What is it?
This is the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, an electric version of the Mitsubishi i city car. The Mitsubishi i is popular in Japan and in a more limited way in the UK, where it has been on sale since July 2007. The company’s original UK allocation of 300 petrol-powered examples sold out within three weeks of going on sale.
In layman’s terms, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV is an all-electric version of the i four-seater, with the combustion engine and fuel tank replaced by a 63bhp electric motor and a large battery pack.
What’s it like?
In stop-start traffic in villages and towns, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV excels. It pulls away smoothly, whether in standard mode or the more economical ‘Eco’ setting, which limits the motor’s output to 18kW. A small amount of creep makes low-speed manoeuvres surprisingly easy.
Mitsubishi quotes a range of 80-100 miles if the i-MiEV is driven economically. It’s easy to imagine commuting to work or doing the school run in this car. The company says that if you plug the i-MiEV into the mains, it will charge fully in seven hours. This drops to 30 minutes if you have access to a 50kW three-phase supply.
Unsurprisingly, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV is no sports car, but over a winding 15-mile cross-country route it proved fun to drive and as able to keep up with the traffic as its petrol sibling.
The instant response from the electric motor and rear-wheel drive combine to provide a level of adjustability in corners that is missing from the i-MiEV’s front-wheel-drive turbodiesel competitors.
Despite the 200kg of batteries where the fuel tank used to be (actually mounted 80mm lower), the i-MiEV does not feel bloated, with well-controlled body roll in corners.
Should I buy one?
If you are looking for a zero-emissions four-seat city car, the i-MiEV is your only option. Fortunately the i-MiEV is a polished, if quirky, performer. Even if you’re considering a conventional city car, the i-MiEV is at least worth a look, provided you don’t need to travel further than 100 miles at a time.
Around 2000 i-MiEVs are planned for the first year of production, and Mitsubishi hopes to bring around 200 of these to the UK.