The Mitsubishi i-MiEV is the least-expensive all-electric car sold in the U.S. Small, nimble and easy to park, it’s a good electric car for running around town.
The 2016 Mitsubishi i-MiEV has a range of 62 miles, according to the EPA, which gives it an efficiency rating of 112 MPGe Combined, whatever that means. A $7,500 federal tax credit is reportedly available, and some states and localities offer tax incentives for buying an electric car.
Mitsubishi’s electric car seats four, and with its roomy interior it’s convenient for errands in the suburbs, and it’s great for parking in the big city. It is not suited to fast freeways and long distances, however, due to its short range, its lack of efficiency at high speeds, and its diminutive size.
Mitsubishi i-MiEV sold as a 2012, a 2014, and now a 2016 model, skipping the odd model years. The 2016 i-MiEV is pretty much the same car as the 2012 version launched in the U.S. Introduced prior to that in Japan, i-MiEV was the first modern electric car, small and simple. Electric cars introduced since then are more versatile and practical.
Mitsubishi i-MiEV is small, measuring just 144.7 inches, or just over 12 feet overall. It’s taller than a Toyota Yaris, but it has a narrow foot-print, two inches narrower than a Fiat 500.
The roof line allows good visibility, and a rearview camera is included with the navigation package.
The i-MiEV is powered by a 49-kilowatt (66-horsepower) electric motor located under and behind the rear seat that drives the rear wheels. The motor draws from a 16-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack mounted in the floor and under the rear seat.
The cabin is roomier than you’d expect, given the small exterior size, and it seats four adults comfortably, though their shoulders may touch. Rear-seat passengers have enough head room that even six-footers can ride in relative comfort back there.
The inside is plain but functional. The instrument panel uses digital read-outs and the center console has easily understood climate control knobs. The plastic trim looks dated. The rear seat reclines.
Cargo space is minimal, unless you fold down the 50/50 split rear seat. The rear hatch door allows for cargo loading. We found it’s best to make grocery runs with the rear seats folded flat.
Twist the key to start the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and a Ready indicator light illuminates within the instrument panel to tell you the car is on. There is no sound. The first thing to check is a number on the instrument panel indicating how many miles are left before the lithium-ion battery pack is depleted.
Using a 110-volt outlet the estimated time for a complete charge after the batteries have been exhausted is 22 hours. Using a 240-volt outlet reduces the charging time to about 6 hours. A quick charge, with a public charging station, is about 30 minutes for an 80 percent charge.
The shift lever can be set at one of three settings: D, for Drive, which allows 100 percent torque in response to the driver’s foot on the accelerator; Eco, which reduces the rate of battery consumption to maximize range; and B, which increases regenerative braking (charging the batteries every time you step on the brake pedal).
Step off from a standing start and you’ve got full torque, 145 pound-feet, right away. Acceleration feels brisk, but it reportedly takes 15 seconds to accelerate from 0-60 mph, making i-MiEV one of the slowest cars available for sale in the U.S. Unlike the typical electric car, which can surprise the driver with the instant full-torque at throttle, the Mitsubishi engineers have devised something called Smooth Start Control that electronically regulates the acceleration so there’s a more gentle power transition.
The brake pedal feel is decent, despite the front disc/rear drum combination.
If you want to extend the range of this car, you learn to run with no heat or defrost. Using the defroster can drop the range by five miles because the defroster is pulling electricity, this car’s lifeblood. The i-MiEV’s official EPA range is 62 miles, but high-speed travel or use of the air conditioner or heater will cut that number to as little as 40 miles in the winter. On the other hand, in temperate weather and with gentle driving and making maximum use of the regenerative braking to recapture every possible watt-hour of energy, you can stretch the range somewhat beyond 62 miles.
The i-MiEV is quintessentially a city car, happiest at or below 40 mph. Around town, it’s torquey and just as quick off the line as most gasoline cars. Its tiny turning circle makes it supremely easy to maneuver through crowded city streets, and it’s almost as easy to park as the tiny Smart Electric Drive. If you have access to a charging station, it’s an urban combat vehicle.
At highway speeds, its small size and lack of power mean that it has very little reserve power, reducing its range. Top speed may be listed at 81 mph, but drivers will find it a struggle to get there and stay there. The car rides smoothly and the suspension is tuned for comfort.
Safety is not an i-MiEV strong point. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the 2014 i-MiEV four stars out of five for overall safety. In frontal crash and rollover safety, it got four stars, but only three stars for side impact safety.
The Mitsubishi i-MiEV is well-engineered but has become long in the tooth as newer electric vehicles have been introduced. Drive more than 60 miles and you’ll be looking for someplace to plug in.