Mitsubishi Motors UK has confirmed that the multi-award winning Mitsubishi "i" minicar will go on sale in the UK on 1st July 2007, with one highly-specified model to be launched priced at £8,999. The rear-mid-engined, four-seater "i" has already achieved cult status in Japan where it has proved both a critical and commercial success due to its futuristic styling, agile handling, clever use of interior space and comfortable ride.
Over 37,000 units were sold in Japan during 2006 and a string of automotive and design awards culminated in the "i" being named "RJC Car of the Year" by the Automotive Researchers & Journalists of Japan (RJC). Critics and customers alike have been seduced by the efficiency of the "i"’s 64bhp, 660cc turbo engine and the practical advantages of its rear-mid-engined configuration.
The decision to import the "i" follows an extensive feasibility study. Jim Tyrrell, Managing Director of Mitsubishi Motors UK stated: "We displayed the "i" at Badminton Horse Trials, the British Motor Show and at a number of key dealerships around the country and the public reaction was wholly positive. The "i" has already become a cult car in Japan and we’re confident that its space and sophistication, coupled with Mitsubishi’s reputation for quality and reliability, will also make it a hit in the UK."
The "i" will be sold through selected Mitsubishi dealers with an initial availability of just 300 units. With deposits already being placed, the "i" may well have already attracted a small following of its own here in the UK.
"i" is a play on the Japanese word "ai" meaning love, which emphasises the car’s people and eco-friendly properties. It is also designed to be intelligent, innovative and imaginative.
Mitsubishi’s feasibility study suggests the "i" will appeal to a wide range of people. While the younger style-conscious buyer appreciates its distinctive image and technology; older customers are attracted by its practicality, reliability and ease-of-use.
Just one highly-specified version of the "i" will be offered in the UK. Designed as an innovative premium small car, standard equipment will include automatic transmission, climate control, a six-speaker stereo with CD player, front and rear electric windows and electrically operated and folding door mirrors.
The "i" is powered by an all-alloy, 660cc three-cylinder petrol engine that combines a turbocharger and intercooler with MIVEC variable valve timing. The engine delivers 64bhp at 6000rpm and 69lb ft (93Nm) of torque at 3000rpm, helping the "i" accelerate from 0 to 50mph in 11.2sec and reach a top speed of around 90mph. Drive is to the rear wheels via an INVECS-II 4-speed automatic transmission, which helps reduce the stress of city driving.
The "i" employs a unique, aluminium space-frame chassis, which is both lightweight and exceptionally strong. This has benefits for both occupant protection and the performance of the suspension, which consists of MacPherson struts at the front and a 3-link De Dion system at the rear. The long wheelbase and near-perfect weight distribution has enabled the engineers to combine a comfortable ride quality with nippy handling. A tiny turning radius of 4.5m is also a major boon in the city.
The "i"’s futuristic styling capitalises on its rear-mid-engined configuration. It was designed at Mitsubishi’s design studio in Tokyo and its distinctive, one-box shape maximises cabin space. It’s neat, practical and appealing.
Unusual dimensions lend it a key advantage in the cut-and-thrust of city driving. The "i" is 155mm narrower than the Peugeot 107, helping it to squeeze through gaps in the traffic that would normally be reserved for a motorbike. It is also shorter than its key rivals, but the wheel-at-each corner proportions deliver a wheelbase that’s longer than a full-size supermini. This has advantages for both passenger accommodation and driving dynamics.
The success of Mitsubishi’s design has been recognised in Japan at the highest level with "i" not only taking a ‘Good Design Gold Prize’ but also beating over 2,000 entries to secure the overall Grand Prize for 2006 in the highly-prestigious Japanese Good Design Awards. The "i" is the first minicar to win this prize which is given to the most outstanding entry among all categories.
The cabin highlights the benefits of a rear-mid-engined configuration by providing ample space for four adults and their luggage. Head room is particularly generous and the simple, high quality fascia contributes to the feeling of comfort. There’s also plenty of storage space and the rear seat back splits and folds to allow larger objects to be carried.
The "i" is the first Japanese car to use Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified hypoallergenic seat fabric. Working in combination with a deodorant roof lining and a clean air filter for the standard automatic air conditioning, this fabric helps purify the cabin. This is of major benefit to allergy sufferers.
The standard ABS with EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution) helps the driver avoid an accident, but should the worst happen, occupants are protected by twin front airbags and a sophisticated survival cell. ISOFIX child seat mounting points and anti-trap electric windows help safeguard the next generation, while an innovative energy-absorbing wiper pivot under the bonnet reduces the risk of injury to a pedestrian.