26 February 2008

Game, set and hatch

Mitsubishi to bring five-door Lancer to Geneva. Watch out, Impreza

Mitsubishi Prototype-S

Centre-stage on Mitsubishi's show stand in Geneva will be this, the Prototype-S.

We saw sketches a few weeks back, but now we've got the first official photos of the concept that previews the forthcoming Lancer Sportback.

That's the Lancer hatchback, in other words, yet Mitsu is pitching the Sportback as a rival to the Alfa 159 Sportwagon, even though you can see that the rear end is indubitably hatch-ish, and impressively slanted.

Mitsubishi is calling the Prototype-S a concept, but with the exception of a few posh interior touches, the styling should carry over more or less wholesale to the production model.

It's a design good-looking enough to probably worry the Focus ST... and definitely the Subaru Impreza WRX.

Not the Impreza STi, though - sadly, the Sportback won't be made available in Evo flavour: the hottest variant is likely to feature a detuned version of the Evo's two-litre turbo engine developing around 240bhp. Four-wheel drive will be standard, naturally.

It's difficult to know why Mitsubishi hasn't come up with a Lancer hatch sooner: the UK office reckons the Sportback will account for some 80 per cent of the Lancer's sales on these shores.

We'll watch the Prototype-S eyeing the Impreza angrily from across the Geneva show floor next week.

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