The Z30 Mitsubishi Colt had a tough time when it arrived on the scene in the mid 2000s. There wasn’t anything inherently wrong with it, aside from being woefully dreary, of course - but the Colt was never going to have an easy ride when its closest competitors were the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo and the Vauxhall Corsa.
What the Colt did get right, however, is that it was surprisingly good to drive. Not only in the sense that it was small and light – a recipe that rarely disappoints – but the steering had some weight to it and the engines were unexpectedly peppy. Basically, it got all the important bits right and fell short on the bits we’re not that fussed about. Which sounds like the perfect basis for a hot hatch, right? Well, Mitsubishi thought the same. Several warmed-up Colts arrived throughout the 2000s, including the CZT, although it saved the very best for its home market. As always.
The Colt Ralliart Version R would have gone down a treat in the UK. Landing at the peak of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo craze, the Version R received a comprehensive design and performance overhaul to bring it in line with the hot hatch big hitters of the era, namely the Ford Fiesta ST. Clearly, it nailed the styling brief. Mitsubishi did its best to shoehorn as many features from the Lancer Evo onto the dinky Colt as possible, such as the distinctively narrow grille, bonnet vent and even the Recaro bucket seats. Unfortunately, it didn't get the Evo’s massive wing – which would have been hilarious on such a small car – but the beefier wheel arches and unique 16-inch alloys all helped turn the Colt from a mediocre hatchback to a (sort of) mini Evo.
Those rally looks were backed by a proper chassis rework, too. Structural rigidity was improved by doubling the number of spot welds on the chassis and a strut tower bar, while a stiffer suspension setup included new joints and dampers. Yes, it’s tall and narrow, but a kerbweight of just 1,100kg means the Version R should stick to the road like a limpet. All these upgrades aimed to fix the issues of the warmed-up CZT, which packed a punch in a straight line but had a habit of wallowing about in the corners and understeering at the limit.
Speaking of the CZT, the Version R’s 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo engine is a lightly reworked iteration of the CZT’s. The main difference is a sports exhaust system, which will no doubt make the little Colt sound angrier but, as far as we can tell, doesn’t have much impact on performance. With a 154hp and 158lb ft of torque on tap, the R is only fractionally more powerful than the CZT. But who cares? It’s the chassis revisions that likely bring the R to life. Or at least that's what we're imagining.
We have to imagine it, because of course the model was never officially released here, making the Version R an exceptionally rare sight. It's difficult to nail down how many have been imported, but the fact that this example is the only one in the classifieds suggests there aren’t many knocking about. That, or owners love them so much they can’t bear the thought of selling. Either way, opportunities to pick up this JDM curiosity don’t come up all that often. This 78,000-mile example listed at £7,950, which admittedly is a fair chunk of change for a spruced-up supermini. But just think how happy people will be when you turn up to a Sunday Service in what looks like a mini Mitsubishi Evo. You know you want to.
SPECIFICATION | MITSUBISHI COLT RALLIART VERSION R
Engine: 1,468cc four-cylinder, turbocharged
Transmission: five-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 154@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 158@3,500rpm
Year registered: 2006
Recorded mileage: 78,000
Price new: est. £12,000 (Japan)
Yours for: £7,950
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