Light Weight, Rear-Wheel Drive And Instant Torque Bubble Up There are two simple truths about the Mitsubishi i that should help this funky little electric car sell well in the U.S. once it goes on sale later this year. First, it looks like absolutely nothing else on the road today. Second, the car is much more fun than its jellybean shape implies. The North American-spec i does share its look with versions on sale in Japan and Europe, but this EV is a different beast compared to those models. It's also completely different from the gas-powered kei-car sold only in Mitsubishi's home market, which was named the Japan Car of the Year by the Automotive Researchers' and Journalists' Conference in 2007. It's also completely different from the Japan or Euro-spec electric i-MiEVs (which are also slightly different from each other) that Mitsubishi has been showing off in the U.S. for the past few years. We've had a chance to drive these other models, and you can read our thoughts on the foreign i-MiEV here and here. At this point, though, it's best not to bother – this i is something new. That's part of the idea, since the i is meant to be distinctive. Love it or hate it, Mitsubishi thinks that this is what electric car buyers want: an electric vehicle that looks like an electric vehicle, even if it comes from gas roots. One of Mitsubishi's defining design parameters for this vehicle was a focus on simplicity. This is obvious as soon as you see the car and its sparse-feeling dashboard. Simplicity, however, means there has been some clever thinking done to improve the car for its U.S. introduction. Mitsubishi has beefed up the i's size and the performance of its all-electric powertrain. The car is 4.3 inches wider and 8 inches longer, for example, though the wheelbase is the same as other i models. The calibration of the electronic control unit is also specific to this market. And, not that EV buyers pick their plug-in vehicles based on safety concerns, but the U.S. i also adds side curtain airbags for the first time. These look like small changes on paper, but behind the wheel, they make a huge difference. In our first drive of the i-MiEV, all the way back at the 2008 New York Auto Show, we wrote, "Make no mistake: the i MiEV is not quick in any sense, but the power on tap is perfectly suited to city driving." Today, with all its various improvements, we can say the new i is, well, quick. It's not quick like a Tesla Roadster, but it'll do just fine zipping onto the highway and darting about in the city. We found this out after spending an afternoon with a pre-production model in Portland, Oregon. The i offers more fun than should be expected with a small EV. There is no official time for a trip from 0-60 just yet, but the electric motor is quicker and provides …
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