As I’ve got older, I’ve tended to lose touch with popular culture. There was a time when I’d be able to list most, if not all, of the top ten songs in the pop charts. I could also tell you the majority of players plying their trade in the top flight of English football.
Today, I’d be none the wiser if you told me that Justin Bieber played up front for Chelsea and Patrice Evra is the latest addition to the Sugababes. So, yes, I’m a little out of touch, but that comes with the territory when you grow up and inherit responsibilities. Either that or modern music is rubbish.
Which brings me to the Colt Ralliart, Mitsubishi’s junior hot hatch. I have to admit that my first few days with the turbocharged supermini left me feeling a little confused.
The little Colt, in the words of the manufacturer, allows drivers to experience Mitsubishi’s Ralliart DNA in a spacious, practical, enjoyable and affordable package. Spacious yes, with plenty of headroom and legroom in the back. Practical to a point, with plenty of toys as standard, although the boot space is a little on the small side.
Definitely affordable, priced from just under £14,000. But the enjoyment factor was sadly absent. Was I missing something? I was told that the Colt is a genuine rival to the Suzuki Swift Sport, a car which I hold in such high regard. But I wasn’t getting it.
The three-door Colt’s looks are, shall we say, somewhat challenging. The company’s ‘Jet Fighter’ front grille is certainly an improvement on the rather anonymous previous model, but it looks slightly at odds with the rest of the car.
That said, the whole of the car seems at odds with itself. The car looks too tall and the back end looks completely unrelated to the front. For once, the five-door model outshines the three-door in the styling department, with a rather neatly proportioned look.
But the three-doors looks will grow on you – at least you’ll never lose your car in the multi-storey car park. In fact, you’re unlikely to see another Colt Ralliart on the road as Mitsubishi told me they sold just 107 three-doors in 2010. Quite a rarity, then.
Sadly, the distinctive looks of the exterior aren’t carried over to the inside. A hot hatch should be a great place to be and, for me, always deliver a sense of anticipation when opening the door.
Unfortunately, the Colt Ralliart presents a sea of black and grey plastic which does little to stir the soul. But while the switchgear feels a little on the cheap side, I do like the simplicity and functionality of the layout. There’s a real 80s hot hatch feel, which certainly ticks a few boxes for me. Unlike the massive windscreen pillars which just seem intent on ruining forward vision around roundabouts and, more importantly, around tight B-road corners.
This is something the 205 GTI and Golf GTI never suffered from! I also don’t remember my old-school hot hatches suffering from frozen glass, on the inside of the windscreen. During my time with the Colt I was often forced to scrape a small layer of ice away from the inside – a minor annoyance to say the least. A quick search of the forums reveal that this might be a common complaint on the Colt.
But looks are subjective, and one man’s poor quality interior is another man’s stripped-out delight. What’s really important in a hot hatch is how it drives, and it took a certain Dizzee Rascal to make the proverbial penny drop.
I’m not familiar with the works of Mr Rascal, so it came as somewhat of a surprise to hear his dulcet tones coming from the in-car wireless. As is customary for me when reviewing a car, I pressed the CD play button, fully expecting the normal mechanical whirring sound as the player searches in vain for a disc.
But this time I was greeted with the sound of rap, which is somewhat removed from my usual intake of Nicky Campbell and Shelagh Fogarty. But within the first few seconds of Mr Rascal’s symphony, something strange happened. Suddenly the Colt Ralliart made sense.
Pulling up my hood, reclining the seat slightly and cranking up the bass to the max, I put the hammer down. With Dizzee’s best impression of the Queen’s English thumping away in the background, and the Colt’s gearbox a cog lower, the Ralliart came into its own.
The bonkers 1.5-litre turbocharged engine is by far the Colt’s strongest asset. With 147bhp, the engine propels the little Colt forward at an alarming rate and does it with the backdrop of a booming soundtrack that would do Dizzee proud. So often, and especially in this sector, modern engines are devoid of character and soul, but not so in the Colt Ralliart. No, the engine is a triumph of pomp and circumstance.
So too is the Colt’s delightful stiffened chassis which is combined with a suspension set-up that must have been fine tuned on a British B-road. The lack of body roll belies the car’s rather tall stance and you get real satisfaction from chucking the car around the corners.
In fact, this sums up the handling in a nutshell: less finesse and more chuck-ability. On the penultimate day of the test I took great pleasure from stringing together some lift-off oversteer moments on a quiet Cornish road. It may have taken its time to get under my skin, but when it finally did, I loved it. The strangely wooly steering and tendency to oversteer aside, the Colt Ralliart is capable of some genuine moments of greatness.
As a final point, I must point out that the Ralliart has a laughably huge handbrake. I can only assume that this is to impress the ‘laydeez’ in McDonald’s car park on a Saturday night. For handbrake turns, of course.
I’m glad I spent a week with the Colt Ralliart. While it may not have done enough to win my heart and topple the Swift Sport from its pedestal, I loved the car’s unashamed rawness, bonkers engine and old school charm. There’s a real honesty to the car and buying one puts you in a rather select group of owners. Isn’t it good to own something a little different?
Being a Mitsubishi it is virtually guaranteed to never go wrong, and even when the interior has fallen apart, it’ll still be raising a rear wheel as it navigates another B-road corner. So thank you to the little Colt.
And thanks to Dizzee Rascal, I no longer feel quite so out of touch. Modern music is indeed rubbish.