Full 2014 Mitsubishi i-MiEV Review
What's New for 2014
The 2014 Mitsubishi i-MiEV is offered in a single ES trim level, and standard and optional equipment have been revised.
As charging stations become common in city centers across the country, electric vehicles are starting to get a little more practical, especially if you have a short commute. If you're shopping for a new EV, you'll find that the 2014 Mitsubishi i-MiEV is the least expensive entry point into all-electric transportation. Although its sheer affordability is compelling, the i-MiEV has some significant downsides that might make it less of a bargain than it initially appears.
To its credit, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV is likely to meet most shoppers' basic requirements for an electric vehicle. Small and lightweight, this four-door hatchback feels almost spirited in city traffic, and it's extremely easy to maneuver and park. However, if your daily drive includes highway travel, you'll find that the i-MiEV's skinny tires and fairly basic suspension result in a bouncy ride. Accelerating up to cruising speed might also test your patience: Mitsubishi's EV takes nearly 15 seconds to reach 60 mph, which is quite slow, even for an electric car in this price range.
By far the biggest issue with the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, though, is whether you can wait for it to recharge once you've reached your destination. Even if you have access to a Level 2 (240-volt) charging station, it takes 7-8 hours to recover a full charge. If you can only charge at 120 volts, expect to wait at least twice as long. Further, the car has an EPA-estimated range of only 62 miles, and in our Mitsubishi i-MiEV long-term test, we were never able to drive farther than 58 miles on a single charge.
For most EV shoppers, the pioneering Nissan Leaf will prove far more practical than the i-MiEV, as it offers a lot more range, quicker recharging times and a much nicer interior. Priced a bit lower than the Nissan, the Chevrolet Spark EV offers impressive performance and range, but it's only available in California and Oregon and its charging times are just as long as the Mitsubishi's. The sporty Fiat 500e is another interesting choice, but it's pricey and only sold in California. Finally, there's the Ford Focus Electric, the roomiest car in this class. It costs the most, but it's available nationwide and has a long list of amenities and high-tech options. All of these cars are likely to be easier to own than the 2014 Mitsubishi i-MiEV, which is really only suitable for city dwellers with consistent access to a Level 2 charger.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Mitsubishi i-MiEV is an all-electric four-door hatchback available in a single ES trim level.
Standard equipment includes 15-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglights, heated side mirrors, full power accessories, air-conditioning, heated front seats, 50/50-split-folding rear seats that also recline, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, an onboard recharging system (with a 120-volt portable charging cable), and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.
Also included are a Level 3 quick-charging port and a remote system that pre-activates climate control and the charging timer. Optional equipment includes rear parking sensors, a USB port, blue LED interior lighting and a cargo net.
Powertrains and Performance
The rear-wheel-drive 2014 Mitsubishi i-MiEV is powered by a 49-kilowatt electric motor (66 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque) fed by a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. There are three selectable driving modes: "D" for full power, "Eco" which limits power output to maximize economy and "B," which increases regenerative braking but allows for full use of power. In Edmunds testing, the i-MiEV went from zero to 60 mph in 14.7 seconds -- a very long time, even for an electric vehicle.
Driving range is an EPA-estimated 62 miles per charge. Other small electric vehicles typically have a longer range of about 75-85 miles. The EPA has given the i-MiEV an energy consumption estimate of 30 kWh per 100 miles rating (the lower the kWh number, the better), which is on par with the Nissan Leaf.
With the i-MiEV's 3.3kW onboard charger, it can take a long time to charge fully. Plugged into a 120-volt household outlet, the Mitsubishi takes 14-22 hours to reach a full charge, and in our testing, it was usually closer to 22. With an SAE Level 2 (240-volt) charging station, the EPA estimates the i-MiEV can be recharged in 7 hours, though we found that the i-MiEV typically needed 8 hours at a Level 2 charger.
The 2014 Mitsubishi i-MiEV comes standard with antilock brakes (front disc, rear drum), stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags and side curtain airbags. It also features an "Approaching Vehicle Audible System" (AVAS), which alerts pedestrians that the i-MiEV is nearby by emitting a sound at low speeds. Rear parking sensors are optional.
In Edmunds brake testing, an i-MiEV came to a stop from 60 mph in 120 feet, which is a good performance for an EV. In government crash testing, the i-MiEV received four out of five stars for overall protection, with four stars for total frontal-impact protection and three stars for total side-impact protection. The lower side-impact score is the result of excessive rear door panel intrusion during testing -- suggesting an elevated risk of torso injuries for passengers riding in back.
Interior Design and Special Features
Many electric cars feature cabins loaded with cutting-edge style and tech, but the 2014 i-MiEV isn't one of them. Hard plastics abound, and the plain, no-nonsense presentation of its dash and controls is more in keeping with that of your typical bargain-priced subcompact than anything else. At the same time, standard equipment includes a remote system that allows you to activate the car's climate control and charging timer.
The Mitsubishi i-MiEV's tall body offers ample headroom, but the driving position is awkward and legroom is tight for taller adults, who will likely run out of seat-track travel. A lack of legroom is also an issue in the backseat, and the seats themselves are flat and not terribly supportive.
With just 13.2 cubic feet of space behind the backseat, the i-MiEV has less cargo capacity than most of its rivals, though there's enough room to squeeze in your golf clubs or a standard-sized suitcase. The picture improves with the rear seats folded; cargo capacity expands to a healthy 50.4 cubic feet.
Like all electric cars, the 2014 Mitsubishi i-MiEV boasts a quiet cabin. The only sound from the electric motor is a whir that kicks in when you accelerate hard. There's some wind, tire and road noise at higher speeds, but overall the cabin remains quiet enough to allow for easy conversation. Comfort is another matter, though, as the i-MiEV has a busy, often bouncy ride unless you're traveling over perfectly smooth pavement.
We achieved a top speed of 81 mph in the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, which is well below the Leaf's top speed of 90 mph. This top speed is enough to allow the i-MiEV to keep up on the highway, but this limitation, along with the car's slowness in getting up to speed, underlines the fact that this Mitsubishi is better suited for city motoring. Further, consistently cruising at even 65 mph quickly depletes the i-MiEV's batteries. Driven in city traffic, the i-MiEV has some pep off the line, while the low speeds and frequent stops help maximize its range.