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2012 Mitsubishi i MiEV Long-Term Test

What We Got
Electric cars are here to stay. Our early long-term test of the Mini E was our first taste of life on electricity. A subsequent half-year test of the Nissan Leaf proved EVs were no fad. Next up was a test of the 2012 Mitsubishi i MiEV.

The 2012 Mitsubishi i MiEV tread lightly in more ways than one. Its rear-drive AC synchronous motor was rated at just 49 kilowatts (66 horsepower), fueled by a 16 kWh lithium-ion battery pack mounted in the back. It wore staggered-width tires sized 175/60R15 in the rear and a downright puny 145/65R15 up front. In all, the electric waif weighed less than 2,600 pounds.

With a base MSRP of $29,875 and numerous incentives, the i MiEV ranked among the most affordable electric cars available. We ordered the high-line i MiEV SE model. This raised the price to $31,975 and provided accoutrements like an eight-speaker audio system, cloth door panel inserts and a passenger-side vanity mirror. On top of that, there was the $2,790 Premium package, which added a Level 3 DC charger for quick-charge stations, a rearview camera, low-battery warning system, foglights, a 40GB hard-drive-based navigation system, Bluetooth and a USB port. Another $300 bought a two-tone White Pearl and Ocean Blue paint job.

Mitsubishi supplied the $35,065 i MiEV SE to us for 6 months. We set out to see how well its EPA-estimated 62 miles of range fit with our daily lives.

Our Impressions

The Mitsubishi i MiEV trades normalcy for a stand-out shape. It also trades some sophistication for exceptional efficiency, which seems like a good exchange for this kind of car. Lastly, it also signals a shift in priorities for Mitsubishi as it refocuses from performance to frugality and responsibility.” — Mike Magrath

“Traffic was flowing about 65-70 mph on the drive out to the San Gabriel Valley. On the way back, it rained, reducing speeds but necessitating use of potentially battery-draining accessories like the windshield wipers. After 39 miles the low battery light began flashing. And about 45 miles into the trip, the dreaded amber tortoise illuminated. Fortunately, the Mitsubishi is capable of adequately protecting itself from garden-variety stupidity. I made it home and nothing horrible happened. Total trip distance was 49.8 miles.” — Erin Riches

“It turns out one of the chief measures of EV performance has to do with how fast they are when they’re parked.” — Dan Edmunds

“The i MiEV acquitted itself well today — much better than I expected — but I still think it’s not ideally suited to someone who lives 45 miles from work, as I do. It can’t make the 90-mile round trip on a single charge, and at this early stage of EV infrastructure development I think that EV wannabes need to assume that one charge per day — at home, overnight on 240V — is all they’ll have to work with.” — Dan Edmunds

“Our i MiEV has been plugged in continuously for exactly 12 hours now, and so far 10.27 kWh of juice has passed through the cord. And no, it’s not full yet. Normal charging losses amount to 10-15 percent, so from the battery’s point of view the i MiEV has taken roughly 9 kWh in a half day, a 120V charge rate that works out to 0.75 kWh per hour of plug-in time. In similar circumstances the Nissan Leaf charges at something like 1.15 kWh per hour and Honda’s Fit EV claims 1.3 kWh per hour.” — Dan Edmunds

“On the trip back to the office, the pace was slower, with lots of stopping and going — which is exactly the kind of driving the i MiEV likes best. Also, this stretch of freeway was amenable to the i’s skinny tires and suspension calibration, as the car rode just fine, smoothly even, and didn’t beat me up. If only I could get a little more seat-track travel, I’d probably want to drive it more often.” — Erin Riches

“The last time I drove the i MiEV, I was on city streets and when I did venture onto the freeway, I was stuck in traffic and didn’t get to go very fast. Last night I got to drive the car at normal highway speeds. The car feels so light that it takes work to keep it between the lines. It bounces around at every tiny bump and struggles against the lightest of breezes. I was ready to like this car, but the Mitsubishi isn’t helping its own cause.” — Donna DeRosa

“I was waiting in a private lot when a Toyota Prius full of teen boys pulled up perpendicular to me not 5 feet from my windshield. All five of them looked. And then one pointed. And then he laughed. And then they all laughed. I’ve got thick skin — I do write on the Internet for a living — I can take it. But when teenagers in a Prius laugh at you, it stings just a little. At least I was being more energy efficient?” — Mike Magrath

“Sharp-eyed commuters will immediately notice something missing in this picture: the side carpool stickers. I got home to discover the horrible truth. Apparently, someone peeled off the two side stickers, leaving only the one on the rear bumper. So keep your eyes open for a Silverado in the carpool lanes with our stickers.” — Philip Reed

“I finally drove the i MiEV and wasn’t sure what to expect as far as the gauges that show range and whether I’m driving efficiently or not. Would there be a bar graph? A pie chart? Perhaps a bush that grows leaves the more gingerly I tread on the gas? To my relief, this electric car didn’t give me the old razzle-dazzle. I prefer my instruments easy to read at a glance and devoid of gimmickry. So the simple setup of the Mitsu suits me fine.” — John DiPietro

“I sat in the garage trying to get the seat into a comfortable position. I could never get it to feel right. The seat bottom was just too high. I think the i MiEV is another victim of a poorly translated design from the Japanese domestic market. Much like with the first-generation Honda Fit, Mitsubishi needs to redesign the seats before they try to get the U.S. market to embrace this niche vehicle.” — Scott Jacobs

“The i MiEV is as useful as any other small hatchback, so long as you’re fine with its somewhat higher load floor. It has 50/50-split rear seats, and they go nice and flat.” — Erin Riches


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