VIDEO: Why don’t more people appreciate the Dodge Colt Vista?

These days, three-row CUVs are big, hulking things that blot out the sun when they lumber into your general vicinity. Back in the 80s, however, Mitsubishi built a 7-seater, all-wheel-drive wagon that basically does 90 percent of what a modern Nissan Pathfinder can do. Though it was sold as the Dodge or Plymouth Colt Vista, in Japan it was called something much grander befitting of its all-around versatility: the Mitsubishi Chariot.

Sure, its sheetmetal skin was about as thick as a beer can, but that’s because the engine only had 88 horsepower. With a curb weight of 2,580 pounds, that kept the mileage to a rated 19 mpg city, 24 mpg highway — and it still had 86 more horses than the Roman carriages of its namesake. Plus, Motorweek was able to extract 24 mpg combined in mixed conditions during its testing.

Furthermore, the second row folded flat to form a sort of mobile love shack that ensconced occupants in the luxuriant wine red velour. It had plenty of cubby holes for storage, came with an optional a limited-slip diff that cost only $158, and was offered in a manual transmission with a nifty little real-time 4WD activation button right on the shifter!

Acceleration was sluggish and it leaned like the tower at Pisa in cornering, but with a starting price of under $10,000 perhaps those shortcomings can be overlooked. It makes a great little runabout for both #citylife and #vanlife, and probably should be more appreciated than it is. The last time we saw one on the road was probably over 15 years ago. Chariot; it’s what the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross should have been called.

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18 Responses to VIDEO: Why don’t more people appreciate the Dodge Colt Vista?

  1. Greaso Beaso says:

    Easy answer to this one. No one at all appreciated it either then or now, because it is absolute piece of trash car. Save the poetic waxing for cars that actually meant something. This was not one of them.

  2. Tygerleo says:

    My uncle had a 1988 front wheel drive model from Plymouth, it was his best loved vehicle for over ten years. His family put up to 170k miles before they retired it. For some reasons, they seemed no interest in the replacement model. In today US market, no company has similar vehicle for consumer. The closest one is Mazda 5, a neat and yet good handling mini minivan. Very unfortunate Mazda dropped it after it gained no traction. Or you also say Subaru Tribeca is the catalogy, but this one is also discontued. Ford Flex can fill the shoe, so as the discontinue Mercedes R class. Flex is gone after 2019 too.

  3. Scotty G says:

    I’m glad that most people don’t appreciate some cars, it keeps the prices down for the rest of us who may want to have one. Like a Toyota Sports 800.. wait, not anymore. Well, maybe an A80 Supra? No, that’s out. Then there’s the… well, the Dodge Colt Vista!

    A person either gets it or they don’t, it’s not worth trying to change anyone’s mind. Just like with politics in 2019.9, you’ll never convince anyone else no matter what so don’t bother trying. I hope we can at least all agree to be kind to each other given the vehicles that each of us thinks are “worthy” of liking, but I’m guessing that we’re already past that point in society.

    • Greaso Beaso says:

      The cars you mentioned are noteworthy. However this car has literally zero redeeming qualities whatsoever.

      • Scotty G says:

        … in your opinion, sir. A blanket statement like that is like saying the color red is better than the color blue, without adding “in my opinion.”

      • A Nasher says:

        When you fairly compare the vista to say a tercel wagon or a civic wagon of the same time 80s it clearly could beat both in many categories respectively, so i would not say zero redeeming qualities, another fact is the vista was built on a sports car platform the turbo cordia tredia shared suspension and drivetrain components with the early vista’s, and some more icing on the cake, the vista engine had the same 6 bolt, engine block, nitride coated crank, and thick con rods, that were fitted in the WRC galant vr4, so it kinda is special, some of the higher trim vista’s were actually made in the same advanced factory in japan where the evos were later made, and the engine blocks are pretty tough and can handle some impressive power numbers.

  4. BlitzPig says:

    Unreliable, low quality, oil leaking, rust bucket. We hated when these would come into the shop. Total trash vehicle.

    Not everything made in Japan is good you know. The Mitsubishi-Chrysler partnership was every bit as bad as the current Fiat-Chrysler hook up. Low quality manufacturers made for each other.

  5. Rick Moore says:

    My parents bought one when I was a teenager. My dad drove around with two lemons in the (you heard it right) top-of-the-dash mounted cupholders because he had taken it in to the shop so many times for repairs. I drove it for my driver’s license test and hated it with a passion.

  6. mel says:

    A very underrated car. My friends dad had one. It became a member of the family. Overhere it was called ‘Mitsubishi Space Wagon’. Other early MPV’s, like Voyager and Espace, were taller and more expensive. Other alternatives weren’t capable of carrying seven people.

  7. 1Nasty2 says:

    If I’m not mistaken is shares; or should I say can share a number of parts with the Lancer Evolution and Eclipse/Talons. If you are lucky enough to find a Colt Vista AWD half the work is already done. I still scour craigslist for a clean example of a sleeper build. It can be unique gem that has been forgotten.

  8. Streetpunk64 says:

    At my age have seen most everything. Had most everything and continue to do so. Being a mechanic there is good and bad with every vehicle. No company sets out to make a bad vehicle.

    Case in point. A friend has a colt Vista wagon like above with a manual transmission and loves it. I have rode in it and even driven it a time or two. It is a fantastic parts hauling machine. It has over 300K miles. In 2020 it is still on the road. That says something. It says to me I want in!

  9. Saii says:

    A few weeks/months ago your QOTW asked about one of the most under appreciated japanese cars. My answer was the mitsi chariot and RVR. Now here you are writing an article about it. Didnt get any stickers or goodies for my answer even though you agree enough to write an article about them. Lame.

