The long-heralded Mitsubishi Colt CZC cabriolet, the third version of the unique European-built Colt line-up, finally makes its debut in production form at the Geneva show at the end of the month.

The CZC, with its electrically-retractable folding metal roof is the latest small 2+2 coupe-cabriolet to be launched in Europe and has the class-leading Peugeot 206CC squarely in its sights - the pioneering little Pug has had about four years' head-start.

Other direct rivals include Nissan's new UK-built Micra CC while the two-seat GM Europe Opel/Vauxhall Tigra is also likely to be on buyers' shopping lists.

The CZC shares its platform and basic architecture with the Dutch-built Colt hatchback line, using the five-door version's long 2,500mm wheelbase and wide 1460mm front and 1445mm rear tracks.

Mitsubishi claims the result is exceptional packaging - the Colt CZC has a 2+2 seating configuration with a pair of 'occasional' rear seats as well as a luggage compartment said to be 'generous', even when the roof is retracted.

Most European markets will have a simple two-model choice - Colt CZC or CZC Turbo.

The CZC Turbo has the same 1468cc petrol engine from three-door hatchback Colt CZT. With 147bhp and 6000rpm and 155lb ft of torque at 3500rpm, the 1200kg CZC Turbo is claimed to reach 62mph (100km/h) in 8.4seconds and has a 126mph maximum speed yet return 39.8mpg on the EC combined test cycle. CO2 output is a tax-friendly 168g/km.

The naturally aspirated 1499cc powerplant (this also goes into the Smart ForFour built in the same factory as the Colt hatchbacks) produces 107bhp at 6000rpm and 107lb ft of torque at 4000rpm. It does the 100km/h sprint in a claimed 10.5 seconds and goes on to 114mph, while returning 42.8mpg on the combined cycle. CO2 output is 157g/km. Both engines are Euro IV emissions-compliant.

Standard CZC equipment includes 16inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, leather steering wheel and gear lever, radio/CD/MP3 stereo, four airbags, anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution (ABS is now compulsory in Europe), and integrated front fog lights.

The CZC Turbo adds sports suspension, M-ASTC stability and traction control, part leather seats, a restyled front bumper and unique 16inch alloy wheels.

The CZC is being built in conjunction with Pininfarina which collaborated with Mitsubishi Design Europe to design the little drop-top. Production of the range will start at Pininfarina's Bairo plant near Turin, Italy on 7 March.

Offically, the CZC is for European markets only but sources have told just-auto that Mitsubishi distributors in other markets are begging to get the car to sell in competition with its Peugeot and Opel rivals, which are both exported outside Europe.

Graeme Roberts