With the economic climate fast-approaching the nightmarish hell the media have been harping on about for the past six months, there are certain consumer goods being left on the shelf. One major casualty is the motor industry, because let's face it, having to choose between keeping warm, fed and watered or having a new car but dying of pneumonia is not really a choice at all. It's perhaps odd then that your Mitsubishi dealer will be unveiling a new car this summer - presumably to an empty showroom.
What's even more odd is that Mitsubishi are known best for two things. Firstly the Shogun which is not only a great 4x4, but an aggressively styled fashion accessory for any bouncer, body builder or just builder. A combination of being stylish, spacious and good on the rough stuff is helped enormously by the fact that the Shogun is turbo-charged so you can go everywhere in a blur whilst having passers by think they've seen the world's fastest elephant.
The second car Mitsubishi is known for is of course the Lancer Evolution range. In essence a space rocket with another aggressively styled car taped to it, the Evo is now in its tenth incarnation and is showing no signs of slowing down in its old age. Popular in equal measure with car thieves and rally drivers the Lancer is a bone fide supercar beater with the latest version completing the 0-60mph dash in a dizzying 4.1 seconds.
Ok you say, so Mitsubishi are known for the above, but why is this odd? Well when you see what they're fighting the economic avalanche with all will become clear. Called the i MiEV, the new car is small, not aggressively styled, and is battery powered. Have Mitsubishi lost their marbles? In short no. Despite the car looking like a toy car, the engineering behind it is anything but child's play.
Mitsubishi have been quietly working on battery powered cars since the mid nineties and the MiEV (Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle) is the fruits of their labour. Even the smallest details appear to have been meticulously designed Autel Maxidas DS808, with passenger space unimpaired with the batteries underneath the floor (where the fuel tank would normally live) and the motor itself under the rear seats.
The i MiEV has been built to comply with the strictest emissions regulations on earth - the Japanese K-car guidelines. The K-car policy promotes smaller, more efficient cars in return for cheaper tax and insurance. That means the i MiEV is less than 4ft 10in wide (a full 10inches narrower than a Fiesta) and looks even narrower due to its lofty styling. Crucially it's a million miles better than the G-Wiz which will be the Mitsubishi dealer's main rival when looking to clinch a sale.
There's room for four adults and a decent boot is another vital plus over the G-Wiz. Handling is surprisingly assured despite it being tall and narrow, although having no engine noise takes some getting used to! The best aspect though is that despite only housing 67 horses, the i MiEV has no trouble keeping up with traffic thanks to it having about the same weight as a supermodel. Even when you're approaching the 87mph top speed on the motorway, you don't feel exposed as you would in the G-Wiz, where even dual carriageways are a no go area.
Now the really crucial fact - battery charge. Yep, all electric cars fall foul of the reality that you cannot go anywhere near the distance an internal combustion engine will allow you and the i MiEV is no different. Mitsubishi say it'll cover 100 miles between charges but on a cold, frosty day in Britain you'd be looking at 50 miles tops. For a commuter however this is perfect - the cliental this car is squarely aimed at. The little car makes the business of recharging easy too, either plug it into your household socket for a full recharge in six hours or have an 80% charge in just 30 minutes using a £3000 optional extra charger from Mitsubishi themselves.
Mitsubishi estimate an electricity cost of £45 per 10,000 miles, in contrast to the £750 per year spent fuelling an average family hatchback. The lack of emissions also mean road tax and the congestion charge (if you're in London) are worries of the past as it's exempt from them all. 200 will be available for lease this summer costing £750 a month. Once production speeds up in 2010, expect the price to drop to between £15,000 - £20,000 to purchase. The long-term savings and the fact the i MiEV isn't just a very good electric car, but a very good car explain why your Mitsubishi dealer won't be worried about the