There's a bit of internal rivalry going on in our office concerning our long-term Mitsubishi Colt. As the newest member of staff, I've been made the custodian of the diesel supermini. Across the desk sits our senior motoring writer Chris Thorp, who recently traded in his Smart Roadster for a new ForFour, which happens to be the Colt's sister car. Cue endless debates about the merits of each.
There's a bit of internal rivalry going on in our office concerning our long-term Mitsubishi Colt. As the newest member of staff, I've been made the custodian of the diesel supermini. Across the desk sits our senior motoring writer Chris Thorp, who recently traded in his Smart Roadster for a new ForFour, which happens to be the Colt's sister car. Cue endless debates about the merits of each. While the Smart grabs all the headlines with its zany styling and multi-coloured body, the Colt is quite happy to take a back seat. Chris reckons his flashy ForFour is the better of the two, but I'm convinced the Colt is the true thoroughbred. For a start, the Mitsubishi's oil-burning unit is a cracker. Unusually, it has three rather than four cylinders, which gives it a much more appealing sound. And it's backed up with good perform-ance, too. Thanks to a big chunk of torque at only 1,800rpm, the Colt has surprised quicker cars - not least the 1.3-litre petrol-powered Smart. The other bonus is economy. Although still short of the official figure of 58.9mpg, with nearly 5,000 miles under its belt the Mitsubishi is averaging 49mpg. This has been done with a mix of city grind and long runs at weekends, and as the miles pile on, it should get even better, making it one of the most cost-effective cars on the fleet. The rest of the driving experience is of a high standard, too. All the major controls are easy to operate, although the power-steering can hesitate in slow manoeuvres, leaving you tugging at the wheel. Despite its supermini status, the Colt copes admirably with long journeys. The seats are comfortable for such trips, but a lack of reach adjustment on the steering column means they can be tiring on the arms. The huge door mirrors are a real asset, minimising blindspots while on motorways. However, the short nose and deep windscreen mean the A-pillars impede your view. At roundabouts, you have to lean right forward to see around them. For a car of this size, the Colt's cabin is great. Its tall body provides lots of head and legroom, making it feel much bigger. And at the back, the seats are easy to fold, creating a large load space - yet they are just as adept at carrying passengers. That's meant the Mitsubishi has undergone some hard use, and one of the rear chairs now squeaks slightly over bumps. I reckon a squirt of WD-40 should have that fixed. However, there's little we can do to improve the grey plastic interior, which looks drab despite the neat translucent dials. It's a different story at night, though. You can't see the dull trim and the gauges glow a spooky green - it's an inexpensive feature that never fails to impress me. With little in the way of niggles so far, it's clear the Colt is proving its worth. If it has a fault, it's that it's a bit clinical compared to the Smart - it doesn't have as much character, the cabin materials aren't so luxurious and in terms of image, it's unproven. In short, it's not the sort of car you yearn to drive all the time. That said, with its first service still 5,000 miles away, it's proving cheap to run, and that's what superminis are all about. The Smart doesn't stand a chance - this is a one-horse race.