31 May 2006
|Category:|| Citycar |
|Price:|| £9000 |
|Key rival:|| Chevrolet Matiz|
It might look like a motor show concept car, but Mitsubishi is considering launching its bizarrely named "i" citycar into the UK by the end of the year.
The turbocharged 660cc four-seater would be a rival for the Chevrolet Matiz, sharing its narrow, upright styling and tiny engine.
The compact dimensions - the i is shorter and narrower but taller than any of its rivals - are achieved thanks to a rear-mounted engine that sits just ahead of the rear axle. Though this impacts upon boot space, it means the wheels can be mounted pretty much at each corner of the cabin. Not having the engine at the front also means that, despite the compact length, the car has the longest wheelbase in its class, explaining the good interior packaging.
The i's extra height makes a real difference inside, with headroom that's unmatched in bigger classes, let alone this one - even taller passengers won't find themselves brushing the roof. Interior room in general is good for a car that's also the shortest five-door in its class. There's enough room to sit two adults, though long journeys will be a predictably tough ask.
The cabin's plastic-heavy, but still decent quality for a £9000 car, and the kit count is impressive. Climate control, alloys, keyless entry, leather steering wheel, front fog lights and four-speed auto gearbox are all thrown in.
On the road, the ultra light steering combines with the good visibility and high driving position to ease city driving, while the three-cylinder engine gets a little noisy at speed; you need to work the 64PS unit hard to make any serious progress. But it's fine for town driving, where it would spend a large portion of its life.
The i makes sense as a fashionable Matiz rival, or as a more practical alternative to a Smart Fortwo. Meanwhile, Mitsubishi is only looking at overall UK sales of 500-1000 cars per year.