As far as electric cars go, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV is a bargain. Its take-home price is just under $23,000, and that's before the thousands of dollars in government tax incentives factored in. But you do get what you pay for: The i-MiEV may undercut its rivals on price, but it falls woefully short in terms of performance, range, charge times and amenities.
The egg-shaped i-MiEV is based on a Japanese-market city car called the Mitsubishi i; like its gas-powered counterpart, the i-MiEV bundles its powertrain near the rear-drive axle, freeing up a surprising amount of headroom for both front and rear passengers. Unfortunately, legroom is in short supply for tall drivers; the seats simply don't slide back far enough. Cargo space is also lacking, at just 13.2 cubic feet. The cheap cabin trim, simple instrumentation and flat seats belie the i-MiEV's bargain price.
The i-MiEV is powered by a 49-kilowatt (66 hp/145 lb-ft) electric motor fed by a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery. In Edmunds testing, the i-MiEV needed 14.7 seconds to accelerate to 60 mph, an excruciatingly long time by any standard; for comparison, the electric Fiat 500e needs just 8.2 seconds. Acceleration feels fine around town, but reaching highway speeds is a strain and the i-MiEV tops out at just 81 mph. With its bouncy ride and excessive noise at highway speed — not to mention the deleterious effect high speeds have on battery range — highway driving in the i-MiEV just isn't that pleasant.
Thanks to its light weight, the i-MiEV is one of the most efficient EVs on the market. The EPA rates it at 112 mpg equivalent combined (121 city/102 highway — mpg equivalent stands for "miles per gallon equivalent," a measure of efficiency for electrified cars). Unfortunately, the small battery means the i-MiEV's 59-mile EPA-rated range is among the shortest in the business. Most EVs offer closer to 100 miles, and Chevy's new Bolt offers 238 miles. With its short range, you'd expect quick charging, but the i-MiEV uses a 3.3-kW onboard charger (as opposed to the 6.6-kW units found in most electric cars) that requires seven to eight hours to charge using a Level 2 EV charger, twice as long as most other EVs. A full charge using a 120-volt household outlet requires the better part of 22 hours. That said, the i-MiEV does come standard with Level 3 DC fast-charging capability, which will charge the battery from zero to 80 percent in less than half an hour. Fast chargers are not as common as Level 2 chargers, but the i-MiEV uses the same CHAdeMO fast charger as the more popular Nissan Leaf, which helps with availability.
Mitsubishi offers the i-MiEV as a single model, the four-door ES; some electronic nice-to-haves are offered as either stand-alone options or as part of a bundle. What's the best way to configure yours? Edmunds can help find the perfect 2017 Mitsubishi i-MiEV for you.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.