By Jonathan Micocci – AKA Grandpere – GRAND Car Reviewer
Mitsubishi I-MIEV SE 5 Door Hatchback
A certain German brewer of beer advertises that ‘you never forget your first girl’. I’m not sure if that’s true or even desirable but I will never forget my first electric car. It is the Mitsubishi I-MiEV (for Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle). Thankfully it seems to answer to ‘I’ and ours became ‘the Raspberry’. I had not named a car or an electric appliance since maybe age 8.
To begin, it’s really cute, to most anyway, and elicited comments like ‘should we park it or should I put it in my purse.’ A dissenter said ‘wow, that’s an ugly car’, but then proceeded to interrogate me about it for 30 minutes. The ‘I’ evokes emotions. Smiles. Curiosity. And when four grandparents (sans the kids) took it to the beach, it evoked memories of adventures. This crowd hadn’t had a truly new automotive experience in quite a while (‘Listen, I think I hear the motor.’). Mitsu calls the color raspberry and so our baby got a name.
What it is: a four seat urban vehicle with an extremely cab-forward design. It’s a passenger compartment without the stuff out the front and the back. The result is minimal weight, fantastic visibility, ease of parking and a comfortable cabin for four with supportive seats and airbags all over the place.
Instrumentation and ergonomics are simple and surprisingly 20th century…there’s even an ignition key. Ours had the $2,800 Premium package with the Mitsu entertainment/nav screen and that cool rear view camera system. If you have a deaf cat in your neighborhood, buy this option. The ‘I’ does not make a lot of noise.
Once fired up (activated) and placed into gear, the ‘I’ commences to convert stored electricity into motion with very little fuss. The heavy flat battery mounted down low contributes to a more stable ride than you might expect in a high-sided 2600 lb car. The battery feeds a 49 kW motor driving the rear wheels through a one-speed transmission. That translates to 66 hp and an impressive 145 lb-ft of torque, all the while chilling the cabin air quite effectively.
Steering is light and nimble. Acceleration at city speeds is spunky and highway cruising is doable up to a point. Literally. At the speed-limited top end of 81 mph, it still had more to give but it wouldn’t give it for very long and that’s the whole point of the car. It’s at home darting around town, parking, un-parking, darting again, while returning the equivalent of up to 126 mpg. Bear that last part in mind when gassing up your fuel-burner to accomplish these same tasks.
Official range is 62 miles which covers most urban adventures but ‘running out’ has consequences so planning ahead is part of driving an ‘I’. Charging is accomplished by a Level 1 charger that you keep at home or in the vehicle. 110V. 22 hours empty to full. Level 2 is harder to come by but available and brings it down to 7 hours. Level 3 is not very available yet and provides an 80% charge in 30 minutes. Day to day, you plug it in when you’re not driving somewhere and forget it. Anyone with a cell phone will adapt right away.
At $29K base, $34K tricked out, the ‘I’ is not cheap but thankfully, the Feds are encouraging this emerging technology with a $7,500 tax incentive. Your fuel savings depend on your alternative but $9,850 in five years is an estimated average. The maintenance manual is a skinny little leaflet…you will be putting money back in the bank with every mile.
Should you consider an ‘I’? Mitsubishi built their first E-car in 1970 but it’s taken this long for the political, economic and technical obstacles to be overcome and big players to start investing. This car is for you if you’re an early adopter, if you take pride in protecting our precious environment or if you just want a no-hassle urban errand-runner that asks little after the purchase and returns a lot. Understand the limitations and then find out how much personality this automotive appliance puts out.
Specifications as tested:
Engine AC synchronous permanent magnetic motor
Transmission Single speed
Curb Weight 2,579 lb.
EPA MPG 112 (equivalent)
MSRP as tested $33,915
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