The Dodge Colt and the similar Plymouth Champ and Plymouth Colt, were subcompact cars sold by Dodge and Plymouth from 1970 (MY1971) to 1994. They were captive imports from Mitsubishi Motors, initially twins of the rear-wheel drive Galant and Lancer families before shifting to the smaller front-wheel drive Mitsubishi Mirage subcompacts in 1979. With the 1994 introduction of the Dodge/Plymouth Neon, Chrysler felt no need to continue selling captive imports under these badges, although the Eagle Summit (also a Mirage clone) continued to be available until 1996.
Introduced in 1970 as model year 71, the first generation Dodge Colt was a federalized first generation Mitsubishi Colt Galant. Available as a two-door pillared coupé, 2-door hardtop, 4-door sedan, and 5-door wagon, the Colt had a 1,597 cc (97.5 cu in) four-cylinder engine. The unibody layout was traditional, front engine and rear wheel drive with MacPherson struts in front and a live rear axle. Standard transmission was a 4-speed manual, with a 3-speed automatic being an option. The engine initially produced 100 hp, but this dropped to 83 in 1972 when stricter emissions standards took effect. For 1973 a sporty GT hardtop coupé was added, featuring rally stripes, sport wheels and a center console amongst other features.
The Dodge Colt was originally intended to be Chrysler's answer to the AMC Gremlin, Ford Pinto and Chevrolet Vega but because it came from Mitsubishi Motors and was not a true Chrysler product, the first Colts actually competed more directly with Japanese imports, such as the Toyota Corolla and Datsun 510.
Based on the underpinnings of the first generation model, Galant sedans and coupes received a new, somewhat rounder body in 1973, while wagons continued with the old body and new nose. The new version, with single headlights rather than the doubles of the previous generation, became the 1974 Dodge Colt in the US, available in the same bodystyles as the first one. The base engine also remained the same, but a larger G52B "Astron" engine became optionally available (standard in the GT coupé). This one developed 96 hp at 5,500 rpm. Ratings varied from 79-83 hp for the smaller one and 89-96 hp for the larger engine in different publications. A four-speed manual or three-speed automatic remained available, but for 1977 a five-speed became available (standard in the GT and Carousel coupés).
The Carousel, introduced in 1975 along with larger bumpers, was more luxurious and carried a blue and white paintjob. For 1977, the "Silent Shaft" version of the smaller engine became available, and was fitted as standard equipment in GT and Carousels. The introduction of the new Dodge Colt "Mileage Maker" meant that there was no second generation four-doors for 1977. The wagon was also available with an "Estate" package, including wood grain applique and adjustable reclining seats.
The third generation Dodge Colt was effectively made up of two lines: coupés and sedans were of a smaller, Lancer-based series, while the Wagons were based on the new Mitsubishi Galant Sigma. In late 1976, for the 1977 model year, the smaller A70-series Mitsubishi Lancer became the Dodge Colt, with two-door coupé and four-door sedan bodies. While the wheelbase was only slightly shorter than that of the second generation Colt, overall length was down from 171.1 to 162.6 inches (4,346 to 4,130 mm). The new Colt was also referred to as the Dodge Colt "Mileage Maker" to mark it as different from its larger predecessor. Second generation Coupé and Wagon versions remained for the 1977 model year.
The engine was the familiar 4G32 iteration of Mitsubishi's Saturn engine family, of 1,597 cc and still with 83 hp at 5,500 rpm. A "Silent Shaft" (balance shaft) version of this engine along with a five-speed manual transmission (instead of the standard four speeds) were part of a "Freeway Cruise" package, which also included a maroon/white paintjob. For '78 power dropped to 77 hp with the introduction of the "MCA-Jet" lean burn system.
For 1978 a new, larger Dodge Colt Wagon arrived, a rebadged Mitsubishi Galant Sigma. It came with the same 1.6-litre MCA-Jet four as the smaller sedans and coupés, but a 2.6-litre, 105 hp Astron engine was an option. While the last year for the Lancer-based Colts was 1979, the wagon lingered on alongside the front-wheel drive Mirage-based fourth generation until 1981 when it was effectively replaced by the domestic Dodge Aries K wagon.
From 1979, the Dodge Colt and Plymouth Champ nameplates were applied to the front wheel drive Mitsubishi Mirage imports into North America. The Colt and Champ (Plymouth Colt after 1982) was a 3-door hatchback, and came in Standard or Custom equipment levels. These imports used a 70 hp Mitsubishi Orion 4G33 1.4-litre overhead-cam, four cylinder engine at first, but it was joined by the 1.6-litre 4G32 Saturn engine (80 hp) at the end of the year.
There were three manual transmissions and one automatic transmission available. There was a KM110 4-speed manual transmission, or a novel "Twin Stick" version of the transmission that used a 2-speed transfer case to give 8 forward and 2 reverse speeds. There was also the option of a KM119 5-speed manual transmission or a TorqueFlite 3-speed automatic transmission.
For 1982 a five-door hatchback joined the lineup. The names of the equipment levels changed to "E" and "DL". At some point claimed power dropped to 64 and 72 hp respectively for the small and large engines. In 1984, which was to be the last year of this model of Colt, the GTS Turbo model arrived. Unique for North America (the turbocharged Colt/Mirages sold elsewhere had a 1.4-litre engine), this used the fuel injected 1.6-litre 4G32BT engine also seen in the next-generation Colt, providing 102 hp and considerable performance. It, too, featured the eight speed Twin Stick transmission.
In 1984, the fifth generation Dodge/Plymouth Colt appeared (model year 1985). A carbureted 68 hp 1,468 cc four was the base engine, while the upscale Premier four-door sedan and GTS Turbo models received the 4G32BT turbocharged 1.6-litre already seen in the last model year of the previous Colts. A first for FWD Colts was the availability of a three-box sedan body, though this was no longer available after 1986. From 1988 (and lasting until 1991), this car was also marketed as the Eagle Vista in Canada.
The Colt Wagon, while never available with the turbocharged engine, did receive a more powerful 1,755 cc engine in the four-wheel drive version. Unlike the FWD version, the DL 4x4 was not available with an automatic transmission. While the Hatchback Colts were replaced for 1989, the Colt Wagon continued to be available until the 1991 introduction of the Mitsubishi RVR-based Colt Wagon, which also replaced the Colt Vista. This car was also marketed as the Eagle Vista Wagon in Canada.