It seems that the Japanese Companies of Datsun and Toyota are threatening to return to unrestricted selling of their cars in the United Kingdom and thus, with new Japanese makes like Suzuki, Subaru and Daihatsu coming in to join the cars of Colt, Honda and Mazda, the sales-war is going to be not only between Europe and Japan but between the different Oriental makes on sale in Britain.
While I have no strong desire to assist the former, it behoves a motoring writer to acquaint himself with cars from all countries, independently of any prejudice or political feeling. So I have been taking a look at the top-model of the Mitsubishi Colt range, the Sigma GLX. Colt is a comparative newcomer to our shores and it depended on the bigger Japanese manufacturers restricting sales here to get a hold on the British market. Now it looks as if it must stand on its merits.
So let me say right away that the two weak aspects of Japanese cars, brakes and suspension, show considerable improvement in this 1,995 c.c. Colt, which sells here, very completely equipped, for £3,944. If the suspension is lively over the rougher roads, it is no worse in this respect than that of many European cars, and the brakes were pleasantly progressive, the central hand lever calling for a short movement when parking the car. The 2-litre overhead-camshaft engine is mated to a 5-speed gearbox noted for a smooth change, if when changing down one remembers to overcome the spring-loading to the centre of the gate (as on a Silver Ghost R-R). The Colt’s fifth gear has been described as an overdrive or cruising ratio but to me it seemed that it might have been even higher—it is possible to run at 1,000 r.p.m. in this ratio and to pull away smoothly from about 1,500 – 2,000 r.p.m. so that although it gave a cruising speed of 3,500 r.p.m. at an indicated 70 m.p.h. a still higher ratio might have brought this down to 3,000 r.p.m. or even 2,500 r.p.m., true Rover 3500 country!
The Colt Sigma engine has a modern version of the Lanchester harmonic-balancer, -driven from the crankshaft, but not apparent when looking at the power unit. This does Seem LO give the four-cylinder alloy-head 84 mm. 90 mm. long-stroke engine a decent degree of smooth-functioning, or certainly the ability to pull calmly away from low r.p.m. Reverse is very easy to engage in the aforesaid 5-speed gearbox. Coming off a rather ponderous (in bulk) Rover 3500, I thought at first that this Colt was very frisky. But on a long run that night I revised my opinion. The performance in terms of top speed and acceleration is not outstanding and this Sigma GLX is below par with the average 2-litre family saloon for long-distance driving. The driving seat gets full marks for comfort, however, with lumbar as well as the usual adjustments, and there is ample internal stowage within the four-door saloon for small objects, although the cubbyhole does not lock. The luggage boot is of average size. Its lock is on the body, not the boot-lid; the key is needed to open the boot. The bonnet props open to reveal a very accessible dip-stick that showed no topping-up of oil necessary in the 860 miles I covered.
This Colt has been called heavy on fuel but I was not disappointed with 27.3 m.p.g. of two-star petrol. A 13-gallon tank (with locked tiller-flap) ensures an excellent range. The steering has noticeable understeer and is low-geared, at 4 1/2 turns lock-to-lock, which is perhaps why the horn-pushes on the single-spoke wheel were operated inadvertently until I became acclimatised. The instruments have somewhat difficult to define markings but a very sensibly placed dimming control, for their illumination. There are a loud clock, multiple air-venting, and a control which thermostatically holds heat to the desired level; or one can opt for the full Colt air-conditioning. More heat to the driver’s feet would have been welcome but the Colt is notable for rear-compartment heater-feeds. The warning lights even include one to tell you that a door isn’t quite shut but there is no fuel low-level light. There are decimal-readings for both trip and total mileometers and an unusually-shaped oil-gauge. The tachometer reads to 8,000 r.p.m. and the engine is safe to 6,000 r.p.m. Two stalk-controls, operate the various services, the rotary lights on the r.h. stalk being very convenient. The lamps and wipers were efficient., the latter with a useful intermittent action, the I.h, stalk moving up to stop the blades in American fashion. Not only is this Colt Sigma very fully equipped at the price it sells for in Britain but there is good attention to detail. For instance, the bonnet release, on the correct side of the car, is plastic-protected like the seats on a new Colt, the oil dip-stick is calibrated, the 1978 cars will have k.p.h./m.p.h. dials to the 120 m.p.h. speedometer (even if top pace is around 94 m.p.h.), and the seat-adjustment levers and the bonnet-safety catch are easy to locate. The steering is light and smooth, apart from the tiring understeer, and the Bridgestone tyres held well in the rain. The radio can be put on at a touch on the main button but the rear-window heater and lamps full-beam warning lights are dazzling, at night.
I found this Japanese offering a very pleasant car in general, but towards the end of the test a piece of rear-trim fell off, revealing the word “GAL”. So, thinking that the Sigma was perhaps changing its sex, 1 returned it to the Colt headquarters in Cirencester.—W.B.