Chrysler and the Colt, Captive Economic Import Time (Part VI)

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We join the world of the Colt today, specifically the lineup on sale at various Dodge, Plymouth and now Eagle dealerships in the United States and Canada in the early 1990s. The addition of Eagle to Chrysler’s brand portfolio for the 1988 model year had a direct effect on Colt’s future: almost immediately, the Colt sedan entered the Eagle team, where it became the most expensive Summit.

Remaining as Colts in the United States in 1990 were the hatchback and the dated Colt Vista and wagon. Canadians were offered the contemporary Colt sedan and hatchback, while the Colt Vista was sold across the border as the Eagle Vista Wagon. The Vista Wagon was accompanied in Canada by the old mid-80s Colt sedan, Eagle Vista branded and offered only as a very basic vehicle. We pick up at the start of the 1991 model year.

The Eagle line gained a new member in the United States for 1991, as the once-Colt-exclusive hatchback became the new Summit three-door. There was a new grille on all Colt sedans and hatchbacks that year, for Dodge/Plymouth and Eagle versions. The base 1.5-litre engine received an update in 1991 via its transition to 12 valves from an eight. This meant a simultaneous increase in horsepower, from 81 horsepower to 92. Trims were simplified on Summit this year as it reached the end of its first generation: the base models and the much nicer ES remained .

In 1991, the old Colt Vista Wagon (Mitsubishi Chariot) was well past its expiration date. Offered since 1984, the wagon was roomy, seven-passenger, and essentially a crossover before its time given that it offered optional all-wheel drive. Ended with the Vista Wagon was the regular Colt Wagon. A slow seller, it was not updated with the Colt sedan and hatchback for 1989 and remained in its boxy 1988 form. Colt Wagon was a late arrival of the body style for the fifth generation Colts, as Dodge decided what it wanted to do with its Colt cargo haulers.

For 1992, replacing the two elders of the Colt range, a unique new car, fortunately sold under three different names by Chrysler. Plymouth sold the new minivan as the Colt Vista Wagon, while Dodge called it the Colt Wagon and Eagle used the Summit Wagon name. This new generation Vista/Summit was a badge swap for a new car from Mitsubishi – the RVR. The RVR was sold worldwide under many different names, but most often as the RVR or Space Runner. Mitsubishi dealerships in the United States renamed their outgoing 1991 Space Wagon to the Expo in 1992, but also split the lineup. More on that in a moment.

The new Colt Vista Wagon was a different, smaller class of car with its new base. It was again square and straight as before, but much more aerodynamic than its predecessor. Aside from its contrasting gray underside cladding, the new Vista Wagon shared little visually with its ’80s predecessor.

The wheelbase was increased from 103.5 inches to 99.2 inches during the transition, although it was still 6 inches longer wheelbase than the Colt sedan and sedan. Overall length remained about the same as before at 168.5 inches, which meant that two rows of passengers were much less cramped than the previous generation’s three rows. The new Vista Wagon was a few inches wider than before: the width was increased from 64.8 inches to 66.7 inches.

The outgoing Vista Wagon’s standard two rear doors were replaced with a singular sliding door for 1992. Newly limited to two rows of seating, the Vista Wagon was expanded from seven to five passengers. This meant that the new generation was less of a van or wagon in the traditional sense, and more of a high-roof minivan. However, the sliding door indicated (and still indicates) to the American consumer that they were considering a small minivan, which made it less cool. Overall ahead of its time, the second Colt Vista was a bit of a mix of ideas.

The engines were entirely different than before, as the Vista Wagon was more closely related to the Galant than the Colt. For North American purposes, all Vista and similar vehicles as well as the Mitsubishi Expo LRV used either the 1.8 liter 4G93 engine (113 horsepower) or the 2.4 liter 4G64 engine (116 horsepower). Transmissions were a standard five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. At the start of the party with its crossover vibe, the Vista Wagon was available in front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Regardless of the name on the tailgate, all first-generation RVRs were built at Mitsubishi’s Nagoya plant.

Now we have to mention the other very similar model that Dodge chose not to turn into a Colt Vista: the second-generation Mitsubishi Chariot. Essentially the long-wheelbase version of the RVR, the Chariot looked great but carried seven passengers. It rode on a 107.1-inch wheelbase, about four inches longer than the old Chariot. The overall length was also a bit larger than the first generation Chariot, at 177.8 inches. It had the same engines as the RVR and the same availability of all-wheel drive.

The new Chariot was much more of a high-roof minivan, on par with a first-generation Honda Odyssey that did not yet exist. And although it was longer than the RVR and had a capacity of seven passengers, it used four traditional hinged doors. Perhaps the folks at Chrysler predicted the Chariot would be a contender for their very strong Caravan sales and declined it as the Vista Wagon’s most direct successor.

Anyway, Mitsubishi brought the Chariot and sold it as the Expo. The company differentiated the two Expo sizes by removing the LRV (Light Recreational Vehicle) badge from the larger. The Chariot was a successful vehicle worldwide and also carried the Mitsubishi Nimbus and Space Wagon branding. It even became the Hyundai Santamo in 1996 and remained in production in South Korea until 2002.

Dodge introduced the new Summit Wagon to the Eagle line in 1992 and sold it alongside the Summit sedan and hatchback. The brand’s offerings were rounded out by DSM’s flagship Premier and new Talon sports car. Canadian customers could buy the older 1985 Vista sedan for the last time this year, as the older, lower-priced model was quietly cancelled. It was also the last year of the Canada-only 2000GTX, which was a rebadged Mitsubishi Galant. Remember, no Mitsu dealer in Japan until 2003!

The Summit Wagon was available in DL and LX versions, and all-wheel drive was its own version. In Plymouth, a Colt Vista Wagon fetched $11,765 (adj. $24,170) as a base model, $12,470 (adj. $25,618) in SE trim, or $13,837 (adj. $28,427). ) as a Wagon AWD. Eagle charged exactly the same price that year, although perhaps an Eagle badge was more desirable than a Plymouth badge at that time? Dodge anticipated that the crossover-like Summit Wagon would be sold to families with young children, who were adventurous and not yet ready for that quiet sedan life. Of course, that’s exactly who the two-row crossover is marketed to in the current year, Dodge and Mitsubishi just came up with the idea too soon.

Chrysler continued to focus more on the Eagle as the early ’90s progressed and continued behind-the-scenes development of an all-new homegrown compact car. It was to be called Neon, and took the market by storm and simultaneously spelled the end of the Colt line forever. Next time, we’ll learn more about the very short-lived seventh-generation Colt.

[Images: Dodge, Mitsubishi]

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