Mitsubishi’s latest model in its native market is this Lilliputian-like minicar named simply the “i”. What’s remarkable about the “i” is its innovative rear-midship layout in which the engine is located ahead of the rear axle and behind the rear seats. The vehicle’s three-cylinder powerplant is an all-new 12-valve, DOHC MIVEC unit that incorporates turbocharging and intercooling to extract the maximum amount of power and efficiency from its diminutive .66 liters of displacement. The rather long wheelbase and large-for-its-class 15-inch wheels should contribute to better handling and an improved ride compared with other minicars for sale in Japan. The “i” will be available in both 2WD and 4WD at prices that start at ¥1,281,000 ($11,171 US).

Full press release and more official pics after the jump...

[Source: Mitsubishi]

New concept for the future of small: "i"

Tokyo, January 24, 2006  — Mitsubishi Motors Corporation today launched the new "i" minicar model at Mitsubishi dealerships throughout Japan. Using a newly developed platform with an original rear-midship layout that mounts the engine forward of the rear axle line, the new "i" series includes 2WD and 4WD models with prices ranging from %uFFE51,281,000 to %uFFE51,617,000.

Ushering in a new age for the minicar, "i" was developed as an innovative Premium Small Car that successfully overcomes the tradeoffs traditionally associated with the category: design and comfortable interior space; comfortable interior space and impact safety. Mitsubishi Motors has overcome these challenges by developing a new and innovative rear-midship layout that mounts the engine forward of the rear axle line and spawns three new "innovations" within the category's dimensional constraints: futuristic and uptown styling; agile handling and a comfortable ride; and, excellent multidirectional impact safety.

Powered by a new lightweight and compact 3-cylinder MIVEC*1 turbocharged engine that uses an aluminum cylinder block, "i" earns a 3-star rating for emission levels that are 50% lower than required by Japanese 2005 Emission Regulations and returns fuel consumption that meets Japanese 2010 fuel economy requirements.

"i" also offers a comfortable interior environment. "i"applies Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified seat fabric, a first among Japanese automakers. Improvement of materials, design and manufacturing processes for interior trim and parts and the use of an deodorant rooflining have reduced volatile organic compounds (VOC) to a level that meets JAMA's voluntary guidelines to reduce cabin VOC concentration levels 15 months before it's the guidelines' introduction.

New rear-midship layout platform:
The new rear-midship platform mounts the engine just forward of the rear axle line. A long wheelbase of 2550 mm, a figure that is on par with the level of a compact car, and a better front/rear weight distribution underpin superior key performance parameters complemented by agile handling, high drivability, a comfortable ride, and stable braking. Providing an effective front crumple zone, the rear-midship layout also realizes a happy marriage between roomier interior space and improved impact safety. And all this wrapped in boldly original styling.

I . " i " : major product features

1. Design

Taking its cue from the distinctive one-motion silhouette keynote that capitalizes fully on the rear-midship layout, the design uses the large tires-at-a-corner styling to project apowerful and stable stance. The styling team has crafted lines that work in concert with the front and rear lamps and other geometric elements to project an image that is both intellectual and amiable. "i" is offered in a range of eight body colors that include two new chic and modern choices developed specially for the model: Ginger Brown Metallic and Ash Gray Metallic. Pearl White will also be available in March for a ninth color.

Benefiting from the large windshield and from the generous living space stemming from the longer wheelbase, the interior enjoys a bright and airy feel. Extensive use is made of soft shapes and surfaces to engender a comforting and reassuring sense of being swaddled within a protective cocoon. Delicate detailing in the driver's instrumentation and center panel gives visual accent to the interior's fun to look at and great to use qualities. M and G trim levels offer a choice of red or dark gray accent coloring in such parts as seats, allowing the owner to coordinate interior and exterior colors to his or her individual preference.

