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Mitsubishi re-enters booming local baby-car segment with all value guns blazing

22 Jan 2013

EVERY so often something comes along in the baby-car class that pushes boundaries, such as the Mini for premium design, Ford Fiesta for dynamic finesse and Honda Jazz for interior packaging.

The list is long.

Now comes the latest Mitsubishi Mirage, a rather homely five-door hatch, but one that sets out to redefine value for money. Does it succeed?

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Model release date: 1 January 2013 to 1 March 2016

Previous model

RG Colt

Released: September 2004
Ended: July 2012
Family Tree: Mirage

IN many ways the philosophical opposite of its cheap and cheery Mirage successor, the wildly under-rated Colt was born under the company’s DaimlerChrysler era stewardship during 2002, and is closely related to the short-lived Smart ForFour, making it a premium light car designed mainly for Japanese and European consumption.

Although also built in The Netherlands, Australian-bound models came from Mitsubishi’s Aichi facility in Japan.

With a high-riding position and boxy design, the Colt was a huge departure from the low and sporty CE Mirage.

Combined with its expensive specification, traditional Mitsubishi light-car buyers kept away.

Under the stubby bonnet in both the entry LS and plush XLS was a 72kW/132Nm 1468cc four-cylinder petrol engine, driving the front wheels exclusively via a CVT automatic transmission.

Low demand prompted Mitsubishi to import more basic (ES) and sporty (VR-X) models from early 2006, and in the process enlarged the engine to a 77kW/141Nm 1499cc unit while introducing a five-speed manual option.

The really big news, though, was the release of the 113kW/210Nm 1448cc Ralliart turbo version, a raw and rorty hot hatch that completely altered the demeanour of the previously civilised Colt. Boy racers loved them.

Less well-received was the oddball Cabriolet with a folding hardtop that made it look like a one-box utility, using the same turbo engine as the Ralliart or an 80kW/145Nm atmo version of the larger 1.5-litre powerplant.

Besides looking strange, the Dutch-made Cabrio (like the Ralliart) was manual-only, which greatly limited its appeal.

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