  10. Kyle says:

    I definitely appreciate it. If more people remembered it or knew it’s concept would bubble to the surface decades later they would have too.

    In a way – this car exists today still. Mitsubishi Chariot/Colt Vista is basically a tall wagon/compact crossover/MPV – serving a similar purpose to Forester or Outback before they existed. After the generation shown – it continued in (one of its forms) as Mitsubishi Expo and Expo LRV and also sold under the Colt Vista name into the mid late 90s. This Colt Vista was also known as the RVR which is still sold today and marketed today as Outlander Sport.

    The 1st gen Mitsubishi Outlander is definitely a direct generation of the awesome 1st gen Colt Vista/Chariot. Look at a picture of a 2003 Outlander and tell me you don’t see similarities. And in those days it was definitely some sort of Subaru Outback looking type of Wagon/SUV just like Colt Vista.

    FF to 3rd generation Outlanders and Outlander Sport and you have a more modern crossover version of what was Expo and Expo LRV (shorter version) in the 90s. It’s just that the 90s version was more styled as a mini minivan and now it more of a compact SUV. But that is just the trend and also in part practicality. You can see Outback and Forester which were smaller wagons in the 90s and early 00s have also made this transition into crossovers.

    If that doesn’t convince you enough that it’s still around – you could also argue it still exists in the new Mitsubishi Colt Plus only sold in Taiwan.

    So, for the record I’m a Colt Vista lover. My uncle had a brownish 80s Colt Vista, and I proudly drive a Cafe color 2016 Outlander and think of that car nostalgically all the time. Mitsubishi is a bit more of a humble brand that quietly sells economic quality Japanese vehicles, in many ways the more things change the more they stay the same. (I also used to own an 02 Montero Sport) And never had issues with it but love driving the Outlander. The VIN sticker labels Outlander as MPV – crossover in many ways is just a marketing term for tall wagon things. 🙂


  11. yetiwaler says:

    I have one of these, currently; 1987 Dodge Colt Vista – Brown about 71K miles. It’s my daily driver. Every comment here is correct.

    I picked it up about a year ago. It was one of the worst purchases I have ever made and I don’t regret it for a second. It is still hated by mechanics. Ownership requires a Chilton’s, Hayne’s, a tool set and a can do attitude. Finding parts is ridiculous at this point.

    I replaced the thermostat, motor mounts, transaxle and seal, tie rods, stabilizer bars and other things. With fresh plugs it will pull a respectable 25-26 MPG – though they carbon foul quickly and the average MPG is closer to 20, or less. The 1987 year was a split year. They added Electronic Fuel Injection in November. Mine was made in October so it’s rocking a carburetor, not helpful when the engine only puts out 89 HP. It’s a 3 speed Automatic which, again, doesn’t help.

    My first car was a 1989 Dodge Colt 4 door. I loved that one right up until it threw a head on the NY State Thruway on my way to Grateful Dead show. Luckily, Neil, the wallpaper salesman picked me up on my walk to the gas station to arrange a tow. More Luckily, Neil was heading down to just where I needed to be. Neil was a good guy. Having said that – Don’t Hitch Hike.

    I, also, had a 1991 Mitsubishi Expo SP. That car was the best car I have ever owned. I would pick up another in a heartbeat. It’s why I drive my Vista now, to be honest. The Vista was the closest I could find to replace it after years of half-assed searching.

    A Mitsubishi Expo SP, AWD, 5 speed? I know I sound crazy but, it’s my dream car.

    When I pulled in my driveway a year ago in my Colt, my neighbor across the street looked at it and yelled over, “Either somebody died and you got a car, or you love that thing.” I had to answer, “I love the thing. I don’t know why. But, yeah, I love the thing.”

  12. P Smith says:

    Potentially a nifty little wagon. Chrysler got Mitsu to rework their ordinary front-drive mommy- car with a 4wd transfer case, long travel suspension, bigger brakes, etc.. But the vacuum-shifted transmission had lots of problems as did the computer-operated Hitaachi carburetor and attendant emissions devices, and the “jet-valves” (for emissions) in the head would go bad. These are bad cars for ordinary owners. However, if you have the skills, and the hot-rodder’s mentality that any car can be improved, you might like to do a Vista project, as I did with my ’86, which was non-running but was straight and had a good interior when I got it real cheap. I did a full engine rebuild: bored and platform-honed, decked, ported lightly, cam reground, got things balanced, oh and deleted the jet-valves. i replaced the “smart” carb with a simpler and far superior Weber 32/36 DGEV. Because I greatly prefer simple old cars, being a simple old guy, I also deleted some of the emissions-related systems along with the old carb. That left the computer, located under the driver’s seat, with nothing to do. My best day ever working on cars was the day I yarded out that computer and all related wires and hoses. I do like a simple car. I went all through the brakes, steering, and suspension. I had a friend with a transmission shop go through the tranny and transfer case, and I modified the shifting set-up. For you rodders who do this routine on any of your keeper-cars, this is no great big deal. Now I have a unique daily driver with better power AND fuel economy than original and far better reliability.

  13. Michael N says:

    My Mom has a 1990 Dodge Colt Vista that is still on the road today with103k miles. She loves that car. I borrow it occasionally when I need to haul stuff since the car has so much space when you fold down all the seats. It is amazing how much space the car has. It is definitely underpowered and when you take a turn you can feel the car tilt. And if you have a steep hill it struggles. Visibility is great. The doors are very thin-not a car I feel safe in. I never see them anymore here in the northeast. It is a great car to run errands and use as a utility car.

  14. Guy Vincent Coulombe says:

    My brother still has our family’s 1988 Plymouth Colt Vista 2.0 MPI Car with 440,000 original miles, and the engine has never been rebuilt. Japanese reliability.

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