Mitsubishi Colt was relaunched in Australia in September 2004 after being missing for several years. Early models were made in Australia, these latter ones are fully imported from Japan.

Colt’s big features are its radical body style and the number of interesting variants in which it is offered. We love the way the windscreen pillars run all the way from the roof down to the bumper without any deviation from a straight line. Interestingly, the facelifted version, introduced in April 2007, had quite lot of the rear-end redesign done by the Australian styling office of Mitsubishi.

Inside, the look is as radical as the exterior; the Colt's wave-shaped dash has stylish instruments housed in a lavishly curved binnacle. There's good interior space for four people with sensible legroom in the adjustable rear seat. A fifth person will find comfort is compromised in the centre-rear by the join-line in the seatback.

Boot space is restricted if the back seat is set all the way rearwards to achieve the best legroom. Colt can carry one large suitcase in a vertical position, with some room around it for softer baggage. The back seat can be double-folded to create a lot more room. The spare wheel is a small unit for temporary use only to make the boot deeper.

Ride comfort is better than average for this class and overall refinement is as good as that of a car in the next size class upwards. However, handling is on the soft side, being aimed at the average driver rather than the enthusiast.

The standard Mitsubishi Colt is powered by a 1.5-litre twin-cam engine. It was at the forefront of technology for its time and provides good torque that’s well suited to driving a CVT. Colt automatics use a new design of continuously variable transmission (CVT). The manual is a conventional five-speed unit.

Mitsubishi Colt Ralliart, sold from July 2006 until mid 2010, has a turbocharged and intercooled 1.5-litre engine. Despite the apparent high-performance credentials is only has 113 kW of power so is not really in the hot-hatch category - but look at the low price. The Ralliart Colt has a more rigid body than the standard Colt and there's sports suspension, complemented by upgraded brakes and larger wheels and tyres.

The most interesting Mitsubishi Colt of them all is the Cabriolet, which went on sale in November 2006. It's a tiny car with odd styling that bulges at the back and slopes down in a somewhat disconcerting manner at the front. At best it can be described as cute. Colt Cabriolet is sold with a turbocharged engine that’s closely related to the one used in the Ralliart model, but with slightly less power, at just 110 kW. The lower power is noticeable as the body gains wait due to being beefed up underneath to support the lack of a solid roof.

Though Mitsubishi has pulled out of local manufacturing in Australia the company is continuing as a major importer and has an ongoing commitment to providing spare parts, repairs and servicing. Insurance costs for Mitsubishi Colts vary dramatically. The turbocharged variants, particularly the Ralliart attract huge premiums. If looking at the latter and you are a young, inexperienced driver and live in a high-risk area make sure you get insurance quotes before falling in love with the hotter Colts.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Body damage, or signs of it having been repaired, is a worry on any car, but especially so in the Ralliart variant of the Colt. Look for body panels that don’t line up correctly, on colours that don’t match from one panel to another. Tiny spots of paint on areas that should be clear, glass and badges are another cue.

Look thoroughly inside a cabriolet for signs of dampness or water stains as it may have been caught out in the rain. Get permission to lift the carpets and check the conditions underneath them. Make sure any version of the Colt engine starts easily and idles reasonably smoothly.

A turbocharged engine should have a minimum of lag. During your road test be aware that anything upwards of a second could be a worry. The turbo shouldn’t be overly noisy in operation. Check on the service books of any car, particularly if it’s a turbo as the latter needs to have engine oil changes according to schedule. As well as having the complete dynamic system examined.

Listen and feel for a transmission that works smoothly and quietly. Make sure the brakes pull the Colt up promptly and that no one wheel locks before the others.

CAR BUYING TIP

Small cars often live tougher lives than large ones because of their constant exposure to urban traffic. So low kilometre readings are not necessarily a good thing.