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Mitsubishi i: JDM flavor might save Mitsubishi.

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Uploaded on Apr 7, 2010

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T-Bone tours us through his straight-from-Japan Mitsubishi i. This mid-engine, turbocharged, all-wheel-drive city runner is a direct connection to an era when light weight and smart packaging made small cars feel like racecars.

For decades, Mitsubishi has engineered "Keijidosha" -- Japanese urban vehicles constrained by size and power regulations. Mitsubishi's Kei expertise helps debunk small-car cliches. The i seats four full-framed passengers without compromising comfort. Road noise and harshness levels are average. The i's 2150-lb curb weight allows it to accelerate onto freeway onramps with only slightly more aggressive pedal pressure than powerful-but-porkier US-market compacts.

When the Mitsubishi i arrives in US showrooms in 2011, its gasoline engine will be swapped in favor of an all-electric drivetrain. Neither T-Bone nor I have driven the battery-powered version yet, but the i-MiEV is currently in service as a Best Buy Geek Squad fleet vehicle at select stores in California. Its 100-mile range and 81 MPH top speed should satiate commuters, but 'range anxiety' may concern long-distance drivers.

Our days with the i were punctuated by mouth-agape stares, finger pointing, and several conversations with strangers. Mitsubishi must consistently deliver unabashedly unique vehicles like the i to remain relevant to American car shoppers.

T-Bone: the T is for Twitter. http://twitter.com/MetallicaRat
24x7 car culture analysis. http://twitter.com/highmileage

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