Mitsubishi's little electric runabout returned for 2016 after a year's absence from the company’s lineup. The revived version is essentially identical to i-MiEVs produced for 2012 and 2014. The i-MiEV is precisely the kind of vehicle that many people still visualize when they hear the words “electric car.” This futuristic-looking little four-seater can't go very fast, or travel very far without recharging. Yet, if you can live within its limitations, it’s a highly practical and functional transportation module, light in weight, that’s surprisingly pleasant to drive.
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2017 Mitsubishi i-MiEV Overview
What's New for 2017
Revived last year, the i-MiEV is a carryover for the 2017 model year except for the elimination of one body-color choice, leaving three possibilities.
Choosing Your Mitsubishi i-MiEV
The i-MiEV is a fully electric car with a 16 kWh lithium-ion battery and a 66-horsepower (49 kW) electric motor, driving the rear wheels. Base MSRP remains $22,995, plus destination charge—not including federal and state electric-car incentives. Subtract Uncle Sam's $7500 (maximum) bonus, check to see if your state offers any additional rebates, and the total effective purchase price could drop to the mid-teens. That combination of potential incentives can make the i-MiEV not only the least expensive electric car on the market, but one of the most affordable automobiles of any kind.
Mitsubishi has kept its option list to a minimum. The i-MiEV comes in one trim level (ES), which includes standard lightweight 15-inch alloy wheels, a six-speaker stereo/CD/MP3 player, electric heat and air conditioning, and heated front seats. The lone major available option is an electronics package that includes a navigation system, Bluetooth connectivity, steering-wheel controls, 7-inch touchscreen, and a rearview camera, adds $2,000 to the bottom line. Several accessories, such as an LED illumination kit, rear parking sensors, and cargo management package, also are 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, abundant torque (145 pound-feet at zero RPM) can get the car away from stops smartly. The big surprise is its excellent blend of ride comfort and handling. The i-MiEV drives with a gratifying sense of directness, absorbing bumps and pavement irregularities without becoming wallowy or brittle. Most definitely, it doesn’t feel like a typical battery-powered model.
Move up to highway speeds, in contrast, and the i-MiEV quickly reaches its modest limits, draining the battery at a considerable rate while striving to keep up with fast-moving traffic. The i-MiEV will run for an estimated equivalent of 112 MPGe, according to the EPA's city cycle test, but the more realistic mixed-driving rating is 59 miles.
Charging time from a 240-volt/15-amp Level 2 outlet is approximately 7 hours. One of the increasingly popular CHAdeMO (Level 3) public quick-chargers can boost a flat battery to an 80% charge in less than half an hour.
An i-MiEV will seat four adults, although no one will have an excessive amount of stretch-out space. Interior fittings tend toward the basic: the dominant theme is plastic in simple shapes, and such luxuries as power seats are not available. On the other hand, the leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob add a touch of class. Even given the i-MiEV's basic nature, a suite of safety features—including side-curtain airbags, effective crumple zones, and a high-voltage battery cutoff—is standard. Modern active-safety features are not offered.
Unless you intend to put business graphics all over your i-MiEV, you might want to pick a color other than white, which makes the car look like a large household appliance. At $2,000, the navigation system is rather expensive, and probably unnecessary for a vehicle which by nature will spend most of its life close to home. Otherwise, the i-MiEV is an enjoyable low-cost, eco-friendly option for short-range commuter and city duty.
2017 Mitsubishi i-MiEV Review
When it debuted in the U.S. in 2012, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV was a compromise as it couldn’t travel quite as far as its rivals and needed extra time to charge, but its lower price point made it worth the sacrifice. Sadly, while the rest of the EV segment has advanced, the little Mitsu was ignored, leaving it in the dust of more advanced models. This continues into 2017.
Pricing and Equipment
The one point where the i-MiEV still excels is pricing, as its base price of $23,845 (delivery fees included) falls far below its competitors. Take into account the $7,500 federal tax break you get for buying this small EV, and you’re looking at a price tag just a tick over $16,000. At this low price, it’s no surprise that the standard features are pretty simple. They include:
- Level 3 DC quick-charge port
- 120-volt 8/12-amp portable charging cable
- Automatic headlights
- Fifteen-inch alloy wheels
- Heated front seats
- Six-speaker, 100-watt audio system
There is only one trim level available for the i-MiEV, and that’s the ES. What’s more, options are limited to just a Navigation Package ($2,000), a Cargo Package ($95), and an LED Illumination Package ($315).
There is not much to write home about the i-MiEV’s performance, but we did note ample initial acceleration thanks to its instant torque. This made zipping in and out of city traffic quick and easy.
- Electric motor delivers immediate torque
- Eighty percent charge in just 30 minutes on a Level 3 charger
- We found it easy to maneuver thanks to its small footprint
With just 66 horsepower, the i-MiEV is vastly underpowered and its range is the lowest in the biz.
- Only 62 miles of range
- We found that cold weather drops range in between 35 and 40 miles
- Highway speeds drains the battery at an alarming rate
Despite its small size, we were surprised to find that four adults could actually fit fairly comfortably in the i-MiEV. Additionally, even though they are slightly outdated, this low-priced EV actually has a long list of standard features.
- A decent offering of standard features for its price
- Room for four adults was surprising
- 50.4 cubic feet of max cargo room is impressive
It’s a $23,000 EV, so there are plenty of faults in the cabin. Things like the acres of hard plastic, road noise, and iffy safety ratings are just a few issues we ran into.
- Outdated concept of minimal standard features
- We were in a cocoon of hard plastics
- With the rear seats up, there is limited cargo room
The Most Pleasant Surprise
The tiny i-MiEV is a breeze to drive, even in the most congested of cities. It can slide right into spaces that make the Mini Cooper feel cramped and zipping in and out of slow-moving traffic is actually enjoyable with its immediate torque.
The Least Pleasant Surprise
Though its top speed is listed at 81 mph, we wish you the best of luck hitting that speed—you need a good tailwind to do so. Additionally, taking it over city speeds will result in the battery discharging quicker than expected.
The Bottom Line
If you live in a congested city and it takes you 40 minutes to travel 5 miles, then the i-MiEV is the perfect car for you. However, if you commute 40 miles from the suburbs, then you’ll want to look elsewhere for a thrifty set of wheels.