Review: Mitsubishi i-MiEV (2011)
Innovative technology. Exempt from London congestion charge. Fun to drive.
Range is 80 miles. Charging is awkward if you live in a flat. Limited space inside. Huge cost of replacement batteries effectively writes the cars off.
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Mitsubishi i-MiEV (2011): At A Glance
- Insurance Group 27
The Mitsubishi i-MiEV is an innovative, fun and well equipped small electric city car. But there's one thing stopping you going out to buy one today and that's the list price. Initially a ludicrous £38,699, minus a £5,000 grant, later reduced to £23,990 after the Government grant to help subsidise the cost, making it ridiculously unaffordable to all but the earliest of the early adopters.
The figures just don't stack up. Compare it to a mid-spec Toyota Aygo and you're looking at 24 years, two battery changes and the best part of 300,000 miles before it recoups the initial outlay. The figures aren't quite as daunting for those who live in or commute to London as these owners would save £2000 a year through congestion charge exemption. But it still makes little sense to the average buyer.
And it's a shame that the cost casts such a long shadow over the car as it's actually very good. If it wasn't so expensive, we'd probably rate it as a four-star car. Start-up is silent and peak torque is available almost instantly, which makes it quick off the mark and fast to 30mph, which is ideal for town driving.
Power delivery is smooth, too, and it's jerk-free on the move. Although the range is limited to 80 miles, those who use it in towns and cities (where it was designed for) shouldn't have much of a problem. It's 'off' when stationary in traffic, so it doesn't unnecessarily use power, and as long as it's not being driven too hard, gets close to the estimated range.
A full charge takes around six hours (so can be done overnight or when you're at work) from a household socket, but takes just 25 minutes from a fast charging point, which are starting to spring up across the country.
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Mitsubishi i-MiEV (2011): What's It Like Inside?
Entry is keyless, so there's no need to fumble around in a bag or pocket for a key. Starting the car requires a simple twist of a switch on the steering column (where you'd conventionally start the car with a key). Where in a petrol or diesel engined car, you'd hear the car fire (or clatter) into life, the i-MiEV is silent.
The only indication that it's ready to go comes from a 'bing' sound that wouldn't be out of place on a microwave. Put your foot down and there's still barely more than a hum as the car gets going. As you'd expect, it's quiet on the move, with only wind noise evident at speed.
The driver gets a great view of the road ahead and the dials are clear to read. They're the only indication on the inside that it's powered by an electric motor. In place of the usual rev counter and speedo, there's a dial that shows if you're driving economically (or not) and an electronic speed read-out.
Aside from that, the interior is pure Mitsubishi i. That means it's compact, but not uncomfortable. Up front there's enough room to stop the driver and passenger getting too cosy, while in the back headroom is good and there's a decent amount of legroom for such a small car.
The boot is accessed through the hatch at the back and with 246 litres on offer, there's sufficient for a few shopping bags. For larger loads, the back seats fold flat and it's possible to transport larger loads than you might expect.
Equipment levels are high - partly to help attempt to justify the stratospheric list price, with all-round electric windows, central door locking with keyless entry, driver's and front passenger's SRS front airbags, side and curtain air bags and air conditioning. Full spec details can be found here.
Child seats that fit a Mitsubishi i-MiEV (2011)Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.
What's the Mitsubishi i-MiEV (2011) like to drive?
The gearbox offers Drive, Eco and B (brake) settings. Drive gives surprisingly quick acceleration and allows the i-MiEV to make full use of the power that's on offer. The 64bhp electric motor powers the i-MiEV to 60mph in around 13 seconds, but feels much quicker in town, where it quickly gets to 30-40mph.
Being an electric motor, the torque is available almost instantly and there's plenty of it - 133lb/ft compared to the petrol model's 62lb/ft - providing an near endless seam of power. Impressively, this power is delivered completely jerk-free. Under hard acceleration, the electric motor has the whine of a jet aircraft on take-off. Slide the gear lever into 'Eco' and preserving power becomes the priority.
Engine power is cut from 47kW to 18kW (62bhp to 23bhp). It's noticeably more sluggish as power is cut back to preserve power - acceleration is much reduced and the i-MiEV starts to struggle to keep up with the pace of traffic.
But it does make a big difference to economy and is the only way of reaching the claimed 80-100 miles range on a single charge. Under the B (Brake setting), the car runs at normal power (62bhp/47kW), but has higher motor brake-force enabling regenerative recharging. The top speed of the i-MiEV is 81mph.
The i-MiEV is built for town driving and this is where it excels. It's nippy and has light steering to make easy work of three-point turns. Being narrow, it slides into the tightest of parking spaces and easily nips in-and-out of traffic. Plus on shorter runs you don't have to worry so much about the range.
It handles in pretty much the same way as the standard rear-wheel drive petrol i-car, but with a lower centre of gravity, thanks to 200kg of batteries under the floor. Instead of holding the i-MiEV back, that extra weight helps plant the car to the road and helps provide a surprisingly comfortable ride.
Out of town, it holds its own on country roads and will hold its own on the motorway, too. Though at the back of your mind is always the worry of where the next charging point is - and whether you'll make it.
Charging the i-MiEV is no different to how you'd charge a mobile phone, only on a larger scale. One end of the charger goes into the car and the other end into a three-pin socket. Obviously the difference between the car and a phone is that the car has to stay outside, which makes it inconvenient if you live in a flat or can't get the car close to the house - messing around with extension leads isn't practical.
Charging takes around six hours from a standard household socket or it can be charged from flat to 80 per cent full in just 25 minutes at new 'fast-charge' points that are starting to spring up across the country as more electric cars go on sale.
A single full charge is around 96p, while means fuelling the i-MiEV for 12,000 miles is £150. A Toyota Aygo will cost £1115 over the same distance (assuming petrol is 117p per litre).
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