The Economist has recently published an article about Hiriko, a new electric car built by a consortium of seven firms from Spain’s Basque country and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab.

The European Commission’s President, José Manuel Durao Barroso, presented Hiriko on 29 January. With four-wheel traction and a direction foldable feature for parking, it is a very interesting innovation in urban mobility. Starting next year, a trial manufacturing run is set to begin at Vitoria Gasteiz, outside Bilbao.

This electric vehicle occupies one-third the length of a standard European parking space, and both passenger and driver enter through a fold-out windscreen. Its wheels can turn 90 degrees, which is very useful when parking. Hiriko also features an innovative navigation systems and 120 km autonomy. Denokinn, the Basque investment group backing the venture, wants to price the new car at €12,500 ($16,400).

Sales of city cars, known in the industry as “A-segment cars,” plateaued last year: their global sales have fallen from 6.2m units in 2010 to about 5.9m in 2011, according to the research outfit IHS Global Insight. It expects city-car sales to rebound slightly in 2012, to around 6.1m. The Basque start-up is going to face a big challenge, similar to the one facing its more experienced rivals, Daimler and Renault.