Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric car
- Very low running costs
- Silent running electric motor
- Tiny size makes it great in town
- Expensive to buy
- Limited range beyond city streets
- You need a socket nearby to charge up
At a glance
“As a showcase for what electric vehicles could do, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV was impressively cheap to run and easy to drive, but this couldn’t make up for its high price.”
The Mitsubishi i-MiEV (or Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle, to give it its full name) was a tall, narrow city car that could seat four adults in relative comfort. While it's no longer available to buy new in the UK, there are still a few i-MiEVs for sale, although it's unlikely you’ll be able to get a Government grant (which electric and low-emission cars are still eligible for) if you want one, as Mitsubishi no longer officially offers the i-MiEV.
The i-MiEV was based on the Mitsubishi i (which is also no longer sold), but replaced the small petrol engine of that car with a 64bhp electric motor. The i-MiEV was developed in conjunction with the Citroen C-Zero and Peugeot iOn and, like both those cars, had a 93-mile range when its batteries were fully charged.
The i-MiEV made sense as a city car: its small stature meant parking and manoeuvring couldn’t have been easier, while its exemption from both road tax and the London Congestion Charge made it incredibly cheap to run. However, because it needed its batteries recharging regularly, you really needed off-street parking if you were thinking of buying an i-MiEV – and few city dwellers have this option. True, dedicated charging stations are becoming more and more common but in truth, the i-MiEV's customer base was small, and this is reflected in its relative rarity.
The i-MiEV's biggest sticking point, though, was its price. Even after Government grants were taken into account, the i-MiEV cost almost as much the BMW 3 Series – a far superior car that's incomparably easier to live with. It was also more expensive than the Nissan Leaf – a larger electric car with a greater range. Mitsubishi does deserve credit in designing the i-MiEV, though: it was the first mass-produced electric car that was allowed to travel on British motorways and something of a landmark in the development of vehicles of this type.
MPG, running costs & CO2
The i-MiEV was cheaper to run than almost any other car
As the old saying goes, the quality will remain once the price is forgotten; to an extent, that was the case for i-MiEV customers. Once the high initial cost of purchasing an i-MiEV was absorbed, running costs were minimal. No road tax, no London Congestion Charge, free parking in some areas and – perhaps most significantly – no fuel costs, made taking the bus seem like an expensive proposition by comparison.
Charging up the i-MiEV’s batteries would typically cost around £2 and with a theoretical range of 93 miles, even the most efficient city cars would cost around three times as much to cover the same distance. You’d have to plan your journeys carefully, though: not only did the i-MiEV’s batteries take seven hours to charge from a domestic electricity supply, but cold weather, hills and running the air-conditioning would see range shrink by as much as 50%.
Engines, drive & performance
The i-MiEV only really made sense in towns and cities
When designing the i-MiEV, Mitsubishi’s clear focus was the urban environment. A tall, narrow body meant nipping in and out of gaps was impressively easy, while the light controls and excellent visibility made easy work of parking. Because of the way electric cars deliver their power, the i-MiEV was also impressively swift when moving away from a standstill, and perfectly at home travelling at city speeds. Due to its silent running, though, you had to take extra care of pedestrians, who wouldn’t necessarily hear the i-MiEV approaching.
Outside of the urban environment, the i-MiEV was reasonably competent at keeping pace with traffic on B-roads was, but take it on the motorway and the limits of its 64bhp motor became clear. The sprint from 0-62mph took a glacial 15.9 seconds and the i-MiEV’s high sides meant it was subject to more wind buffeting than some cars.
Interior & comfort
The i-MiEV was serenely quiet
Despite being a futuristic electric car with modern looks, the i-MiEV’s interior was a slight disappointment, being almost unchanged from the conventional Mitsubishi i. The dashboard was logically laid out, if a little uninspiringly designed, but the quality of plastics used didn’t befit a car that cost almost £30,000.
Because it used an electric motor, the i-MiEV was almost silent on the road and this lead to a very relaxing driving experience. During faster driving, there was a slight whine from the motor and the lack of an engine note meant wind and tyre noise were relatively noticeable, but overall the i-MiEV was almost eerily quiet. Four adults could also squeeze in without making too many compromises and for its size the i-MiEV was a comfortable car.
Practicality & boot space
The i-MiEV was no less practical than its petrol-powered counterpart
Mitsubishi’s engineers placed the i-MiEV’s batteries where the fuel tank sat in the i, so passenger and boot space were unaffected compared to its conventionally powered sibling. True, two adults sitting in the back would rub elbows and the 166-litre boot was by no means commodious, but as a small city car, the i-MiEV was reasonably spacious, and the tall roof prevented any sense of claustrophobia from developing.
The i-MiEV’s biggest limitation, however, was the charging process. Mitsubishi provided a five-metre charging lead, but the manual cautioned against using an extension, so you had to be able to park close to a mains socket. Assuming you could make this arrangement work, a full charge took seven hours – although a dedicated public charging station would provide an 80% charge in just 30 minutes.
Reliability & safety
The electric motor and battery were robust, while safety was reasonable
Mitsubishi gave a fleet of i-MiEVs to Japanese power companies in the years leading up to its official release, and was careful to ensure that production cars were thoroughly tested and developed. The few moving parts and relative simplicity of an electric motor meant there was little to go wrong, while a five-year/62,500-mile warranty provided ample peace of mind.
The i-MiEV was also the first electric car to go through Euro NCAP’s safety assessments, and scored a reasonable four stars, with individual adult and child occupant ratings being 73% and 78%, respectively.
Price, value for money & options
The i-MiEV’s high asking price was hard to overlook
When it was on sale, the i-MiEV was eligible for a Government grant, which (at the time) stood at £4,500. Even after that discount, however, the i-MiEV still cost almost £25,000. For that sort of money, an entry-level BMW 3 Series or a well-equipped Audi A3 were within reach. You had to really, really want an i-MiEV to justify that asking price, although business users who bought one were eligible for tax exemptions. Standard equipment was slightly sparse: you had to pay extra if you wanted sat nav or an upgraded six-speaker stereo.