United Kingdom Meets Mitsubishi I

by : Lauren Woods

Mitsubishi Motors earlier announced that its award-winning "i" minicar will go on sale in the United Kingdom on the 1st of July this year. The Mitsubishi "i" minicar will be priced at ?8,999.

The "i," a Japanese kei car, was introduced by the automaker on 24 January last year. When asked about how the minicar got its name, the company responded, "This new-age car encourages the owner to express him/herself ('I') fully. Starting with the letter 'i' (innovation) also served as a keyword in the development of the car."

The minicar debuted 28 months after its introduction as a concept car at the 60th Frankfurt Motor Show. After the debut of the car, initial sales target were surpassed by 20 percent. Also, in its first year, the "i" won four major awards. The four-seat "i" has even gained a cult status in Japan. There, it has proved its worth in both critical and commercial aspects. The success is attributed to its futuristic design, spacious interior, good handling and comfy ride.

Jim Tyrrell, the Managing Director of Mitsubishi Motors UK, said, "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."

Last year, more than 37,000 units were already sold in Japan alone. Automotive design and awards also showered the Mitsubishi model. The Automotive Researchers & Journalists of Japan (RJC) named the "i" the 'RJC Car of the Year.' Both customers and critics were wowed by the efficiency of the 64bhp, 660cc turbo engine of the car and the practical advantages that it delivers.

Other awards bagged by Mitsubishi "i" include the "Most Advanced Technology" Special Achievement Award, and it was also voted on as part of Japan's Executive Committee of the Car of the Year awards. The Good Design Gold Prize and Good Design Grand Prize for 2006 were also given to the car by the Japanese Good Design Awards.

The said success has prompted Mitsubishi Motors UK to import the "i." But before the importation proposal, an extensive feasibility study was conducted by the company. This is to ensure that Mitsubishi "i" has the great potential to make it big in the UK as well.

The Mitsubishi "i" will be sold through selected UK Mitsubishi dealers. The initial availability set was just 300 units. Moreover, with several deposits already made, the "i" is said to have lured a small following in the UK.

The Mitsubishi "i" is equipped with a "rear-midship" engine mounted just ahead of the rear axle. The forthcoming European versions will feature Mitsubishi's INVECS-II semi-automatic transmission. The automaker will also incorporate 3B20 aluminium-block three cylinder powerplant, a DOHC cylinder head with MIVEC variable valve timing, and intercooled turbocharger to produce a peak power of 47 kW and torque of 94 N&bullm. For this year, a naturally aspirated engine was introduced by the automaker. The engine is capable of producing 38 kW and 57 N&bullm. To boost the efficiency of the engine, an equally-functional is utilized.

To create a bigger front crumple zone and to comply with the safety regulations, the automaker used a lightweight aluminium space frame structure and a rear-engined layout. This is also done so as not to compromise the interior space of the car. Mitsubishi "i" also features MacPherson struts are used in the front suspension, electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD), and front discs with anti-lock braking (ABS).

The "i" in its name is a play on the Japanese word "ai" which means love. This idea emphasizes the car's adorable properties. Mitsubishi is also engineered to be clever, imaginative and innovative. These characteristics are set to attract the Europeans.