Mitsubishi Mi-Tech concept: baby buggy gives clues to next ASX

Published: 23 October 2019

► Hybrid drivetrain
► Previews small SUV
► Ignore the turbines, and interior

Mitsubishi is doubling down on its next-generation design and commitment to electrified vehicles with the Mi-Tech, which has been unveiled at the 2019 Tokyo motor show.

The rugged buggy looks like it can go anywhere with its big wheels and beefed-up body, and its plug-in hybrid drivetrain is all-wheel drive to mirror such Mitsubishi pastmasters as the Shogun SUV and Lancer Evolution rally cars. But the big news is that the concept gives significant clues to Mitsubishi’s long-teased small SUV, which will be the third of three new vehicles coming by 2022.

So this is the new ASX?

Sort of. The Mi-Tech is smaller than Mitsubishi’s current, 4.3m-long crossover, and that’s how it will stay with the production version as the Japanese SUV maker seeks to get more breadth into its range. Think of the production Mi-Tech as the equivalent of Volkswagen’s baby T-Cross, with Mitsubishi’s Eclipse Cross set to grow to match the midsize Tiguan and next year’s Outlander being the equivalent of the full-size Touareg.

The Mi-Tech’s nose displays Mitsubishi’s new front-end design, with the ‘grille’ comprised of a divided chrome X bookending a satin-coloured shield. It’s a look that adorned the 2019 Engelberg Tourer concept, which previews the next-gen Outlander due in 2020.

There are T-shaped lamps up front and at the rear, and rugged SUV cues aplenty in the plastic wheelarches, running boards and full-length underbody protection. Tone that down for the production car, and add a roof, rear screen and five doors, and the new ASX takes shape. Not that there’s any guarantee Mitsubishi will continue the ASX nameplate, mind you.

But what’s going on with those rear turbines?

Yes, those rear buttresses feature turbines, because…because this is a concept car. The turbines feed air to a compact rear-engine that can burn diesel, kerosene or alcohol, thereby acting as a generator to charge the battery pack in the chassis. So the Mi-Tech is a range-extender hybrid with plug-in capability to give you a decent electric range from the off.

There are twin electric motors on both axles. These motors, along with electric brake callipers, allow for precise control of drive and braking forces at all four wheels independently, optimising traction in tough off-road conditions. Mitsubishi says the left and right wheels can effectively be counter-rotated to deliver epic 180-degree turns – it sounds like a blast on the Baja 1000 off-road race.

The interior is quite minimalist, with a bank of function switches, a rotary controller and a gear selector. Contrary to the current trend, there’s only one small digital screen which acts as the driver’s instrument binnacle. Instead key information regarding off-road guidance, vehicle behaviour and terrain scanning is delivered via a massive augmented reality front windscreen.

How does the Mi-Tech fit into Mitsubishi’s future strategy?

‘We are dedicated to electrification technology, particularly plug-in hybrids,’ said Mitsubishi CEO Takao Kato said. ‘We will be expanding our line-up of electrified vehicles by delivering more variations and leveraging the diverse electrification technology in the [Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi] alliance to make us the leader in the PHEV category.'

Executives promised to roll out electrification technologies to the new midsize and compact SUVs by 2022. The Eclipse Cross is expected to become a plug-in hybrid following an extensive midlife redesign in 2020, the year the next-generation Outlander is due.

The third vehicle will be the Mio-Tech production car in late 2021, though this baby SUV is more likely to be pure electric rather than a hybrid given its small size.

By Phil McNamara

Editor-in-chief of CAR magazine