Motor Mouth - Mitsubishi iCar

It's not pretty, exactly, but proves that being good isn't synonymous with being ugly. Sathnam Sanghera reports.

Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

Since this month's MT is focusing on CSR, I thought I'd review the Caterham 7 sports car - on the grounds that there is a particularly thunderous version called the CSR 260. But it transpires that CSR is increasingly referred to as just 'SR' in management circles, and as the only car I could find bearing those initials is the Nissan Micra Sport SR (0-60 mph in 9.8 secs) - a prospect as thrilling as contracting a dose of the flu - I settled for fulfilling the spirit rather than the letter of the exercise by test-driving the new and extremely socially responsible Mitsubishi iCar.

Confusingly, the iCar actually turns out to be a k-car - the k representing keijidosha and signifying a category of small vehicles created in Japan that are exempt from various local taxes and regulations. These k-cars, which account for more than 50% of all cars sold in Japan, have to be less than 3.4 m long and 1.48 m wide, have an engine of less than 660 cc and max power output of 64 bhp. The iCar is all these things, and has fuel consumption of just 55 mpg, which makes it one of the cleanest cars available in Britain.

Furthermore, it is as friendly-looking as it is nice to the environment - a surprise, given that Mitsubishi is known for producing bulbous deathtanks like the Shogun rather than cute runarounds, and that other ultra-clean cars tend to have the visual charm of photocopiers. The iCar isn't pretty, exactly, but it's proof that being good needn't be synonymous with being ugly.

The interior is the biggest surprise. The iCar is shorter than the new Mini but feels positively airy inside - the large windscreen and angled dashboard making it feel spacious - and you really can fit four adults in it.

Not that you'll get anywhere quickly - it takes more than 14 seconds to hit 60mph, and though the iCar has a top speed of 84 mph, you'd no more take it on a long motorway journey than treat your granny to a high-speed superbike ride.

But driving the iCar is a revelation. Easier to park than a brick and with a better turning circle than a black cab, it makes you realise what a hassle conventional cars are in the city. It's not cheap at £9,084, but if Ken Livingstone introduces a C02-based pricing system, it could be exempt from the congestion charge, which means it will pay for itself in 1,136 socially responsible days.

Thanks but no thanks ...
Looks a bit funny from certain angles.

Not as cheap as it is small.


Scary on the motorway.


I'll take one ...
As practical as a dustpan.

High spec - eg, climate control, alloys, remote central locking,
electric mirrors, radio/CD.

Better-looking than competitors.

One of the cleanest cars on the road.

Mitsubishi iCar £9,084

Engine 660 cc

Power 57 bhp at 6,000 rpm

Torque 62 lb ft at 3,000 rpm

Transmission 4-speed automatic

Fuel 54.6 mpg (combined cycle)

CO2 114 g/km

0-62 mph 14.9 sec

Top speed 84 mph

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