2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV Review

25 Jul 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on 2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV Review
Mitsubishi i

2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV

It’s the cheapest and most fuel-efficient electric car you can buy. Unfortunately, the 2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV (Base MSRP: $29,125 to $31,125) also suffers from the shortest range — an EPA-estimated 62 miles on a single charge — and critics find this little four-seater cramped and skimpy on features. And if you were wondering, it’s name is pronounced eye-meev.

Among electric cars, experts still prefer the roomier, fuller-featured 2012 Nissan Leaf (Base MSRP: $35,200 to $37,250). Early reviews look good for the 2012 Ford Focus Electric (Base MSRP: $39,200). too. Plug-in hybrid cars like the 2012 Chevrolet Volt (Base MSRP: $39,145) erase the range limit — they include a gas backup engine, so you won’t get stranded if your electricity runs out.

All of these plug-in cars qualify for the same $7,500 maximum federal tax credit. Some states offer thousands of dollars’ worth of tax credits for plug-in cars, too.

‘Looks like a computer mouse.’ And what about that square hole in the backseat?

The Mitsubishi i is weird, Car and Driver’s Tony Quiroga says. It looks like a computer mouse. It has windshield wipers that resemble Ultraman’s arms in attack mode.

Autoblog.com’s Gary Witzenburg calls it an odd-looking little duck.

Actually, it looks a lot like a Smart car, Cars.com’s Joe Wiesenfelder says. The Mitsubishi i-MiEV is actually 3 feet longer than a Smart ForTwo, but with a similar high, skinny, sawed-off hatchback shape. And it’s still tiny — 2 feet shorter than the Nissan Leaf.

Aside from its basic shape and bent passenger-side wiper (at one reader’s request, Edmunds Inside Line posts a video of the wipers in motion), Inside Line’s Mark Takahashi can’t help but notice a big plastic square smack in the middle of the i-MiEV’s backseat (where the fifth person would sit, if this were a five-seater). It’s embossed with a baffling hot-dog shape, plus six dots and a lowercase i. Or an exclamation point, depending on how you look at it.

The first thing to pop into my mind was, ‘Oh god, please tell me that isn’t some weird Japanese toilet-related device,’ he writes. Turns out, the can of tire sealant’s in there (there’s no spare). Whew.

Seriously, though, what a weird place to put it.

Four adults fit — but it’s cozy

Cheaper on the window sticker — and cheaper inside, reviews say. The tiny i-MiEV crowds testers, and critics say it’s just not as comfortable as the Nissan Leaf or Ford Focus Electric.

Fairly crude and uncomfortable, one source sums it up. Edmunds.com lists the low-quality interior as one of the i-MiEV’s cons. There’s no center armrest, Cars.com’s Wiesenfelder points out, and the door armrests are hard plastic instead of softly padded like the Leaf’s.

Four adults can squeeze in, but some touching will be involved, says Quiroga at Car and Driver. Backseat passengers will be sitting with their knees raised, Wiesenfelder says. In the driver’s seat, two 6-foot testers — Wiesenfelder and Autoblog.com’s Witzenburg — both feel cramped.

At 5-foot-10, Inside Line’s Mark Takahashi has to scoot the driver’s seat back so far that he has to stretch his arms uncomfortably to reach the (non-tilt, non-telescoping) steering wheel. Built for Apes? he titles his blog post on the topic. Colleague Scott Jacobs titles his Seat Is Too Damn High.

Cargo space is tight behind the backseat — 13.2 cubic feet, 1.3 cubes less than the Leaf — though there’s enough room back there to squeeze in golf clubs or a standard-sized suitcase, Edmunds.com says. Fold the seats and the i-MiEV boasts a 50.4-cubic-foot cargo bay, twice the size of the Leaf’s.

The lower-level i-MiEV ES (Base MSRP: $29,125) comes with 15-inch steel wheels, air conditioning, full power accessories, a CD stereo with auxiliary audio jack, a 120-volt charging cable and a remote control that lets you set the charging timer and preheat/pre-cool your i-MiEV while it’s still plugged in (so you don’t waste as much power on climate control while you’re driving). Other plug-in vehicles do this via smartphone, which Wiesenfelder says works better; the i-MiEV’s remote signal couldn’t penetrate the parking garage where Cars.com’s Leaf and Volt flawlessly receive their cellular signals.

