An i for style

Roberta Youen-Tessensohn fell for the Mitsubishi i the moment she laid eyes on it

Interior designer Roberta Youen-Tessensohn says people in the street would stop to gawk at the Mitsubishi i.
Interior designer Roberta Youen-Tessensohn says people in the street would stop to gawk at the Mitsubishi i. PHOTO: JEREMY CHUA

People who are shopping for a car would typically consider the vehicle's price, performance and practicality vis-a-vis its rivals.

But for interior designer Roberta Youen-Tessensohn, a car's styling is of utmost importance.

The bubbly 62-year-old recalls how the Mitsubishi i caught her eye back in 2008, when she was looking to buy a new car. She had visited several showrooms, but fancied nothing.

But the moment she walked into Cycle & Carriage's Mitsubishi showroom in Alexandra Road and saw the i, she knew she had to have it.

She remembers exclaiming: "What car is this? It's too cute."

  • What’s in the boot:

  • • Nothing

Although she saw the car at Cycle & Carriage, she decided to buy the i from a friend, who was a parallel importer.

Ms Youen-Tessensohn fell for the i's jelly-bean shape, its lack of overhangs and its expansive front windscreen - her favourite element.

"At the time, it was the only one with such a unique look and character," she says. "No other little car can match its perfect styling."

When asked why she did not opt for the similarly shaped Subaru R1 or R2, which were also available then, she says the models came close, but she ultimately felt that the Mitsubishi i was more appealing.

She remembers how people in the street would stop to gawk at the car.

And when her friends first saw her new ride, they peppered her with questions and compliments. Many had no idea what it was, but all of them were intrigued by its design.

And when one of them commented that she was driving a toy, she replied: "Well, it is the best toy I've ever driven."

Looks aside, the turbocharged Mitsubishi i also proved to be a delightful drive.

"It is comfortable and spacious - the perfect city car for me," she says, adding that even friends who are 1.8m tall have no problem sitting in the backseat.

"It is also economical and zippy," she says with a laugh.

She has never driven her i to Malaysia. "It's a city car. I won't take it on road trips," she says.

Ms Youen-Tessensohn, who is single, has clocked only 74,000km or so on the car (or less than 10,000km a year - half the national average). She also owns a Mercedes-Benz SLC from the early 1980s.

She says the i is easy to maintain and trouble-free. Apart from having to replace wear-and-tear parts, she has not had to do any major repairs.

The only aspect of the car which she finds lacking is boot space, although she concedes that the foldable rear seats help to create more room.

The proud car owner says she is in a dilemma though. With only two years remaining in the car's COE (certificate of entitlement), she is pondering whether to revalidate the certificate or shop for a new car.

If she decides on the latter, she is unlikely to find another i.

Mitsubishi has ceased its production to focus on an electric version (which is not available in Singapore).

• The writer is with Torque, a motoring monthly published by SPH Magazines.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 27, 2016, with the headline 'An i for style'. Subscribe