The Mitsubishi “i” Minicar isn’t something that we really see a lot of in the U.S., but in Japan they really are the norm. In fact, the “i” mini belongs to a very popular car segment called the Kei cars (or K-cars). Kei cars in Japan must follow strict regulations and by meeting these regulations these cars qualify for tax exemptions and parking advantages. You can’t start to see why mini cars, and specifically the Mitsubishi “i” mini, is so popular on that side of the ocean.
In order to qualify as a Kei car, the vehicle in question is limited to 134 inches in length, 58 inches in width and a maximum of a 660 cc (yes that is just over half a liter) engine. Given the specifications, Kei cars start to sound like a golf cart you might find at your local country club, however vehicle manufactures have really made the most of these small cars. Mitsubishi is arguably one of the most skilled in this segment and their “i” mini can be found at the top of sales lists among other Kei cars; the success is speculated to be because of the design of the interior, which offers a “very space-efficient” exterior according to our partners over at TheCarConnection.com. Did we mention they also got to experience the car first hand? (check it out here)
So it is good for Japan, but why would people in the States care or even Europeans? It is no secret that Mitsubishi wants to start selling the MiEV electric vehicle here in the U.S. and since the “i” mini is basically the same car without the EV equipment, it makes sense to get it certified for sale at the same time. It could be a smart move by Mitsubishi, especially considering the success of the Smart ForTwo and the Toyota Prius Hybrid. What better than to be able to offer a Smart ForTwo like car that can carry four people comfortably and allow the buyer to choose from a fully electric or a gasoline powered version. It’s like having your cake and eating it too—at least if you are Mitsubishi. So one question remains: Will people in the U.S. buy it? My auto industry crystal ball says yes, especially with the “green” focus society seems to have refined over the last couple of years.
Be sure to check out the Driven article on the Mitsubishi i Minicar over at TheCarConnection.com.