. Renault offers just three standard equipment packages, but these can be tailored to your preference. It's somewhat akin to buying candy by weight. You can either opt for one of the pre-assembled sets offered by the seller (Mitsubishi) or compile your own assortment (Renault).
Nevertheless, the Colt possesses a trump card. It's backed by a 5-year warranty, whereas Renault only provides 2 years. A long warranty period isn't always a benefit for everyone as it stipulates certain terms, but, in my view, for a car built by Renault and diverging in many areas, this provides a sense of assurance. The warranty period is lengthy enough that the car may change ownership during this time, which could be a bargaining tool when selling.
Not to be outdone, Renault retaliates with a factory-installed gas system. It's priced at $1,085, which brings its price on par with the Mitsubishi Colt, but it then becomes a much more economical vehicle. While this is essentially a Colt test rather than a comparison, I believe that when comparing the offers, it's effectively a tie. And likely, that was the intent of both brands.