Though I often write about electric vehicles, my opportunities to drive them have mostly been limited to car shows and special events. That all changed a couple of weeks ago when I was given three full days to test out Mitsubishi’s entry into the EV market. Known around the world as the i-Miev, here in America it will be called simply the “Mitsubishi i,” and it currently represents the most affordable EV on the market that isn’t a go kart.
But only just. Read on for the rest of my “one-sentence” review.
Drivetrain & Performance
With a 16 kWh battery, the Mitsubishi i has an official EPA rating of 112 mpg-equivalent, but a range of just 62 miles. The rear-wheel drive electric motor provides 63 horsepower and 82 ft-lbs of torque. Paltry numbers, true, but the Mitsubishi i feels surprisingly spunky, at least at low speeds. It was more fun to drive than I thought it would be.
For city driving, the i really shines. I managed to rack up 50 miles of city driving with about one-third of a charge left. Unfortunately, when I went to plug into my 110-volt outlet, I came to the realization that it was not properly grounded. This left me in a bit of a pickle.
Then I remembered that GE had recently opened a free, public-charging station for electric vehicles in the next town over. The trip was about eight miles of city driving, and the gauge readout told me I had 25 miles of driving left. Could I make it?
Yes indeedy. I hooked up to a Level 2 GE Wattstation with 20 miles to spare, having made liberal use of both “Eco” and “Braking” modes and recapturing as energy as possible via the regenerative braking feature. Normal drive mode hardly engages regenerative braking; Eco mode is the middle ground, and the Braking mood I used when coming to a stop. All in all, I got more range than I would have thought possible, and 4 hours later I picked up the Mitsubishi i with 84 miles of range on it.
Even better, the electricity was (supposedly) 100% clean-sourced solar. Booyah!
After hoping into my fully-charged Mitsubishi, I took the highway home, and that eight-mile journey took 20 miles off of my expected range. By the time I pulled into my driveway, the readout said 63 miles remained. Yikes.
One Sentence Review: As a city car, the Mitsubishi i excels; as a highway car you’ll be cutting most every trip very close.
It’s hard to hate that face, isn’t it?
The Mitsubishi i certainly has a distinct look to it, with a huge bubble-like front window, bug-eyed headlights, and a cute “HUG ME” look that is hard to ignore. It’s kind of like a mentally-challenged-but-lovingly-adorable pug that just wants to lick your face all day. Its ugly…but not in a grotesque, hideous way. More like “Aww…that’s a shame.”
There is something about the i-MiEV grabs the attention, positive or otherwise. I’ve driven some cool cars in my day, but I had more people checking the i-MiEV out than just about any car I’ve driven. I had at least a half-dozen long conversations with random strangers regarding the i-MiEV, and a guy in a Nissan Leaf even gave me the thumbs up. You don’t get that kind of attention in a normal car.
One Sentence Review: So ugly its cute, and yet impossible to ignore.
Attack of the economy car!
Not an American economy car either; I’m talking “developing nation” third world, where hard plastic and barely-padded seats are commonplace. The ride is awful, and for anyone approach six-feet in height, there just isn’t a whole lot of room for you. In three days, I could not find a comfortable driving position. Ugh.
The Mitsubishi i does come with air conditioning, though using it will cost you precious miles. It also comes with an infotainment system and rear backup camera, which definitely help with the awkward blind spots. Both systems were “OK”, though I much preferred Kia’s UVO system. Seriously though, the interior was so…blah…that I completely forgot to take detailed photos. Trust me, you aren’t missing much.
The highlight of the interior has to be the simplified gauge cluster. Rather than making your speed front and center, Mitsubishi delivers a plainly-obvious system for judging your battery usage. One end of the gauge represents charging, the other full-out power. In the middle is the prime real estate known as “Eco,” which will afford you the most range. It made driving fun in a way that doesnt require high-speeds or a performance car. That said, the ride was pretty rough, and definitely reeked of cost-effectiveness versus comfort.
I found that if I drove particularly well, I could get from one side of town to the other with the same number of miles left on the readout.
One Sentence Review: Cheap is the word of the day, though the gauge cluster is is as simple as it is useful.
Priced at $29,125 for the base ES model, the Mitsubishi i is an insane proposition. The cheap interior, limited range, and lack of any sort of premium features in this price range would make it a non-starter as a gas-powered car.
As an electric car however, the sticker price makes it the most affordable EV by several thousand dollars. After you factor in the $7,500 federal tax credit, the Mitsubishi i comes down to a slightly-more-sane $21,625.
My tester was an SE model, which adds another $2,000 to the sticker price, and it also had the optional $2,790 “Premium Package”, which added the infotainment system and rearview camera.
For those keeping count, that would leave you $26,415 out of pocket once the tax credit is figured in. And just like that, the price seems just a wee bit absurd for what you get, though depending on where you live other tax credits could price the price down again.
One Sentence Review: If it had a gas engine, the Mitsubishi i would be a $12,000 car tops, but if you can live with a very limited range and an economy interior, this electric Mitsubishi just might work for you.