When it comes to iconic hot hatchbacks from the ‘80s, there are almost too many to count. Everyone seemed to want to get on the bandwagon after Volkswagen unveiled its monumental Mark 1 Golf GTI. Here in the United States, we didn’t get as many icons as Europe, like the Peugeot 205 GTi, Citroen AX GT, or Ford Escort RS Turbo S1, but we still got some neat stuff.
A lot of the goods in America weirdly came from Chrysler, and cars like the Dodge Lancer GTS, Dodge Omni GLH, and Plymouth Colt GTS Turbo are pretty rare fare in 2021. The Colt GTS is particularly notable, as it represents another chapter in the Diamond Star agreement between Chrysler and Mitsubishi. The Detroit brand brought right-hand-drive models from Japan, put their emblems and some other signature equipment on them, and called it good. Elsewhere in the world, it was the Mitsubishi Colt, and it even came in rear-wheel drive in some specs, which sounds like so much fun.
The Colt GTS is especially peculiar, however. Although some ’80s hot hatches featured sport seats, sporty exterior accents, or mildly more enthusiastic suspension damping, the GTS offered a high and low range in its transmission. That’s right, and the ultimate explainer of this is the ever-relevant, refreshingly bizarre, and thoroughly entertaining Regular Car Reviews.
I love the idea of this. It’s like having a tight and short gearset for a small track or autocross course, and when swapped over, it turns into an economical and pretty fun hatchback. It’s certainly odd to see it on something that isn’t a massive 4X4, but it has its purpose.
Just like a truck, the idea is to make the most of the platform’s torque. Apparently, this makes it pretty difficult to avoid chirping the tires every time you set off. That could be due to the very meh-spec narrow tires fitted on this particular example, though. The ranges are labeled with a “Star” symbol and “E” for economy, and they’re shifted just like an old truck: clutch in, shift to neutral, shift into desired gearset, clutch out, done. The Star range is the more lively low gearset. Plymouth called it the 4+2 manual twin-stick, which is certainly on the nose.
As you might’ve assumed, MotorWeek covered it when it was brand-new back in the day, too. It’s always fun to look back on what was worth highlighting as a feature during this era (ooo, gas-over-oil shocks!).
The little 4G-series (that’s right, I assume it’s an early version of that family of engines) turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder made a claimed 102 horsepower and 122 pound-feet of torque. Apparently, it weighs in at just 2,070 pounds, so there’s no doubt in my mind that these specs would still translate to fun in our modern era. Even if it is slower to get from zero to 60 mph (9.4 seconds, according to MotorWeek) than my modern, naturally aspirated Mazda 2 that weighs more and makes less power.
Pretty neat stuff. If you happen to see one of these on the street, stop and admire it. I bet it’s an incredibly rare sight these days. Also, if you want to impress nobody with some fun car trivia, it was the cheapest hot hatch on sale during its time.
In today’s dollars, its MSRP was just less than $20,000. I wish something this fun with a turbo could be had for such little money, brand new, in 2021.
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