Mitsubishi iMiev: The Perfect Electric Car… For Some Things

2016 Mitsubishi i-MiEV  | MSRP: $22,995 | Price as Tested: $25,845


Battery: 16 kWh; 330 V | Range: 62 mi | MPGe: 126 city / 99 hwy

These days fully-electric cars are all the buzz, with companies like Tesla selling over 370,000 pre-orders for their promised Model 3 in just days and all other manufacturers scrambling to play catch-up. The promise of a greener driving experience plays out with the much more efficient energy coming from our country’s power grid, although the origin of the batteries isn’t always considered. The fact remains, as technology advances – particularly in the battery area – electric cars will become a greener and greener alternative, and likely dominate the roads someday.

So you want to be a part of this trend, but you don’t have over $100k burning a hole in your pocket for a Tesla Model S. Well, fear-not; for only $23k you can have your own fully-electric vehicle, with the optional Level 3 Super-Charger port. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it’s not that great of a car.

We poked a bit of fun in our video review, picking five things that the Mitsubishi i-MiEV isn’t really good at. Well, there’s probably way more than five, but there are also a bunch of things that it’s good at. If you drive less than 50 miles per day, primarily in urban areas, it is the perfect car. You’ll spend a fraction of the cost of a conventional car to power the i-MiEV. It will also help if you don’t care too much what your car looks like, as this isn’t likely to win any design awards. It’s futuristic looking, but not in a good way – like when a cartoon from the 60’s imagines the future.

The interior isn’t much better, with extremely-dated gauges and switchgear. They took a gas platform and retrofitted it with electric power, so to pop the charging-port door, you pull on what would be the hood release. That opens the Level 2 charge port on the passenger side. Wait, but you’ve found an ultra-fast charging Super-Charger port? To open that one (on the driver’s side) you have to use what would have been the gas-release lever. It’s clear that not much has been spent to convert this car – which keeps the price down, along with the refinement.

We suspect that Mitsubishi made this a calculated choice – opting in that very Japanese way to focus on engineering, efficiency and simplicity over luxury or design. But in this case, against the allure of Tesla’s cachet and the sleek sophistication of devices like the iPhone, the i-MiEV looks and feels pretty flimsy.

So what is the driving experience like? Well, due to the nature of electric power, you have peak torque from a standstill, meaning it feels quick right off the line. The motor puts out 66hp, which is more than enough to motivate its 2550 lbs frame. Overall, it’s actually quite fun to drive – except at higher speeds, where the lack of power really sticks out.

Then there’s the range – having a 62-mile range (we saw more like 55 in real-world usage) means you’ll always be plotting that next charging station. And that’s a problem in Chicago. Our city is a bit behind when it comes to charging stations, and it shows here. The fact that it takes 22 hours to charge from a standard wall outlet versus 6 hours via the Level 2 220V charger means that you’ll be installing one in your house. At a Level 3 supercharger, you can get up to 80% battery in only 20min, but they are really only available at Nissan and Tesla dealerships. Believe me, you’ll know exactly where they are. And it’s not a bad thing to stop and wait for 20 minutes to charge your car. You can catch up on emails, have a coffee – it’s a nice downtime. But if you’re in a hurry, you’ll be frustrated.

So what do we think of this 2016 Mitsubishi i-MiEV? It’s a great idea whose time hasn’t really come yet. The infrastructure doesn’t really support it yet, and the overall experience feels rushed and not well thought out. These types of cars are only going to get better. But if you’re on a budget, and just can’t wait to be a part of the revolution – this one’s for you.

Special thanks to 

Mitsubishi Motors Corporation 

for providing this week’s car, 

the 2016 Mitsubishi i-MiEV.