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i candy: Mitsubishi used the Melbourne motor show to gauge response to its i light car.

Mitsubishi ponders urban mini for release on the Australian market

13 Feb 2006

MITSUBISHI has sprung a surprise in the form of a sub-Colt light car at the Melbourne International Motor Show today.

The "i" is a peanut-shaped five-door hatchback mini-car (or Kei-car) that was launched last October in Japan – and which Mitsubishi Australia is showing in Melbourne to gauge public response.

"We’ll be handing out cards the whole time asking people what they think," a spokesman said. "It’s with a view to a future introduction in Australia." GoAuto believes Mitsubishi in Japan is actively seeking export markets as well as European production at its under-utilised Colt and Smart ForFour plant in The Netherlands.

If the i makes it to Australia it would probably feature a turbocharged 1.0-litre four-cylinder MIVEC (variable-valve timing) engine. Currently in Japan the i is powered by a 47kW 660cc, turbocharged, MIVEC three-cylinder engine producing 94Nm of torque and returning 5.43 litres per 100km.

Like the Smart ForTwo it is very loosely based on, the powerplant is located ahead of the rear axle and drives the rear wheels. The upshot is exceptional cabin space utilisation, better crash protection and an extremely tight turning circle.

It also weighs just 900kg – or 960kg in Japan-only all-wheel drive specification. A four-seater, the i is 3395mm long, 1475mm wide and sits on a relatively long 2550mm wheelbase. This contrasts with the RG Colt’s corresponding 3870mm, 1680mm and 2500mm dimensions.

Speaking of Colt, two new variations have made their Australian debut today. The Coupe-Cabriolet is a 2+2 production version of the 2003 CZ2 Cabriolet concept based on the five-door hatchback (not the European market three-door), and is built by Pininfarina in Italy.

The Colt CC is targeting the mid-$30,000 Peugeot 206 CC and recently released Holden Tigra.

Power goes to the front wheels via a turbocharged variation of the 1.5-litre MIVEC four-cylinder engine. This powerplant is also central to the Colt Ralliart – Mitsubishi’s answer to the new Polo GTI.

The Ralliart also features lowered suspension, fatter wheels/tyres, a bespoke air filter and muffler and a host of cosmetic items designed to add some spice to the slow-selling hatchback.

"Although neither are expected to sell in high numbers they should establish solid sales figures in their respective market niches," the spokesperson said.

21 center imageBoth Colts will arrive later this year. Sensing the burgeoning customising craze, Mitsubishi also displayed a Lancer Evolution IX kitted out with $30,000 worth of Ralliart gear (including shock absorbers, tyres and exhaust systems) that buyers can choose individually to set their rides apart.

For something completely different, the new-generation Triton has made its Australian debut today, however the light truck – displayed in GLS Dual Cab guise – is not on sale until the third quarter of this year. In showing it, Mitsubishi is hoping Hi-Lux and Navara buyers will hold off until then.

Similarly, buyers of "sportier" 4WD wagons are sought with the limited-edition Pajero VR-X. As Mitsubishi’s spoiler to the new Territory Turbo, the GLX-based VR-X does not add anything different under the bonnet but includes 17-inch alloys, a "sports" grille, headlamps and bezel, metallic-look trim, scuff plates, privacy glass and front foglights.

Pricing ranges from $49,990 for the 3.8 V6 manual to $54,990 for the 3.2 turbo-diesel auto. It goes on sale from March.

Perhaps of more importance was the announcement this morning of a cheaper 380. Dubbed the LE (Limited Edition), it slashes $4500 off the price of the regular base 380 manual (or $4000 off the auto) yet adds alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, front foglights, Bluetooth mobile phone interface, rear parking radar and a chrome exhaust tip.

Mitsubishi says the LE will be available for only a short time. It is priced from $29,990, or $31,990 for the auto.

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