ZEN & THE ART OF INCONSPICUOUS ELECTRIC PROPULSION
2017 Mitsubishi i-MiEV
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Published on Mon, Jan 16, 2017
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
Story and pictures by Roy Nakano
That’s the EPA-rated range for this electric car from Mitsubishi. For many, it’s a deal breaker. In a year when Tesla announces its Model 3 will do 200 miles, and Chevrolet says it’s new Bolt was certified by the EPA for a range of 238 miles, who wants to mess with a range of 62 miles?
Having lived with the car for the span of a week, there are some mitigating factors to consider. First of all, the Tesla Model 3 is still a pipe dream. The Bolt is not. Chevy says it’s at your neighborhood dealer right about now. What’s not known, however, is whether dealers will succumb to gouging the customers like they did when the Volt first appeared. Prediction: It won’t be pretty.
On the other hand, no dealers are gouging customers over the Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric car. It’s already the least expensive electric car you can buy in America ($22,995; $15,495 after the $7500 federal tax credit). But that’s the list price. i-MiEVs are not exactly flying off the dealer shelves. Accordingly, there should be a pretty good chance that you can get it below the sticker price. Even better, some dealers have been advertising the i-MiEV with a $69 per month lease (and a down payment of around $2,000). If you’re in a state that offers an electric car cash rebate (California offers $2,500 for the i-MiEV, but check to see if you meet the new income cap requirements), it’s almost like getting the car with no down, and no payments for the first seven months of a three year lease. Suddenly, the idea of considering an i-MiEV doesn’t seem so crazy—particularly if your daily commute is in town and you have a second car.
So, how is the i-MiEV? Well, as electric cars go, it’s pretty bare bones: Airline-style cloth seats, lots of hard plastic, lots of bare metal, a range gauge with no numbers, no nav, and a very simple instrument panel. Inside, one is reminded of a European compact vehicle from the 1950s or 60s. It’s almost zen-like in its inconspicuousness.
The exterior is a different story. It looks like a cross between a micro cargo van and a ride from Disney’s Tomorrowland, circa 1965. One can easily mistaken it for a prop out of Woody Allen’s “Sleeper”, that comedic vision of the future from 1972. Or as one colleague put it, it’s so corny-looking, it’s cool. Don’t expect Leonardo DiCaprio to be driving one (but local automotive journalist Mark Vaughn does, and he’s pretty cool).
Its ride actually surpasses that of smaller electric cars like the Fiat 500e or e-smart. Credit the longer wheelbase for that. On the other hand, handling is not up to par with many of the smaller, sportier electric cars. In that regard, the i-MiEV is more akin to some of the electric appliances in your kitchen. That’s too bad, since it’s otherwise a pretty interesting package. There’s plenty of room for four. With four conventional doors, access is easy, and there’s plenty of room inside—especially headroom. And in common with all pure electric vehicles, the i-MiEV propels you in whisper quietness. Gone is the vibration-prone internal combustion noises that usually accompany cars of this composition.
Alas, it seems that Mitsubishi won’t be investing much more R&D in the current i-MiEV. As a result, the main motivation to get one is if you’re of modest income, and are interested in spending the lease amount of money to lease a short-range commuter car. If that’s you, get ready to haggle for a great deal with your local Mitsubishi dealer.
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THE MAIN INGREDIENTS
Name of vehicle:
2017 Mitsubishi i-MiEV
$22,995 ($15,495 after federal tax credit)
See text for lease details
EPA fuel economy rating:
121 city/102 highway/30kW hrs per 100 miles
59 miles pure electric range
AC synchronous motor
EPA size classification*:
* Passenger car classes are designated by the EPA based on interior volume index or seating capacity, except the ones classified as special vehicle. A two-seater is classified as a car with no more than two designated seating positions.