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A folding hardtop hot hatch. Image by Trevor Nicosia.

A folding hardtop hot hatch
Mitsubishi chose to make its baby folding hardtop from the one-box Colt. It works.

   



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If we discount the Ford Fairlane Skyliner from the '50s, and even the wedge shaped Rapport Forte from the '80s, then the trend for folding hardtop convertibles really started in the '90s with the Mercedes-Benz SLK. That the technology would filter down to more affordable cars was demonstrated first by the Peugeot 'two-oh-heart' concept in the late '90s, which also previewed the 206 look-to-be. This of course morphed into the production 206CC and since then every manufacturer worth their salt seems to have jumped onto the folding hardtop bandwagon.

Most have produced a convertible version of their two-box hatchback models, but Mitsubishi has produced the Colt CZC from the one-box Colt, though not the mini-MPV five-door; the CZC is based on the sporty CZT three-door model. The Colt CZC debuted in production format at the 2006 Geneva Motor Show, and takes its design cues from the CZ2 and CZ2 cabriolet concept cars previously shown. The Colt CZC is a Pininfarina design and will be assembled in conjunction with Pininfarina in Italy, with all parts not made by Pininfarina (those common to the Colt three-door and five-door) being shipped from the Mitsubishi factory in the Netherlands.

We recently spent a hot summer week with the top of the range 15,999 Colt CZC 1.5 Turbo (there is also a normally aspirated model available at 13,999). Our car looked very smart in bright blue metallic paint, and proved to be a bit of a head-turner, although that might easily have been down to the distinctive Colt Car Company registration number, or the fact it was being driven by a male...

In common with all folding hardtop cars, there is an element of compromise in the styling; the windscreen stretches back an awful long way, so much so that the rail is almost above the driver's head. This on the other hand is good for deflecting the wind. The shape of the roof is equally compromised, as it needs to fold in half and take up the minimum possible depth so as to leave some luggage space, and of course the boot shape itself is high to make as much space as possible for the roof to fold into. So the Mitsubishi Colt CZC isn't what you would call classically beautiful; it's quite a funny shape really, especially with the roof up. But roof down, it doesn't look too bad, despite the one-box origins made obvious by the fixed quarter window in front of the doors.

Like most of the genre, the Colt CZC has rear seats. Unlike most of the genre, they are actually habitable. It's best that they are left for children though; I was able to carry a 7-year old and a 9-year old in the back without complaint, and in fact they both loved the car. Smaller adults might be acceptable for a short trip - the lunch time run to the pub perhaps - but probably no further. This is still a major improvement on the likes of the 206CC where the rear seats are useless except for shopping, or the Vauxhall Tigra which doesn't bother with rear seats at all.

The Colt CZC comes rather well specified for the money. The basic model already brings standard-fit air conditioning, 16-inch alloy wheels, MP3 compatible CD-tuner with steering wheel mounted controls, front and side airbags and of course electric windows and folding roof. The 1.5 Turbo model adds to this list with part-leather seats, traction control, heated front seats and a different design of alloy wheel. The 1.5 Turbo engine develops 147bhp at 6000rpm, and a decent 155lb.ft of torque at 3500rpm. This is enough to propel the Colt CZC from 0-62mph in just 8.4 seconds, and to be fair it felt a little quicker than that. More importantly, acceleration doesn't tail off after 60mph. Although we were unable to verify the claimed (and entirely believable) top speed of 126mph, we were amazed at how fast speed built up when watching the roads more than the speedometer. A late cross-country dash to an appointment showed a turn of speed that belied the presence of 'just' a 1.5-litre engine, turbocharged or otherwise.

Luckily all this performance is not all that's sporty about this car. The 1.5 Turbo also comes with a sportier suspension set-up and even a front strut brace as standard. Initially I thought the Colt felt heavy, but it's only 1200kg, 130kg more than the standard three-door hatch it is based on. I soon realised I was mistaking 'heavy' for 'solid', 'stiff' and 'well built'; all good qualities for sporty behaviour, especially so with a convertible roof. The body was almost shudder free, only purposely dropping a wheel into drain holes and the like brought even the slightest hint of unwanted body movement, and the local speed humps were handled with nonchalance. This is good for the long-term durability of the bodywork, good for refinement (which the CZC has in spades), and most of all, good for handling.

