New Car Review: Mitsubishi i-MIEV

side view of silver 2012 Mitsubishi i-MIEV

62 miles.

Can you get through a day driving that little?

For those of us whose commute and getting kids to activities and unplanned errands and emergencies often result in adding 100 or more miles to the odometer in the course of a day, the number is woefully inadequate.

But that's the absolute max you'll get on a single charge in the Mitsubishi i-MIEV. And, as with most EVs, your range may vary.

As other manufacturers work to make their EVs as much like conventional compacts as possible (Nissan Leaf) or break the boundaries with luxury and styling that rivals European luxury marques (Tesla Model S), the Mitsubishi i-MIEV is what a lot of people thought of five years ago when you said "electric vehicle"...an odd-looking rolling bubble, minimalist in most respects, and resembling a golf cart that has been enclosed, stretched to Mini Cooper length and styled in the best Japanese Sci-Fi tradition.

With the Leaf offering a (theoretical) range of near 80 miles per charge, the big Tesla capable of 270 or more and the Chevy Volt which backs up its 35 mile range with a gasoline engine that will allow you to cover 380 miles, after which you simply add more gas, what's the i-MIEV's selling point?


With an MSRP of $31,125 (which comes down into the 24s with tax credits), the electric Mitsu is 8 grand less expensive than a Volt, and was a few hundred less than the Leaf, until the introduction of the new model S, which actually undercuts the i-MIEV by almost $3,000 now.

The EPA's estimate says the i-MIEV will get the equivalent of 126 MPG in the city and 99 on the highway...but the Leaf's numbers are 130/102...and it's packing 107 horsepower to the i-MIEV's 66.

The i-MIEV still has one card to play in the price arena, though...the monthly outlay. Mitsubishi is offering zero percent 60 month financing or $221 a month 3-year leases. And one dealer, O'Brien Mitsubishi in Normal, Illinois, ran a $69 monthly lease deal earlier this year ($169 once taxes are figured in).

interior view of 2012 Mitsubishi i-MIEV

We only had one to drive for a four-day weekend...and while it wasn't bad (headroom was great, the air and 360-watt audio system worked just fine), it was an awful lot like driving yesterday's vision of the future. The fact is that electric vehicles are way beyond this type of minimalism now.

Elon Musk tweeted today that Tesla will have a $30,000 electric car with a range of more than 200 miles in the next five years. Mitsubishi's got a long way to go to be ready for that day.