While the MiEV wasn’t designed, ground-up, as an electric vehicle like the Leaf, you might suspect that it had been; that’s because the rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout of the gasoline-powered Mitsubishi i minicar proved to be especially friendly for packaging a battery pack and electric-drive components. The surprisingly small 16 kWh (330V) lithium-ion battery is placed low, beneath the floor of the vehicle.
And its slab-sided, boxy body is a good thing for fitting people and stuff. MiEV is shockingly spacious inside, with more than 50 cubic feet of cargo space when you fold the 50/50-split backseats forward. Cargo space is a lot smaller with those seats up, but the back seats are actually usable for adults.
Even those far over six feet tall fit just fine in the back seat, with enough headroom, along with enough knee room provided the occupant ahead wasn’t back all the way. The big drawback when it comes to interior space is width; the MiEV is just 62.4 inches wide—which is already about eight inches wider than the Japanese-market version; unfortunately very little of that added width—used to install side-curtain airbags, and to widen the track a few inches—carries over to the interior.
Controls and switchgear in the i feel remarkably straightforward, bordering on drab. And the entire climate-control setup looked a bit like part of an older audio-system faceplate.
The Mitsubishi i has a surprisingly comfortable ride—definitely tuned on the soft side—while the wheels positioned way out to the corners help completely avoid the fore-aft bobbing motion that can make short cars hard to tolerate on choppy roads. The rather tall sidewalls and a somewhat soft suspension calibration probably go a long way toward reducing road noise; it’s very quiet inside, with very little engine whine—though at 22 mph and below you hear a light-saberish sound that’s supposed to alert pedestrians.