Hurrying across one of my favourite B-roads, where the tarmac is bumpy, twisty and undulating, and in places little more than two cars wide (but for all that with good visibility), the Colt CZC excelled. Through the quick sections it was easy to keep the speed up, driving between the corners on a wave of turbocharged torque in fourth and fifth gears (there are only five ratios), yet in the tighter bends rushing through in second and third gears brought instant and immediate acceleration towards the next bend. The brakes (discs all round, ventilated up front) were more than man enough to bring the Colt back down to sanity whenever required. The electrically-powered steering rack was perfectly weighted for these conditions. I didn't even realise it was assisted at first, although true feel is in short supply when pushing the envelope. Despite the engine's grunt, torque steer was only just evident when giving it the full 100% with the front wheels turned; to be honest the traction control cutting in was more distracting in these circumstances than useful.

Our test car arrived with a wind deflector in place; though the choice is wind deflector or rear seat, so it has to come out if you carry more than the one passenger. But it's an easy task to remove, although easier with the roof down, and easier again with a friend helping. In place it does its job better than well. Roof down at motorway speeds there is barely any draught and even my hair (legendary amongst those who know me) was barely ruffled. Surprisingly, even when I dropped the front windows it was a less windy experience than I get in most open top cars. With the wind deflector removed, there was an increase in hair ruffle, but you sit so low in the Colt, the seats and the sides of the car so high (not forgetting just how far back the windscreen reaches) and even then I didn't need to tie my hair back. This should bode well for the majority female buyer!

Remembering practicalities for the moment, the Colt CZC is surprisingly easy to live with. There is decent boot space for your weekly shopping, even with the roof stowed in the boot, although you may need to lay the bags flat on the boot floor so the net cover can be extended across. Without this in place, the roof will not lower, so it is a perfect guide to whether both luggage and roof will fit into the boot. The only downside is unless you want to 'post' your shopping into the boot, you really need to raise the roof first; maybe not a bad thing in supermarket car parks anyway.

Ah, raising the roof, or much more importantly during the summer week we had this car, lowering the roof. Mitsubishi makes a big deal of this, but I didn't see what the fuss was about. Manually unhook the two roof latches and push the button in the driver's armrest and off it went. Perfectly choreographed ballet as first all four windows wind down, the boot opens up (backwards), then the roof carefully folds itself in two into the boot before the lid closes down behind it. Strangely if you then want the windows back up again, you have to do that yourself. To ensure the rears are always done first, there is just the single pair of window switches. At the first touch they do the rears, then the fronts.

Safety, ever the perceived bane of convertibles, looks well catered for. There might not be the Mercedes-style automatically popping-up rollover bar, but front and side airbags, Active Stability and Traction Control, and even proper three-point seat belts for the rear seats add to confidence. The front pillars wrap so far over the front occupants' heads as to provide roll protection without being obvious.

All in all, the Mitsubishi Colt CZC is a very capable car. The wife liked it, my 7-year old loved it and I was quite sad to give it back too.
Mitsubishi Colt CZC UK range overview

- Mitsubishi Colt CZC 1.5 manual: 13,999
- Mitsubishi Colt CZC 1.5 Turbo manual: 15,999

Trevor Nicosia - 17 Aug 2006



  www.mitsubishi-cars.co.uk    - Mitsubishi road tests
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2006 Mitsubishi Colt CZC specifications: (1.5 Turbo manual)
Price: 15,999 on-the-road.
0-62mph: 8.4 seconds
Top speed: 126mph
Combined economy: 39.8mpg
Emissions: 168g/km
Kerb weight: 1200kg

2006 Mitsubishi Colt CZC. Image by Trevor Nicosia.2006 Mitsubishi Colt CZC. Image by Trevor Nicosia.2006 Mitsubishi Colt CZC. Image by Trevor Nicosia.2006 Mitsubishi Colt CZC. Image by Trevor Nicosia.2006 Mitsubishi Colt CZC. Image by Trevor Nicosia.

2006 Mitsubishi Colt CZC. Image by Trevor Nicosia.2006 Mitsubishi Colt CZC. Image by Trevor Nicosia.2006 Mitsubishi Colt CZC. Image by Trevor Nicosia.2006 Mitsubishi Colt CZC. Image by Trevor Nicosia.2006 Mitsubishi Colt CZC. Image by Trevor Nicosia.



2006 Mitsubishi Colt CZC. Image by Trevor Nicosia.
 

2006 Mitsubishi Colt CZC. Image by Trevor Nicosia.
 

2006 Mitsubishi Colt CZC. Image by Trevor Nicosia.
 

2006 Mitsubishi Colt CZC. Image by Trevor Nicosia.
 

2006 Mitsubishi Colt CZC. Image by Trevor Nicosia.
 

2006 Mitsubishi Colt CZC. Image by Trevor Nicosia.
 

2006 Mitsubishi Colt CZC. Image by Trevor Nicosia.
 

2006 Mitsubishi Colt CZC. Image by Trevor Nicosia.
 

2006 Mitsubishi Colt CZC. Image by Trevor Nicosia.
 






 

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