January 24, 2006 Mitsubishi today launched its new "i" minicar model throughout Japan. Developed as an innovative premium small car, the “i” utilizes a newly developed platform with an original rear-midship layout that mounts the engine forward of the rear axle line to maximize the available interior space. With no engine at the front, the front wheels can be placed as far forward as possible, enabling a wheelbase of 2550 mm (substantially longer than any minicar to date). The long wheelbase and placement of the tires at the four corners provide generous, compact car levels of interior and luggage space that boast a combined length of 2,075 mm.
The innovative “i” is powered by a new lightweight and compact 3-cylinder aluminum engine that mates variable valve timing technology (MIVEC) on the intake valve train with an intercooled turbocharger , 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.
"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.
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.
The car has 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.
The “i” has 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.
"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.
An automatic climate control system is standard on all models and has 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.
The new "i" series includes 2WD and 4WD models with prices ranging from JPY1,281,000 to JPY1,617,000.
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