The Mitsubishi i-MiEV is the kind of vehicle that most people still visualize when they hear the words "electric car." This futuristic little four-seater can't go very fast or very far, but if you can live within its limits it is a very practical and functional transportation module that is surprisingly pleasant to drive.
What's New for 2016
Mitsubishi's little electric runabout is back for 2016 after a year's absence. It is essentially identical to i-MiEVs produced for 2014 and 2012. An electronics and connectivity package which includes a navigation system is now an available option.
Choosing Your Mitsubishi i-MiEV
The i-MiEV is a fully electric battery-powered car with a 66-horsepower motor driving the rear wheels. Base MSRP is $22,995 -- before Federal and state electric car incentives. Subtract Uncle Sam's $7500 bonus, check to see if your state offers any additional refunds, and the total effective purchase price can fall to the mid-teens. The i-MiEV is not only the least expensive electric car on the market but one of the most affordable of any kind.
Mitsubishi has kept option indecisiveness anxiety to a minimum on the i-MiEV. It comes in one trim level (ES) which includes lightweight alloy wheels, a six-speaker stereo/CD/MP3 player, electric heat and air conditioning, and heated seats as standard. The one major available option is an electronics package that includes a navigation system, Bluetooth connectivity, steering-wheel controls and a rearview camera and adds $2000 to the bottom line. Other accessories such as an LED illumination kit, cargo management bins, body trim moldings and a spare USB port are also available.
In a slow-speed urban or suburban setting the i-MiEV is not only practical but engaging and enjoyable to drive. The electric motor's instant and abundant torque (145 pound-feet at zero RPM) gets the car away from stops smartly. The big surprise is the excellent blend of ride and handling; the i-MiEV drives with a gratifying sense of directness and absorbs bumps and pavement irregularities without being wallowy or brittle.
Bring everything up to highway speeds and the i-MiEV quickly finds its modest limits, draining the smallish battery at a considerable rate while struggling to keep up with fast-moving traffic. The i-MiEV will run for an estimated 98 miles according to the EPA's city cycle test; the more realistic mixed-driving rating is 62 miles. Charging time from a 240V/15-amp socket is approximately 6 hours. One of the increasingly popular CHAdeMO public quick-chargers will boost a flat battery to 80% charge in around half an hour.
The i-MiEV will seat four adults, although none will have excessive amounts of room to stretch out. Interior fittings tend towards the basic -- the dominant theme is plastic in simple shapes, and luxuries like power seats are not available -- but the leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob add a touch of class. Even given the i-MiEV's basic spec, a full suite of safety features -- including side-curtain airbags, effective crumple zones and a high-voltage battery cutoff -- are standard.
Unless you intend to put business graphics all over your i-MiEV you'll want to pick a color besides white, which makes the car look like a large household appliance. The navigation system is rather expensive and probably unnecessary for a vehicle which by nature will spend its existence close to home. Otherwise, the i-MiEV is an enjoyable low-cost and eco-friendly option for short-range commuter and city duty.