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4-Door HB ESElectric
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|$ 22,500||$ 22,995|
The 2014 Mitsubishi i-MiEV, the smallest four-seat electric car available in the U.S., now comes with a far lower price than it did in 2012 (there was no 2013 model year). For 2014, Mitsubishi has cut the starting price of its little battery-electric car to $22,995 before incentives--that's a whopping $6,130 reduction--and added more standard equipment.
As a result, the little i-MiEV electric minicar now handily undercuts the Nissan Leaf (starting at $28,800) and even that of the two-seat Smart ForTwo Electric Drive, at $25,750 for the Coupe model. And the i-MiEV remains eligible for a $7,500 federal income-tax credit and a variety of state and local incentives, including a $5,000 tax credit in Georgia and a $2,500 purchase rebate in California, where it also qualifies for single-occupant access to the carpool lane.
The roots of the 2014 Mitsubishi i-MiEV are in a tiny minicar (the so-called kei car class) called the 'i'. The gasoline version of that car had a small three-cylinder gasoline engine mounted between the rear wheels and under the cargo deck.
The electrified version, now called the i-MiEV in the U.S. as it is elsewhere, replaces the engine, transmission, and gas tank with a 49-kilowatt (66-horsepower) electric motor driving the rear wheels, powered by a 16-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack mounted in the floor and under the rear seat. With an EPA efficiency rating of 112 MPGe combined (126 MPGe city, 99 MPGe highway), the i-MiEV is one of the most energy-efficient cars sold in the U.S. (MPGe is a measure of how many miles an electric car can cover on battery energy that equals the amount of energy contained in 1 gallon of gasoline.)
The rounded shape of the 2014 i-MiEV hasn't changed from that of previous model years, though there are a few interior trim updates. It remains a small car, but it has far more length and headroom inside than it would appear. Four six-foot adults can sit comfortably upright in the i-MiEV, although their shoulders may touch in this somewhat narrow car.
The inside is plain but functional, although the plastics are now somewhat dated looking and the overall trim is relatively sparse. The car rides smoothly, helped its wheels-at-the-corners long wheelbase, and the suspension is tuned for comfort. Cargo space is minimal, however, unless you fold down the rear seat.
Mitsubishi has made several features standard for 2014 that had previously been optional. Every 2014 i-MiEV now comes with heated front seats for both driver and passenger, heated door mirrors, daytime running lights and front fog lamps, rear door speakers, and a leather-covered steering wheel and shift knob.
The company provides a 120-volt Level 1 portable charging cable as standard, switchable between 8 amps and 12 amps, and the charging port now has a lamp in it to make nighttime recharging easier. But most important, Mitsubishi has made the CHAdeMO quick-charging port standard on every i-MiEV, meaning that the little car can use the same DC quick-charging stations now used by Nissan Leafs. These are still relatively few and far between, but there are enough in the Northwestern U.S. that Oregon and Washington use them to provide a so-called "Electric Highway" along various Interstates. This means that the i-MiEV can become a longer-distance car when needed, if the infrastructure is in place.
The little i-MiEV is at its best around town, where it's torquey and as quick off the line as most gasoline cars. With its very tight turning circle, it's also very easy to maneuver in crowded city streets. It may not be easy to park as the tiny Smart Electric Drive, but it's still far shorter than almost any other four-door car, so it's an ideal urban combat vehicle--if you have access to a charging station.
The EPA rates the i-MiEV's range at 62 miles, though in temperate weather and with gentle driving and making maximum use of the regenerative braking to recapture every possible watt-hour of energy, you can stretch that somewhat. It's less good at highway speeds, where its small size and relative lack of power above 50 mph make it a challenge in fast-moving traffic--not to mention that its driving range drops significantly at freeway speeds. Top speed is listed at 81 mph, but it's a struggle to get there--and stay there.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the 2014 i-MiEV four stars out of five for overall safety, with four stars for frontal crash and rollover safety, but only three stars out of five for side impact safety. The NHTSA also notes some concerns with the car's performance in NCAP safety tests that are not reflected in those ratings. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has not rated the i-MiEV at all. The 2014 i-MiEV model now has electronic stability control fitted as standard, as required by law.
Mitsubishi will never sell anything like as many i-MiEVs as Nissan will of the Leaf (or Tesla will of its Model S). But if you're looking for the least expensive plug-in electric car sold in the U.S. that complies with all passenger-car safety standards and can run at highway speeds, this is the one.
The 2014 Mitsubishi i-MiEV will go on sale in selected regions of the U.S. in the spring of 2014.
- Much lower 2014 price
- Nimble in town, easy to park
- Holds four adults
- Very energy-efficient
- High speeds eat range
- Marginal highway performance
- Cargo requires folding down seats