Mitsubishi I-MiEV

Mitsubishi's little i-MiEV is the least expensive electric car you can buy, which would make it seem like an appealing way to go green. Unfortunately, the i-MiEV's limited range and long charge times — not to mention the way it struggles on the highway — make it a less appealing choice than other electric vehicles.

Electric vehicles don't come cheap, but nobody seems to have told Mitsubishi. Its egg-shaped i-MiEV has an appealingly low price, especially once you factor in available federal, state and local tax incentives.

That said, you must keep in mind that there is no such thing as a free lunch, and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV has its disadvantages, including limited range, long recharge times, slow acceleration and barely adequate highway performance. It may be cheap for an EV, but you get what you pay for.

Current Mitsubishi i-MiEV Mitsubishi offers the i-MiEV in a single trim level, the ES, and it comes well-equipped with air conditioning, power accessories, and a Level 3 charging port, which allows quick charging from a CHAdeMO-type charger (the same type used by the Nissan Leaf and Kia Soul EV). Unfortunately, electronic nice-to-haves including Bluetooth phone connectivity and a USB port are only available in conjunction with a navigation system.

The Mitsubishi i-MiEV has a 49-kilowatt electric motor (equivalent to 66 horsepower and 145 lb-ft), which drives the rear wheels from its home under the trunk floor (a placement that explains the i-MiEV's stubby nose). We timed the i-MiEV to 60 mph in a ridiculously slow 14.7 seconds. Low-speed scoot is adequate, but accelerating to highway speeds is excruciating.

It's not just acceleration that is limited, but range as well. The Mitsubishi i-MiEV has an EPA-certified range of just 59 miles. Most of its competitors are in the 75- to 125-mile range, and Chevrolet's new Bolt EV has a range of well over 200 miles. You would expect the i-MiEV's small battery to deliver short charging times, but the 3.3-kW onboard charger is slower than the 6.6- and 7.2-kW chargers used in other EVs, so charging time with a 240-volt Level 2 charger is seven to eight hours. For comparison, it takes about five hours to charge a Volkswagen e-Golf, which has double the i-MiEV's range. Using a regular 110-volt outlet, the i-MiEV takes 14 to 22 hours to charge. The Mitsubishi's Level 3 quick-charging ability is a plus; it can be fully charged in 30 minutes, and in our experience it reaches around three-quarters capacity in 15 minutes — but quick chargers are far less common and often cost money to use.

Although the Mitsubishi i-MiEV's egglike profile is a novelty, the interior is nothing to get excited about. The cabin feels dated and inexpensive, with hard plastics and a simple gauge panel devoid of the fancy electronic displays found in most EVs. The interior of the i-MiEV is roomier than you might expect, but it's still not huge. There's a lot of headroom, but legroom is in short supply. The trunk is also small, though folding down the rear seat opens up plenty of cargo space.

The i-MiEV's small size and tight turning radius make it a good car for maneuvering in the city and cruising around the suburbs, but highway driving is not this car's forte. Acceleration is slow, and the i-MiEV won't go faster than 81 mph. At highway speeds the ride is bouncy, and the battery is quickly depleted. Most motorists will likely be happier with a larger and more substantial car.

Used Mitsubishi i-MiEV Models The first-generation Mitsubishi i-MiEV was introduced for the 2012 model year, and was known alternatively as the i (the name for the gas-powered version of the car sold in Japan). There was no i-MiEV for 2013, but the car returned in 2014 in a single trim level with shuffled standard and optional features. The i-MiEV took another hiatus for 2015 then returned for 2016 and 2017 with no changes.

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