The city dweller
Some people never leave the city. For them, everything they need is within a few kilometres: the grocery store, the shopping centre, the movies, friends, family, and work.
But a car is a necessity.
A small and manoeuvrable car is best for squirrelling through the urban jungle. A fuel-efficient car would also be good, because chances are if you live in a crowded borough, you’re paying top dollar for real estate, so you can’t spend too much on fuel.
However, instead of a gas-powered car to run your errands, Mitsubishi would like you to consider their fully electric i-MiEV. Crisscrossing through town on four wheels has never been more efficient, and the 2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV is currently the cheapest electric car you can buy. There are some prerequisites, though.
And if you decide to leave the outer limits of the city to explore the rural world, you better plan out your itinerary... Actually, it’s not as bad as it sounds.
It’s a real car
I’ll agree with you on this: The four-passenger i-MiEV looks dinky, like a toy car or a really luxurious golf cart. However, this is a car and it drives like a car should, despite the skimpy tires (145/65R15 front, 175/60R15 rear) and narrow stance.
It also accelerates like a car should, thanks to its electric motor that develops 66 hp and 145 lb-ft of torque. OK, it’s not blindingly fast, but you definitely won’t hold up traffic unless you’re in the passing lane during rush hour. Actually, no matter the time of day, you shouldn’t be there anyhow.
Yet the i-MiEV’s bubble-on-wheels shape prevents it from displaying any form of seriousness. During the course of this road test, the car drew a fair amount of attention, but it was easy to realize that it wasn’t admiration. Other motorists smile, laugh, point a finger and shout remarks such as: “Hey, did you forget your caddy?”
There’s ample room for four adults, although you might rub shoulders from time to time. When you fold down the rear seatbacks, you get 1,430 litres of cargo volume, which is pretty good for a car of its size.
Keep off the highways if you can
Like all electric cars, the i-MiEV performs best at lower speeds, such as commuting around town in stop-and-go traffic. Of course, you can hit the highway, but going with the flow will take its toll on the car’s range.
Speaking of range, that’s something you’ll have to get used to. The range display in the instrument panel can vary quite a bit when you turn on accessories such as air conditioning or the heated driver’s seat. The system will try its best to estimate how much juice you have left based on your driving habits.
With a 100-km range between charges, the i-MiEV is obviously not the vehicle of choice for road-tripping. Thirty-five kilometres separate my house from Auto123.com’s offices, which means I’d arguably be a potential candidate for this car.
We don’t yet have a 220-volt charging station at work, but I can plug the i-MiEV in a standard power outlet and gain about 5 km of range an hour. Fully juicing up the car with a 220-volt charger takes 7 hours; with a 110-volt outlet, make that 22 hours.
The Mitsubishi boasts fuel economy equivalent ratings of 1.9 Le/100km in the city and 2.1 Le/100km on the highway; only the Ford Focus Electric can do better with ratings of 1.7/2.0 Le/100km.
Selective purchase process
Wanna buy a 2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV? Know that your local dealer will ask you a bunch of questions regarding how far you drive each day, what the electrical installations look like at your house (because you’ll need to get a 220-volt charging station installed), and how far away you live from the dealer. If you don’t have a garage, they’ll probably encourage you to buy a Lancer instead.
Base price for an i-MiEV is $32,998, the least expensive electric car available in Canada right now. It includes amenities such air conditioning, a heated and height-adjustable driver’s seat, power windows, keyless entry, a 50/50-split folding seatback, electronic stability control and six airbags. For an extra $3,000, you get alloy wheels, a 360-watt sound system with navigation, Bluetooth connectivity and trim upgrades.
Right now, the car is eligible for rebates in certain provinces: $8,231 in Ontario, $7,769 in Quebec and $5,000 in British Columbia.
Less expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better. A Nissan LEAF is a more refined car, and more satisfying to drive than the i-MiEV. So is the Focus Electric. The Mitsubishi is amusingly different, and that’s probably what makes people hesitate to buy one. That and the fear of being stranded with no juice left in the battery pack.
However, if you drive, say 50-60 km a day, live in an urban area and have a garage attached to the house, the 2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV may be for you.
Auto journalist & Consumer Ratings
Editor's Review Highlights
2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV Specifications
Similar to 2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV