HM may launch iCar in India

Mumbai: While Toyota, Honda and General Motor India have been talking about about launching a small car in India for some time, an unlikely contender for the small car space is Hindustan Motors which has been keeping an extremely low profile on the new launches front.

According to recent media reports Hindustan Motors plans to launch the `Mitsubishi iCar'' in India by the end of 2007. It would introduce the new model through the SKD (semi-knocked down) route whereby the new vehicle will be assembled at the company''s plants in India. HM manufactures the Mitsubishi brand of cars (Lancer) since 1998 under a tie-up with Mitsubishi Motor Corporation, Japan.

Mitsubishi''s iCar is a 600cc, 12-valve, 3-cylinder car with a 4-speed auto gearbox and is currently available only in Japan, though the company plans to introduce it in the UK and US after carrying out feasibility studies. The iCar probably looks closest to the Daewoo Matiz though it is even smaller.

It has a rear-mounted three-cylinder turbocharged engine hidden under the boot floor and a standard-fit, four-speed auto gearbox that drives the rear wheels. It has room enough to seat four though its exteriors are deceptively small. Its engine''s location under the boot makes for good cabin space - with plenty of leg and headroom in the front.

However despite its small 600cc engine, the turbocharged, intercooled three-cylinder engine produces a respectable 63bhp. Said to be a trifle noisy on hard driving, it is zippy enough on city roads. It takes 11.2 seconds to go from 0-100kmph. Despite its adequate horse power it is positioned as a city car in Japan.

On the upside it has a good suspension to provide good ride quality and on the downside it has lacklustre handling and low grip.