The i-MiEV SE (Base MSRP: $31,125) adds automatic headlights, fog lights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and passenger vanity mirror. It also upgrades to alloy wheels, better seat fabric (this shrugs off stains, as Inside Line’s Warren Clarke discovers when he spills his takeout lentil dal on it) and an upgraded stereo. The sound system took a full six minutes or more (of dead silence) to ‘read’ my iPod each time I plugged it into the USB port, then was user-unfriendly in other ways — a problem he has noticed in other Mitsubishi cars.

Zippy around town, but 81 mph is as fast as it goes

Some critics like the way the i-MiEV drives. Some don’t. But they all agree that it feels pretty much like driving any gas-powered subcompact.

Despite its weirdness, driving the i is unexceptional, writes Quiroga at Car and Driver. It’s slow — 0 to 60 takes 13.0 seconds — but there’s nothing abnormal about how it operates.

But the tall, lightweight i-MiEV rides more choppily — and feels tippier to some testers — than the smooth, planted ride of the Nissan Leaf. And it’s certainly less powerful than the Leaf. Graced with 145 pound-feet of torque but cursed with only 66 horsepower.

When merging onto a freeway, you’ll wish for at least 67 horses, Quiroga says.

The i-MiEV’s lithium-ion battery pack feeds a 49-kilowatt electric motor, which in turn sends power to the rear wheels. It’s a single-speed direct-drive car, so there’s no shifting, but you can pick from three modes: Eco mode saves power and B mode maximizes the regenerative brakes (to get more electricity from them), but testers prefer D mode, which allows full power and a more natural drive feel.

In fact, in D mode, the i feels as responsive and engaging as any gas-only subcompact, Quiroga says. Edmunds.com testers crank the i-MiEV up to is maximum 81 mph — enough to allow the i to keep up on the highway without any tense moments — but it’s really at home in the city, where its ample torque has no problem zipping from stoplight to stoplight and its tiny footprint and tight turning circle make it a breeze to park.

Shorter range than the Leaf and Focus Electric

Like all electric cars, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV is extraordinarily fuel-efficient. It’s like having a gas car that can go 112 mpg, according to the EPA’s miles-per-gallon-equivalent (mpge) calculation (105 mpge for the Ford Focus Electric and 99 mpge for the Nissan Leaf).

But the i-MiEV can’t go as far on a charge. You’ll probably get 62 miles before you’ll have to stop and plug it in, the EPA says, versus 73 miles for the Leaf and 76 for the Focus Electric.

The i-MiEV charges about as fast as the Leaf — 22.5 hours on a regular 120-volt household outlet, or seven hours on a 240-volt home charging station (which you can buy for $746 to $1,175 plus installation through Mitsubishi’s partners Best Buy or AeroVironment). Like the Leaf, you can also get your i-MiEV equipped with an optional quick-charge port for public charging stations, which will give you an 80 percent charge in as little as 30 minutes, Mitsubishi says; it costs an extra $700 on the i-MiEV ES, but it’s part of a $2,790 options package on the i-MiEV SE.

The Focus Electric promises quicker charging on its 240-volt home charging station — about four hours, and the station costs $1,500 installed — but it doesn’t offer an optional public quick-charge port.

Mitsubishi i

EPA Fuel Economy Estimates

City: 126 mpge

Highway: 99 mpge

Combined: 112 mpge

‘Safety Concern’: Door hit crash dummy in government test

The back door poked into the i-MiEV’s cabin during a government side crash test, hitting the crash dummy in the torso hard enough to raise the risk of spine injury. That prompted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to add a Safety Concern label to the i-MiEV’s 4-star overall federal crash rating. The i-MiEV comes with the usual standard safety features — antilock brakes, traction and stability control and front, front-side and curtain airbags.

We found no reliability predictions for this new model. The Mitsubishi i-MiEV carries three-year/36,000-mile basic and five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranties, plus eight years/100,000 miles for the battery.

NHTSA Safety Ratings

Front Impact: 4 stars

Side Impact: 3 stars

Rollover Resistance: 4 stars

Overall: 4 stars

Safety concern: During the side crash test, the rear door intruded into the cabin, hitting the torso of the rear passenger dummy.

IIHS Safety Ratings

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