In January 2006, Mitsubishi Motors Corporation launched Kei car named the Mitsubishi i, previously revealed at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2003. Since 1960s, it was regarded as the first 4-door vehicle that featured a “rear midship” setup with the engine behind the passengers, to offer better safety and spacious interior with increasing the external dimensions of the car.
Designing a Mitsubishi i was certainly a novel idea and this inventive layout and styling became a hit within short period of time surpassing the Mitsubishi’s initial sales targets by 20 percent. The car won total of thirteen awards in its debut year. The design of the car is based on the Japanese keijidosha light automobile class and the popularity of this vehicle led it to be introduced in the Asia, Oceania and Europe, where right hand drive rule of the road is followed. Mitsubishi i also paved the way for 2009 i-MiEV battery electric vehicle.
Body and Dimensions
The Mitsubishi i features a lightweight aluminum space frame structure with a rear-mounted engine layout which led Mitsubishi to attain larger front crumple zone and that too within the safety restriction requirements without giving up on interior space. Absence of powertrain in the front of the vehicle allowed the designers to cut the front overhang and extend the wheelbase to 2550 mm (100.4 inch), offering greater legroom compared to any other Kei car with lesser wheelbases, i.e. 130 to 190 mm (5.1-7.5 inch). The only negative point related to this design is the lack of cargo area.
The drivetrain of Mitsubishi i is very unique itself as it features the ‘rear-midship’ engine fixed just in front of the rear axle, an extremely uncommon arrangement for a small car where front-engine design has been in practice since 1970s. The 3B20 3-cylinder engine used in the car has an aluminum cylinder block with a displacement of 659 cc. it also features a double overhead camshafts with MIVEC variable valve timing in the cylinder head. Before 2007 when naturally aspirated version was released, the car offered with an intercooled, turbocharged engine.
Suspension, Brakes and Tires
The front suspension receives Macpherson struts, while the rear gets an unusual three-link De Dion tube/Watt’s linkage. The whole range comes standard with the anti-lock braking (ABS) and electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD). To balance the rear-based weight distribution, uneven tires have been used on 15-inch wheels, i.e. 145/65 on front and 175/55 on rear.
When car was introduced in 2006, it was offered in three different models or grades including S, M and G. All three were offered with an ascending order of price. Although, all the three models came equipped with turbocharged engine and as 5-door hatchback body style, they differed a lot in terms of standard equipment and options offered. The base model ‘S’ received a new naturally aspirated powerplant in 2007 and two new models or grades were added in the lineup including L and LX that also shared the same engine as base model.