BY: IOL Motoring Staff

Tokyo, Japan - Toyota has launched the first public trials of its ultra-compact i-Road electric three-wheeled “personal mobility vehicle” to find out how it shapes up in the cut-and-thrust of real-world urban driving.

Consumer testing in Tokyo is set to run from until early in June, with 10 of the single-seater vehicles taking to the city streets. The 20 people involved in the programme range from industry experts to members of the general public, so Toyota can get a wide range of feedback on what the i-Road is like to drive, how easy it is to use around town, how it affects people's decisions about what journeys to make and driver satisfaction.

AS AGILE AS A SCOOTER, AS STABLE AS A CAR

The i-Roads in the test fleet are based on the concept versions shown at the 2013 Tokyo motor show, but with adjustments to improve visibility, ease of use and manoeuvrability. Its compact, slim shape and 300kg kerb weight make the i-Road as nimble to handle in traffic as a scooter, but with car-like stability thanks to its two-at-the-front-one-at-the-rear wheel configuration and self-leaning attitude when cornering.

More research into the i-Road's potential as part of a community-based transport network is being done in Toyota City, where it has recently been introduced into the experimental Ha:mo low-carbon urban transport project. It will also be seen in Europe in 2014 with two-seater models set to take part in a car-sharing programme in the French city of Grenoble for the next four years.