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USA: Just in: 2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV – Fresh off the truck

We just took delivery of our latest test car, the Mitsubishi’s “i” electric car. Also known as the i-MiEV (pronounced “Eye-Meev”), it’s the smallest of the new generation of electric cars hitting the U.S. market. And at $29,125, it is the cheapest, too. Although not yet on sale in the Northeast, we managed to buy one in California and have it shipped to our Connecticut auto-test facility.

Our uplevel SE model—with a navigation system and a quick-charging port—cost $33,630. That’s about $4,000 less than the price of its closest competitor, the Nissan Leaf. And after taking the $7,500 federal tax credit, the final purchase price would be $26,000 and change.

Unlike the Nissan Leaf, the i-MiEV wasn’t purpose-built as an electric car. Instead, it started out as a gasoline-powered minicar, sort of a Japanese equivalent of the Smart ForTwo. Now, a compact, 63-hp electric motor resides beneath the trunk floor and powers the rear wheels. A 16-kWh lithium-ion drive battery supplies the current.

Mitsubishi has claimed that it has an 80-mile driving range, but the EPA pegs the range at 62 miles, as acknowledged in the i-MiEV owner’s manual. As we’ve learned from our Leaf and Chevrolet Volt, cold weather sucks down the battery rather quickly. We haven’t yet driven our i-MiEV enough to determine the range, but it will be interesting to see how far this wee machine will go this winter.

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