The first thing you notice about the Mitsubishi i-MiEV when you walk up to it is how tall it is. From nose to tail, the Mitsubishi is about the same length as a Mini, but it stands a full eight inches taller, at 63.6 inches. That means you get lots of headroom, but the proportions of the car are such that it really looks like a big ol' egg driving down the road. It definitely looks different from anything else, and if that's what Mitsubishi was going for, they got it. On the plus side, the rear seats fold flat and the cargo area is pretty spacious.
With a fully charged battery, the Mitsubishi's range indicator shows that you've can go 70 miles before a charge is needed, but of course, that would be in ideal conditions. When the temperature is in the 90s and with the A/C running, you can expect to get more like 55 miles to a charge if you're driving conservatively. Luckily, my commute is less than ten miles, so it was a nonissue for me. As with most electric powertrains, acceleration is very good as peak torque is available on command from a dead stop. The i-MiEV has three modes -- one for regular driving, one for economy, and one that maximizes regenerative braking power - but you'll want to keep it in D most of the time, as you feel like you're puttering along in economy mode, and it feels as if someone's thrown out an anchor when you let off the gas in regenerative mode.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
I have a great deal of respect for the i-MiEV as a pioneer of the modern electric-car movement. That said, it reminds me more of a faster GEM than a cheaper Nissan Leaf. The i-MiEV feels pretty chintzy in the way its doors close and the materials that are used. It feels either like a mid-1990s throwback or the greatest golf cart ever. Unless you adore the attention-getting, rolling-egg styling that Amy Skogstrom noted, I think it'd be pretty easy to justify stretching to pay another roughly $6000 for a much nicer (and I think cooler) Leaf. I know $6000 is real money at this price point, but I'd wager that people considering electric cars have a bit more financial liquidity than most buyers of $30,000 cars.
The Mitsubishi has better steering than the Leaf, but I think the Nissan handles a lot better on twisting country back roads. (Not that electric cars probably venture to such places frequently.) My biggest issue with the i-MiEV is that it feels so top-heavy and understeers so readily -- not at all confidence-inspiring.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
The last car I drove that understeered so readily was a Smart. Apparently, engineers developing modern rear-engined compacts are so terrified of snap oversteer that they must tune in absurd, almost dangerous understeer. Thanks again, Ralph Nader. There's actually a lot about the iMiEV that reminds me of the Smart. Both are futuristic concepts spoiled by 1990s econocar execution.
David Zenlea, Associate Editor
I could not think of the i-MiEV as a real car. Like Rusty, it seems a closer kin to the GEM NEV than to the likes of the Nissan Leaf or Ford Focus Electric. Since the Mitsubishi doesn't compel drivers to treat it like a normal car (one in which you might drive fast, use the air conditioning, spend extended periods of time behind the wheel), I had zero range anxiety. Never once did I worry about not being able to plug in the i-MiEV during my errands, and I never had concern about making the roughly 20 miles home from Ann Arbor. The diminutive footprint of the i-MiEV and instant-on torque of the electric powertrain made darting around town a breeze. The car also turned heads everywhere it went thanks to a design that is somewhere between a jellybean and a space pod.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor