Mitsubishi i-MiEV long term test

Discover the truth about owning and using an electric car

Mitsubishi i-MiEV long term test

The Mitsubishi i-MiEV is a sub-compact city car with seating for four people and their everyday luggage. I used one as a main family car for a year between December 2009 and December 2010 and drove the updated version for several weeks in 2013.

In terms of overall size, the i-MiEV is similar in size to a Fiat Panda, and slightly shorter and narrower than a Ford Fiesta. Interior space is impressive, however, with plenty of leg-room and head-room for even the tallest passengers.

Like the LEAF, the batteries sit under the floor of the car and this makes for a higher floor than you first expect. Because the i-MiEV is a tall car, it is very easy to get into and out of. Several older people who have difficulty with mobility have commented to me that the i-MiEV is one of the easiest cars to get into and out of.

Build quality, ride and refinement are reasonable, comparing well against city cars from Citroen, Fiat, Renault or Ford. Handling is good at low speeds, but less so at higher speeds, where the height of the car makes it feel less stable and more jittery over rough surfaces.

Compared to other city cars, the i-MiEV feels a lot more powerful and the smoothness of the motor compared to small internal combustion engines in conventional cars makes for a much more enjoyable driving experience. Once you have driven an i-MiEV, you are not going to want to switch back to driving a conventional city car again.

The i-MiEV is at its best in city driving, where its light steering, incredibly tight turning circle, high seating position and excellent all-round visibility really play to the car's strengths. Like the Nissan LEAF, the car is exceptionally easy to drive and the performance and smoothness of the electric motor makes for rapid acceleration and relaxed driving.

On the open road the i-MiEV can be a lot of fun. This is because of its power delivery, which provides instant power every time you put your foot on the accelerator. The motor noise is also very appealing: while it is silent at low speeds, it has a high-pitched whine at higher speeds that sounds like a jet fighter accelerating! It may not sound quite as good as a V8 engine, but it is certainly entertaining. The downside of this is that fast driving badly affects the range. In fact, the range indicator drops quite alarmingly when constantly accelerating hard or when travelling at high speeds.

The official range of the car based on European NEDC testing is 93 miles (150km), whereas the United States EPA tests show a more realistic range of 62 miles (100km). The European NEDC test range can be achieved in inner-city driving if driving extremely carefully, but is not so easily achieved in other conditions. In a series of driving tests carried out for The 2015 Electric Car Guide, we recorded the following real world ranges:

Conditions Average Range
Inner-city driving 91 miles
Urban/extra urban 79 miles
Cross country roads 75 miles
Cross country roads - fast driving 46 miles
Dual carriageway/freeway eco driving 68 miles
Dual carriageway/freeway normal driving 51 miles

In very cold days in winter, these ranges drop by a further 30%, while running the heater on full blast can also reduce the range by around 15%.

The i-MiEV takes around six hours to charge up from a domestic power socket, or can be fast charged from a dedicated rapid charge-unit in around 30 minutes. Charging the car for two hours from a domestic power socket increases the range by around 30 miles (45km).

Few families would choose a Mitsubishi i-MiEV as a main family car, simply because of its size. However, many families who have an i-MiEV as a second car have found themselves using it as their main car for all journeys, unless range is an issue.

In the past, two-car families have chosen a larger 'main' car that is used for the main family transport and a smaller car that is just used by one parent for travelling to work. With the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, the driving habits of the early owners suggest that many families would choose this to be the main car, and the larger car would be used only when the i-MiEV was not available or was unsuitable because of the range.

If you want a competent small car that is fun to drive, and if most of your driving is in urban or city environments, you should take a Mitsubishi i-MiEV for a test drive.

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