The Mitsubishi Colt is a vehicle built by Mitsubishi Motors since 1962. It was first introduced as a series of kei cars and subcompact cars in the 1960s, and then as the export version of the Mitsubishi Mirage hatchback in the 1980s and 1990s. The Chrysler Corporation, Mitsubishi's longtime partner, also used the name in the 1970 when it rebadged the second generation Mitsubishi Galant as Dodge Colt and Plymouth Colt captive imports for the United States market. In Japan, it was sold at a specific retail chain called Galant Shop. The most recent version is a supermini manufactured in Japan at Okazaki, in Taiwan at Taoyuan and in Europe at their NedCar plant in the Netherlands, using the same underpinnings as its sister car, the now discontinued Smart Forfour.
1st Generation (1962-1971)
Mitsubishi introduced the "Colt" name in 1962 on the Colt 600, the first of a line of small, sporty vehicles complementing their Mitsubishi 500, the company's first post-war passenger car. Powered by a NE35A 594 cc OHV two cylinder air-cooled engine. At this time, Mitsubishi Motors did not yet exist as an autonomous company, and vehicles were being produced by three regional subsidiaries of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. MHI, which had been formally dismantled after World War II, resumed operating as a single entity in 1964, but continued to use the 'Colt' marque until the 1970s in Asia, and the 1980s in Europe.
To complement the 600, a larger compact car was introduced in 1963, the Colt 1000, followed by the fastback Colt 800 and larger Colt 1500 in 1965, and the Colt 1100 in 1966.
The Colt marque was used from 1974 by the Colt Car Company to market Mitsubishis in the United Kingdom, and phased out in 1984. In New Zealand, the Colt brand ceased in favour of the Mitsubishi name in 1970, upon the release of the new "Dyna-wedge" Galant model. Colt again surfaced as a model name for the Australian edition of the front-drive Mirage in 1979, and again for a new small car in 2003.
2nd Generation (1978-1983)
Mitsubishi launched the Mirage (marketed as the Colt in many countries) as a three-door front wheel drive hatchback in 1978, as a response to the first fuel crisis some years before. It had a distinctive design with large windows and Mitsubishi's Super Shift ("Twin Stick" in the US) transmission which offered four speeds in two modes. A five-door joined the range in 1979. This car was exported to the United States as the Dodge Colt and Plymouth Champ from 1979 and received the highest United States Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy rating that year.
The Super Shift was not originally planned on. Mitsubishi's engineers had to use the existing Orion engine. Placed transversely, the carburettor faced forward and ran into icing issues. If the engine was turned around, it would have to be modified to run in the other direction. Instead a transfer gearbox was installed, the development of which cost no more than developing a new five-speed transmission.
A 1,600 cc engine joined the range in 1979. In 1981, the Lancer Fiore, not to be confused with the regular Lancer, was launched. The Fiore was a four-door version of the Mirage/Colt and was sold as a Colt in Australia. At the same time, the range was facelifted.
In 1982, a turbocharged, 105 PS (77 kW) version of the 1,400 cc engine was made available.
Since most overseas markets did not have the Minica kei car, the Mirage/Colt was usually sold as Mitsubishi's entry-level model. In many countries, this car was known as the Mitsubishi Mirage. In the UK, where Colt was the marque, it was called the Colt 1200 and Colt 1400, after the size of the engines, which it shared with the larger Lancer.
Local CKD assembly of the Colt took place in New Zealand by the Todd Motor Corp., where there was a sports equivalent called the Mirage Panther in the early 1980s. The replacement Mirage Turbo had the distinction of being that country's first locally assembled turbocharged car from 1982.
The facelifted model was also built by Mitsubishi Motors Australia at their Tonsley Park plant in Adelaide from 1982 to 1990. It was offered with the 1.4 L and 1.6 L engines in five-door hatchback form and a Colt four-door sedan, based on the Japanese Lancer Fiore was also produced. This model was also briefly exported to New Zealand in the late 1980s, where it shared showroom space with the locally assembled third generation models.
3rd Generation (1983-1987)
Mitsubishi launched a new Colt in 1983, still splitting the range into Mirage (three- and five-door hatchback) and Lancer Fiore (four-door sedan) models, though some export markets did sell the four-door as the Mirage. A station wagon was added in 1985 and a four-wheel-drive wagon in 1986.
Engine power for the 4G32BT engine for the USDM "Turbo Sport" model, was 105 horsepower; the 3-door hatchback Turbo Sport weighted in at a low 2005 USDM pounds. The European model of the Colt Turbo had 123 horsepower.
Many export markets sold the hatchbacks as the Mirage or Colt, and the sedan and station wagon as the Lancer.
A commercial version of the wagon was sold in New Zealand as the Mitsubishi Express' replacing an earlier model based on the Mitsubishi Galant Sigma.
New engines were added: the 1300 and 1500 cc engines replaced the 1200 and 1400; an 1800 cc diesel was also added.
The Colt/Mirage was not sold in the U.S. by Mitsubishi until 1985, and it was this version that made the marque's début there.
The four-door model formed the basis of the Proton Saga, Malaysia's first locally built car. Proton would spin the Saga off into a five-door hatchback (styled differently from Mitsubishi's own five-door hatch version) called the Saga Aeroback in 1987.
The Mirage was available in Europe as the Mitsubishi Colt, and the following versions were offered:
- 1200 GL 3-door
- 1300 GL 3-door
- 1300 GL 5-door
- 1500 GLX 5-door
- 1600 Turbo 3-door
- 1800 GLD 5-door
The Lancer saloon was available in the same trim levels as the hatchback model (minus the Turbo), while the estate versions were available as 1500 GLX and 1800 GLD only.
Australia got only the 1300 GL and 1500 GLX versions.
The Colt sold well in Europe but in Denmark it was one of the country's top-selling cars.
Fourth generation (1987–1992)
The 1987 Colt was stylistically distinct: Mitsubishi had scored well with its revamped Galant and transferred its styling to the smaller cars. The basic model was a three-door with an upright tailgate. The top Mirages in Japan were called the Mirage Cyborg, featuring a turbocharged 1600 cc engine developing 145 PS (107 kW). There was also a Canvas Top version of the hatchback available in Japan.
Engines available were 1.3 and 1.5 12-valve 4-cylinder engines, and 1.6 and 1.8 16-valve 4-cylinder engines. European versions were available in 1300 GL, 1500 GLX, 1600 GTi, 1800 GTi 16v versions.
Four-door models were usually called Lancer overseas, but Mirage (usually Mirage Vie Saloon) inside Japan. In Australia, all the models in this range were badged Mitsubishi Lancer.
The 1989–92 model year Colt was also sold as the Dodge/Plymouth Colt (as a hatchback) and the Eagle Summit in the U.S. In Canada, the Mirage sedan that time was known as the Dodge/Plymouth Colt, because Mitsubishis weren't sold in Canada up until the 2003 model year.
The Colt Turbo was on Car and Driver's Ten Best list for 1989.
The five-door hatchback and station wagon were carried over, though a five-door Lancer liftback was launched not long after the rest of the range on the new platform.