The Colt Car Company has long been pursuing an ambitious and aggressive sales drive in Europe, offering a wide range of well-equipped machines covering a wide sector of the market. Most Japanese manufacturers initially concentrated their challenge on the economy and family car areas, but over the past few years there has been growing competition from the Rising Sun against Europe’s sports and GT cars. W.B. has already reported in some depth his experiences with a Mazda RX7 and we have also tried various versions of the shapely Toyota Celica, notably the 2.8-litre, fuel injected Supra. Now we have taken the opportunity to sample Colt’s top of the range model, the stylish Starion 2000 turbo, a coupé which is aimed at snatching sales from people such as potential Porsche buyers who haven’t quite been converted.
The Starion 2000 is an impressively styled two door coupé with notably clean lines powered by a four cylinder, o.h.c. engine, fitted with Mitsubishi’s own turbocharger and guaranteeing excellent mechanical balance by incorporating counter-rotating balance shafts running at twice engine speed, much in the manner of that other superbly smooth four cylinder engine powering Porsche’s 944. The Starion’s engine is a willing performer, punching out 170 b.h.p. at 5,500 r.p.m. from its 1,997 c.c. (85 x 88 mm.) and producing 181 lb / ft of torque at 3,500 r.p.m. Electronic fuel injection is fitted and, while we were unable to test the manufacturer’s claimed 137 m.p.h. top speed, we can confirm that it rushed from standstill to 60 m.p.h. in just under eight seconds and was commendably smooth and stable at an indicated 130 m.p.h.
The turbocharger boost builds up quickly, yet smoothly and without a sudden “surge”, under a firm throttle application, the revs shooting round to 6,000 r.p.m. with turbine-like smoothness. The five speed gearbox is controlled by a light change, rather long in its movement but nonetheless extremely precise: the gearing is a trifle on the high side which doesn’t help mid-range pick up in the upper ratios, but offers a reward in terms of relaxed high speed cruising. In fifth gear, the legal limit comes up at well below 3,000 r.p.m. while 100 m.p.h. registers just over 4,000 r.p.m. Ventilated disc brakes are provided all round, a limited slip differential is part of the standard equipment and this, allied to a MacPherson strut i wide based wishbone rear suspension set up, goes a long way towards minimising wheelspin on slippery surfaces. It would have been nice if Colt could have evolved a rack and pinion steering system for the Starion: its current power assisted recirculatory ball design is too vague to compliment the sporting character of the can even if it doesn’t exactly inhibit enthusiastic drivers from taking full advantage of this Michelin XWX-shod Japanese coupé’s well-balanced dry weather handling.
Internally, the Starion is extremely well trimmed and although the individual front seats proved slightly too small for our preference, they are not only adjustable in the fore aft plane but also for backrest rake, thigh support, lumbar support and head rest angle. In addition, the steering wheel is adjustable for height which makes it possible for just about anybody’s frame to be accommodated in the driving seat. Although I am personally in favour of seat belts, I question the wisdom of the mounting method employed for the front seat belts in this Starion: they are mounted on the doors (see picture) which make it necessary to release them before you open the door at the end of a journey, otherwise you’re reminded very firmly that they’re still attached, a good way of strangling oneself! The manufacturers tell us that double door catches eliminate the risk of the doors bursting open in an accident: but then the Titanic was unsinkable, and the prospect of being cut in half by the seat belt if the door did, by some strange quirk of fate, fly open in an accident suggests to me that it’s a daft place to mount them in the first instance!
Instrumentation is comprehensive, almost lavish in fact. There are six press-button switches mounted on either side of the instrument binnacle, although the need to press separate switches for side lights and headlights, plus a third to extinguish them is a little confusing and one wonders why a single function rocker switch or stalk couldn’t have been employed for the purpose. The headlights are concealed beneath “flip up” covers and can only be flashed on main beam when they’re in the raised position. Within the instrument panel itself, two large matching dials record road speed and engine revs (orange line on the rev, counter at 6,000 r.p.m.), while smaller instruments include the turbo boost, oil pressure, water temperature, battery charge and fuel contents gauges. The heater ventilation controls are mounted centrally and, aided by a most powerful fan, the system is capable of either warming or cooling the Starion’s interior with commendable speed. A Mitsubishi radio with separate stereo cassette system is fitted as standard, as is a digital clock, manually adjustable door mirrors and rear screen wash wipe facility.
With a price tag of £11,799 (inclusive of car tax and VAT), Colt’s Starion coupé will attract a great deal of attention in a market sector populated by such machines as Porsche’s 944, the Ford Capri 2.8i and the 2.5-litre Alfa Romeo GTV. It is stylish, well equipped and endowed with lively performance, perhaps sufficient overall appeal to offset against its rather “soft” steering and lack of adequate luggage space. The Starion might be quite successful at wooing potential Porsche 924 customers who were ready to be swayed by an interesting alternative option. but I would be surprised if anybody introduced to the Porsche 944 chose the Starion instead of the German product. Nonetheless, this Japanese coupé has a very definite appeal to the enthusiastic driver, exuding as it does a distinct character of its own. One final word: why was “Starion” the chosen name? Were they fumbling to call it “Stallion”, or is such speculation based on an apocryphal tale from a Japanese colleague? — A.H.