From £28,499
Funky, clever addition to city car market, but out-of-town dynamics let it down

MEET WHAT COULD become one of Britain’s funkiest city cars.The all-new Mitsubishi iCar is just going on sale in Japan. And depending on British reaction, there’s a fair chance that it could be coming over here as well, slotting beneath the Colt in the model line-up.It’s certainly different. With a rear-mounted three-cylinder turbocharged engine stowed under the boot floor and a standard-fit, four-speed auto ’box driving the rear wheels, it’s closest in concept to the Smart ForTwo – although with room for four.The exterior dimensions are impressively compact – it’s a full eight inches shorter than a Ford Ka. But the engine’s location makes for decent cabin space – with plenty of leg and headroom in the front, and acceptable levels aft, too.Inside, neat details include a big, central ‘pod’ for switchgear on the dashboard, a high-mounted gear selector for the auto ’box and a combined digital speedo and rev counter.Despite its diminutive 0.6-litre capacity, the turbocharged, intercooled three-cylinder engine produces a respectable 63bhp. Up to about 30mph the iCar manages a decent turn of speed as the auto ’box shifts smoothly between ratios.But out of town it’s going to struggle in the UK. Even on the high-speed bowl of Mitsubishi’s Okazaki test track the baby Mitsubishi struggled to reach an indicated 80mph. Low gearing knocks refinement, too – 60mph is a buzzy 4000rpm in top.Suspension has been optimised to provide the best possible ride comfort. The iCar has an extra four inches between the axles than the Ka, and soft springs and dampers conspire to produce an impressively compliant ride over rougher surfaces.The downside is lacklustre handling with lots of roll and little grip. At surprisingly low speeds the iCar will enter terminal understeer – another trait in common with the Smart Fortwo.So would it sell? Mitsubishi is still doing the numbers, although we’re told that if it does come to Blighty it will be nearly as expensive as the Colt, a substantial premium over rival city cars.The innovative design and mechanical layout would certainly appeal to some – it’s arguably far closer to the spirit of a four-seat Smart than the disappointing Forfour -– but the lack of performance and insipid dynamics would likely restrict its appeal to urban areas.Mike Duff

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