The Mitsubishi i is a micro-car offering derived from the Smart Fortwo platform prior to Mitsubishi and DaimlerChrysler parting ways a few years back. The i, which stands for innovate, is specifically targeted to the Kei Class of cars that earn special tax breaks in Japan, making them more attractive to JDM buyers.
The shape of the vehicle brings new meaning to "cab forward design" as the proportionally challenged model features practically no overhang front or rear. In fact, so diminutive is the Mitsubishi the only aspects of the car to look 'full size' are the doors. It looks like four doors with wheels attached. There is no hood per se, so the roofline starts at the front bumper and runs well past the centerline of the rear wheels, as if drawn with a single, sweeping stroke. Functional on the streets of Japan perhaps, but downright terrifying on the SUV-dominated freeways of the U.S. Not too much metal lies between you and any accident.
Motivation for this pipsqueak is provided by a 660cc three-cylinder factory turbocharged and intercooled engine. The all-aluminum mighty-mite three-banger is rated at 64 bhp, which may not impress at first blush but pounding the calculator reveals a 96 hp-per-liter output. That is an eye opener and then factor in the supreme tunability of factory turbo engines and the i represents one of the fastest insects on the road.
Blitz Japan saw the light and elected to take advantage of some of that boost potential. The Blitz Project Innovate uses the tried-and-true method of starting from the outside and working inward toward the motor. Restrictions are opened up with a Blitz SUS Power LM air cleaner and a Nur Spec-K exhaust system. A Blitz SBC i-Color is on call to manipulate boost while an R-FIT fuel-tuning computer handles fuel enrichment.
The Blitz R-FIT can be easily wired up to a number of engines that use hotwire, MAP, flapper door, or other air-metering schemes. The unit can be configured to provide 16 separate engine-speed-based tuning points in increments as small as 100 rpm. Memory capacity can store up to 64 maps while the unit can be set up in one of four display modes. Successful tuning maps can be cloned via infrared connectivity from one R-FIT unit to another.
Perhaps the biggest impact player is the Blitz body tuning attack, which consists of full front and rear fascia updates as well as custom rocker panels. Visual appeal is further enhanced by the car's ground-hugging stance complements of a prototype Blitz Super Flex suspension setup. The Diamond Star's rolling stock is a serious stagger proposition with 15-inchers up front and 17s in the rear. Talk about oddball combinations; imagine hitting up Discount Tire or Tire Rack and buying a pair of 165/55-15s and two 205/40-17s.
The bottom line here is this is one tight, hard-rolling insect. With a slight boost up the responsive turbo-three engine is poised to add spunk to the i's low-slung grace. Will the i use its passport and cross the border into the American market? It is too early to tell but it is clear that with the Honda Fit and Nissan's Micro and Cube coming, the Diamond Star gang is a bit behind the curve. A little Kei Class competition could play out quite well over here. Will it get approving nods from MINI Cooper drivers or will it be relegated to caddying on the golf course? The SUV backlash may make for a diminutive new trend in sport compact sales.