By James Bergeron

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Mitsubishi iCar

Mitsubishi iCar
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I was lucky enough to have the opportunity recently to drive a vehicle that is not sold in Canada. The iCar is produced by Mitsubishi for the Japanese and European market. To a lot of Canadians it might resemble a smart car, but it differs in many key areas, the most obvious one is the amount of doors it sports.

Not only was I driving a vehicle not available for purchase in Canada (or North America for that matter), but my iCar tester was right-hand drive. The feeling was odd at first but surprisingly it didn’t take long to get accustomed to driving on the “wrong” side of the car. Passengers were the ones that found it the most odd: imagine the feeling of sitting in the drivers seat with traffic headed your way but no control over the vehicle. It really is an odd feeling.

Mitsubishi iCar
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I have had some fancy cars in my driveway over the past year, but none have garnered as many e-mails and comments from my neighbours as the iCar, all praising its cuteness and size wanting to know when they can buy one – unfortunately I had to break the news that it was not planned for sale in Canada.

The interior of the iCar is “smart” with four comfortable seats each capable of holding a full sized adult; the amount of space packed into this small package is rather impressive. Other impressive notables are features you would never expect to see in a vehicle of this type.

Mitsubishi iCar
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Mitsubishi iCar
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Included in my tester was: automatic climate control, auto up and down power windows all around, heated driver’s seat, iPod slot, and a hard drive based in-dash navigation system, with DVD player and TV. Of course this was all in Japanese so a little bit difficult for me to read. The navigation system kept telling me I was approaching Japan … sure.

The interior is nothing to swoon over but it certainly is functional and seemed well constructed. Most, if not all, of the plastics on the interior are hard in nature but I have seen worse in larger and presumably more expensive vehicles.

Powered by a 3 cylinder turbo-charged gas engine, this little car will not win any drag races, unless it is against the aforementioned smart car. The engine produces 68 hp and my tester was equipped with the optional AWD system, so spinning the wheels even in monsoon type rain conditions is just not an option.

The iCar weights in at approximately 2000lbs; certainly not a heavyweight but not extremely light either. Surprisingly, though, the little engine gets this vehicle up to speed rather briskly. Off the line is a little slow going, but once that little turbo spools, keeping and passing traffic is no problem at all. My tester was driven by an automatic transmission – which I am thankful for: having had to adjust to driving on the right side was confusing enough; I can’t imagine having to shift as well. The four speed automatic mates very well with the small engine in the iCar and shifts smoothly, it also kicked down reasonably quickly when more power was required.

Mitsubishi iCar
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I actually really enjoyed tossing the iCar around: being so light it was invariably nimble feeling, even with four adults in the car. On the road, though, the iCar felt fairly stiff and somewhat jarring, which I found odd considering it is fairly softly-sprung, which was quite evident when pushed in the corners. In sharper corners the iCar leaned enough to nearly have my head touching the far side door panel – not that this was a bad thing, but this car is certainly not made to be a sports car.

I did not get a chance to take the iCar onto the highway, although I did hit 100km/h for a brief period on some “B” roads. The engine is typically quiet but when hitting triple digits and a little over 3000 rpm with the engine fairly close behind it does tend to get noisy. At city speeds the engine seems quiet and fairly refined; it really is only at higher speeds where it becomes an issue.

Mitsubishi iCar
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With the size of the iCar you would expect some wind movement and there was, although it wasn’t horrible. Not once did I feel uncomfortable about driving the iCar in traffic, but in heavy wind situations you do need to pay attention.

Gas mileage was a little difficult to calculate, unfortunately, but a rough calculation came to an average of 7.5L/100km for all city driving. Not as great as I had originally anticipated this vehicle might be, but it does have the penalty of the AWD system to contend with, and my heavy foot.

Overall I was extremely impressed by this little wonder, a very practical city car / second vehicle for Canada, especially with all-wheel drive, four seats and large enough trunk capacity for a good amount of groceries.

*Rating out of 5:

Mitsubishi iCar
Acceleration 3"
Handling 3half
Comfort 4
Interior 3half
Audio System 4
Gas Mileage 3half

*Rating based on vehicle’s classification

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