Monday, January 14, 2013

Devon test drives an all-electric Mitsubishi



Electric cars are the future of green car technology. The whole concept of electric cars may not be new, but they are certainly packing new ways to extend range and make them more practical for everyday driving. With the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Mitsuhishi is trying to reach out to the buyers who are more budget minded. With the low starting price of the i-MiEV can Mitsubishi justify a reason to buy electric?

Performance: The i-MiEV's electric motor produces 66hp with 145lb-ft of pull, which means its really smooth around town. If you find yourself in stop and go traffic, or feel that you want to boost your range. There's an eco-button which reduces the power of the electric motor and helps extend the range of the battery. The i-MiEV has a top speed of 81mph, so highway driving isn't a 'no-go' for this car.

Ride & Handling: The i-MiEV is best left for urban use, where you can benefit from its tiny dimensions and tight turning circle. However, the steering can be quite heavy at parking speeds and the ride is never settled. Leave the city streets and the car is easily upset by crosswinds. The narrow front tires provide very limited grip and makes highway driving a pain.

Refinement: i-MiEV has a boat load of wind and road noise which makes you wonder if electric cars are as quiet as they say they are. You can hear small amounts of whirr from the electric motor at town speeds, on the highway the whirr turns into an irritating whine.

Behind the wheel: Getting comfortable behind the driver's seat is a rather mixed note. The driver's seat adjusts for height, but the steering wheel is fixed which means it will be difficult for some to get comfortable. The instrumental panel controls are rather fiddly and you'll have to stretch to reach them.

Space & Practicality: The i-MiEV is a strict four-seat vehicle, but it depends on who the four are. Headroom isn't a problem, legroom is the bigger problem if you want to squeeze two adults in the rear seat. Their knees will be in the backs of the front passengers due to the thinly padded seats. With four passengers aboard, the boot is very small.

Equipment: The base trim adds 120V portable charging cable, CD-playe with MP3 compatibility, air-con and regenerative braking system. Top of the range adds alloy-wheels, leather wrapped steering wheel, power windows and an upgraded sound system.

Buying & Owning: The benefits of having an electric car is not having to pay for fuel. Instead you'll be paying very little on your electric bill. The only trade-off is that your range is very limited and the actual use of the i-MiEV is limited unlike the Nissan Leaf.
Buying a i-MiEV isn't a cheap proposition either. A $7,500 tax credit does help take the sting out of the purchase price.

Quality & Reliability: The build quality seems solid enough, some of the materials in the interior feel rather cheap but have a sturdy feel. Mitsubishi has enjoyed average reliability, with the i-MiEV however it is still unknown.

Safety & Security: The i-MiEV comes with front and side airbags with a roof mounted airbag to protect drivers in the event of a rollover. Stability control and traction control are standared to help aid traction due to the narrow front tires. There is a vehicle security system and immobilizer system to help keep theft at bay.

The i-MiEV is fun to drive around town. There's enough space for four passengers and running costs are very low. However, the downsides outweigh the positives. The ride comfort and handling outside of city limits is poor. The front tires are narrow and the range of the battery limits the practicality of the vehicle. Even with the tax credit, the i-MiEV is expensive and way too impractical for what it is. A more conventional hybrid offers better range while a smiliar sized gasoline counterpart offers a lower purchasing price. If a electric car is what you want and you won't have any need to venture outside of the city or drive further than the battery range. The i-MiEV is worth a look.

Devon's Pick: The ES makes the most sense because it's the cheapest. We'd wait for the technology to get cheaper or more sophisticated. 

Likes: Most affordable electric car compared to others. Compact size and abundance of torque means its a breeze to drive around town. There's enough room for four and running costs of course are low.

Dislikes: Expensive to buy. Some of the cabin materials feel cheap. Steering wheel offers no adjustments, ride and handling is awful. The 'can't-go' far battery range limits practicality.

Devon M

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