Mitsubishi i
Mitsubishi i

There was a time when ‘I’ was more of a suffix, with the ‘i’ in GTi, representing ‘injection’. But there is now a growing trend towards putting the ‘i’ in front, the Hyundai i130 for example. However, the Mitsubishi Motor Corporation (MMC), has gone a step further in naming its new mini car, it is simply, i.

MMC tells us that i is a play on the word ‘ai’, which is Japanese for love. Alternatively, it could be taken to mean the first person or perhaps a connection with iPod, which I’ll come back to later.

The i is what is known as a K-car, or a city-car, if you prefer. The K-car idea dates back to 1949, when the Japanese government decided to give tax breaks to smaller, more efficient cars. These were known as Kei Jidosha - Japanese for ‘light vehicle’, which turned into Kei-car and was further truncated to the K-car we know today.

The concept may have started in 1949, when resources were in short supply but for different reasons, it is just as relevant today, especially in the towns and cities that are the K-cars natural habitat.

The K-car regulations are quite strict and state that the vehicle can be no more than 3.4 metres long or 1.48 metres in width, furthermore, the engine must be 660cc or less and should not produce in excess of 64 horsepower.

The i conforms to these rules in that it is 3.39 metres in length and 1.47 metres wide. It also has a 660cc engine, which produces 57bhp. Mitsubishi suggests that the smart ForTwo is the nearest rival to the i, with dimensions of 2.69m (L) and 1.47m (W). However, the ForTwo is just that, and the i has four full-size seats with an equal number of doors.

The diminutive, i is a peculiar looking vehicle. It stands tall but is very narrow and takes the ‘wheel-in-every-corner’ idea, to a new level. By placing the engine at the back, just forward of the rear axle, MMC have created a car with minimal overhangs, front and rear. That, together with a long wheelbase, means enough room for four passengers to sit in relative comfort. Rear legroom is adequate as long as there isn’t a tall person in the front seat and, despite the narrow body, there is enough elbow-room for all.


Published : 10/12/07 Author : Melanie Carter

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