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Yes, the Mitsubishi Evo could become an electrified crossover, but don't panic

Joel Stocksdale

By now, many of you have seen that Mitsubishi will reveal a concept with the Evolution name at the Tokyo Motor Show, and it will be an electrified crossover. On the surface, that sounds like heresy when the Evolution name has always stood for an uncompromising, rally-bred, turbocharged sports sedan. But don't jump to the conclusion that this will be a terrible, halfhearted product that ruins the Evo name. It's a smart move for Mitsubishi, it could be the only way we get a performance vehicle from the company, and there's no reason it can't be good.

Creating an Evo version of a crossover, or even a standalone Evo model, simply makes the most sense for Mitsubishi right now. There's no sign that people are getting tired of little lifted automobiles, which means that's where the sales and money are. Because of that, crossovers are the only product that Mitsubishi can safely afford to invest in right now. As much as we'd like to see another Evo sedan, the company can't afford to sink a big development budget into a one-off sedan for the very small enthusiast market. Investing in a basic sedan to use as a base isn't a good idea either, since that market also continues to shrink, and it's populated with very competitive models.

Those facts won't comfort Mitsubishi fans, but looking at it another way could. Rather than looking at this concept as Evolution blasphemy, consider it a sign that the company wants to make something exciting again. Since most of the news from Mitsubishi has been the discontinuation of really old models, and updates to the less-old models still in the lineup, it's been hard to tell if any of the Mitsubishi that fans loved was left. Look at this crossover as a gateway to getting a fun Mitsubishi again.

And this possible future Evo could genuinely be fun. We're not exactly raving fans of crossovers, either, since they're often heavy, expensive, slow and inefficient compared with similarly sized hatchbacks and sedans. But that's not a hard and fast rule. Nissan proved this with the Juke Nismo. Despite its tall body, it had a healthy amount of power and entertaining dynamics. There's no reason Mitsubishi couldn't do the same with a small crossover. It might even be better, because Mitsubishi clearly has some wizards when it comes to weight and cost, as evidenced by the one-ton, ultra-affordable Mitsubishi Mirage.

The same goes for electrification. Sure, things like the Prius are horribly dull, and the CR-Z lacked the performance and efficiency to be a satisfying car, but those are issues of execution, not concept. In the CR-Z's case specifically, the issue was that it wasn't good at one particular thing. If Mitsubishi highlighted the performance side of electrification, perhaps with a pair of torque-vectoring electric motors for the rear wheels of a hybrid Evo, you could have a unique and fun machine. Even a full electric could be enjoyable. Tesla has built shockingly fast electric cars with good range, and even the Chevy Bolt EV and BMW i3 are punchy and fun to drive. BMW even has a performance i3 on the way, which we hope starts a trend of more hot EVs.

There's no good alternative: Mitsubishi needs to focus on crossovers, even for performance vehicles, because that's how it can make money. But we shouldn't panic, because trends aren't rules, and crossovers and hybrids don't have to be boring.

View this as the evolution of the Evolution. It's survival of the fittest: Sometimes a duckbilled platypus is a better fit for its environment than a cheetah. We're in a crossover environment right now. But if that environment gives us a platypus, let's hope it has cheetah speed.

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