2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV

2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV Review

We spend a week with an electric car, experience range anxiety

By: Tim Healey

Web2Carz Contributing Writer

Published: November 2nd, 2012

Automakers are working hard to get customers past the perception that electric cars are just glorified golf carts. The Tesla Model S, the Nissan Leaf, and the Ford Focus Electric all look like "normal" cars that happen to have an electric motor. Not so with the Mitsubishi i-MiEV.

The i-MiEV, or "i" for short, looks like something that's used in urban parking enforcement. It stands out on the road, almost fitting negative (such as the glorified golf cart perception) electric-car stereotypes to a T.

It's one thing to look at it. What's it like to live with the thing for a week?

  • On the Road

    Electric cars offer up near-instantaneous torque delivery, and thanks to its smallish size, the i gets moving with some gusto. Otherwise, the experience is far from fun--the car handles OK, but the tall roofline makes it feel a bit tippy. Sure, the steering is precise and accurate with nice feel, but that's small consolation in a car that's not meant to be pushed hard.

    We understand that most i buyers won't be concerned with performance, but even at sedate speeds the car's performance is disappointing. Its ride is a bit choppy, and the short wheelbase and tall roof makes that choppiness felt.

    On-road performance wasn't the only issue we had with the i. At one point we parked it at a quick-charge station during our lunch hour only to find that the battery hadn't charged at all. It might've been user error, but it still meant that we were bound to experience range anxiety.

    Speaking of range, the promised maximum of 98 miles city and 62 highway isn't a lot, at least not compared to the 100 miles promised by the Leaf. We also noticed that projected range indicated in the instrument cluster vanished quickly and dramatically after dipping into the throttle for freeway passing. We never felt secure on our 20-mile commute to the office, and we didn’t like planning ahead for our trips. The i is fine for short city trips, but it won't work well for those who have long commutes.

  • Exterior

    The i's tall look does it no favors aesthetically, and while the car draws looks from onlookers, few seem complimentary. It really does look like a golf cart on steroids.

  • Interior

    There's no getting around it. The interior is a letdown, especially for a car that costs nearly $35K. Mitsubishi really needs to lock its interior designers in a room and not let them out until they can come up with looks that are modern and not-cheap looking, with better materials and a more intuitive infotainment system, for starters. We'll wait.

  • Fuel Economy & Safety

    Safety features on the i are pretty standard, with the usual complement of airbags and active safety devices like traction control.

    Fuel economy doesn't really apply to an all-electric car, but as noted above, city range is 98 miles and combined city/highway range is 62 miles, while combined MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) is 112, with a breakdown of 126 MPGe city and 99 MPGe highway. Charge time is about seven hours on a 240-volt charger.

  • Final Thoughts

    Electric cars are becoming viable solutions for a large portion of new-car buyers. But we have a hard time thinking of a compelling argument for the i. It doesn't seem to offer a lot of value--or features--for the money in the same way its competitors do. The driving experience also requires a lot of sacrifice, whether in terms of performance, comfort, or range.

    For city drivers who rarely travel long distances or people who would use the little Mitsu as a second car, the i might be fine (hey, it's easy to park). But for those who want to truly commit to electric cars, there are better choices out there.

  • Specs, Features, Prices

    Engine: A/C synchronous electric motor

    Transmission: One-speed automatic

    Drive Wheels: Front

    Base Price: $29,125

    As-tested Price: $34,765 (includes $850 destination fee)

    Available Features: Navigation, rearview camera, satellite radio, Bluetooth, USB port, heated sideview mirrors, quick-charge port, battery warming system.

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