Interior comfort
With no engine at the front which allows the front wheels to be placed as far forward as possible, the rear-midship layout realizes a wheelbase of 2550 mm %u30FBsubstantially longer than seen in any minicar to date. The long wheelbase and placement of the tires at the four corners provide original styling and generous, compact car levels of interior*2 and luggage space*3 that boast a combined length of 2,075 mm.

2. Driving qualities

New 12-valve DOHC MIVEC intercooler-turbocharged engine with aluminum cylinder block
"i" is powered by a brand-new 3-cylinder engine that mates variable valve timing  technology (MIVEC) on the intake valvetrain with an intercooler-turbocharger %u30FBthe only minicar power unit to do so, to deliver high performance and return excellent fuel economy and clean emissions. Despite its turbocharged specification, "i" earns a 3-star rating for emission levels that are 50% lower than required by Japanese 2005 Emission Regulations and returns fuel consumption that meets Japanese 2010 fuel economy standards.

Using an aluminum cylinder block and resin intake manifold, the new engine was made lighter and more compact. An electronic throttle delivers silky-smooth acceleration despite the engine's turbocharged specification. Also, a higher overall engine stiffness and the use of a silent timing chain contributes to quieter and smoother operation for category-eclipsing levels of comfort.

New suspension
"i" uses MacPherson struts at the front and a 3-link De Dion suspension at the rear. The absence of the engine at the front has allowed the engineers to optimize the front suspension configuration and stroke. This and the longer wheelbase combine to deliver well-balanced and well-mannered handling with a classy, smooth ride and rock-steady straight-line stability. The rear-midship layout also allows a larger wheel turn angle to give "i" a 4.5 m minimum turning radius on a par with the eK series despite its longer wheelbase.

15-inch large tires
"i" rides on 15-inch tires but uses different treadwidths and profiles front and rear: 145/65R15 at the front and 175/55R15 at the rear. Accommodating the higher load on the rear driving wheels, the wider rear tires provide more grip for confidence-inspiring stability together with agile handling and control.

3. Safety

Multidirectional impact safety body
The rear-midship layout allows a generous front crumple zone as well as providing roomier interior space. "i" sits on a frame structure that delivers much improved multidirectional impact safety. Large-section straight side rails running the length of the body absorb and diffuse impact energy in a frontal crash. Strong cross members linking the straight rails effectively absorb side impact energy while the floor and engine act in concert to absorb and diffuse rear end impact energy. Also, the space freed up under the hood by the rear-midship layout and the use of an energy-absorbing wiper pivot reduce impact energy transmission in the event of a collision with a pedestrian.

4. Comfort and convenience appointments / Utility

Keyless operation system
G and M trim levels are fitted as standard with a keyless operation system that allows door and tailgate locks to be locked or unlocked and the engine to be started or stopped without the driver having to remove the remote unit from his or her pocket or handbag.

In-car entertainment / Navigation
Standard on all G and M trim levels, a CD player with AM/FM tuner sports an exclusive panel design that makes it appear an integral part of the dashboard. In a pleasingly clean design, the ergonomic layout of the control panel puts a large volume/tuning dial and other switches within easy reach.
A 7-inch wide display HDD on-board navigation system is available as a factory-fitted option.

Small item storage / Luggage compartment
"i" provides generous small item storage that combines function with design as seen in the front passenger glove compartment, Secret box and in the pull-out cup holders. In a simple operation, the 50:50 split rear seatbacks fold forward and down at the pull of a lever to create a flat and roomy luggage compartment.

Clean and comfortable interior environment
"i" realizes a clean and pleasantly comfortable interior environment. The full-automatic climate control system standard on all models uses a clean air filter with deodorizing function. The clean air filter works with the deodorant rooflining to remove cigarette and body odors and also to reduce volatile organic compound (VOC) levels. G and M trim levels use a solar control glass windshield that cuts transmission of ultra-violet and infra-red radiation.

II . Sales information
1. Monthly sales target: 5,000 units
2. Available at: MMC affiliated dealerships throughout Japan

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