2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV Drive & Review


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“Like a smart car, but better.”

That was the first thing I heard a complete stranger say right in front of me about the all-electric 2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV which the manufacturer lent me for a week of test drives last month. It was to be only the beginning of the kind of attention the car garnered as I drove all around Los Angeles to try it out.


My first thought upon seeing the MiEV being delivered to my door was “cute.” That’s not a word I normally use when discussing automobiles, as most any car deemed “cute” would never normally be on my radar. But the MiEV is, in fact, cute.

MiEV Review

The car I was lent was purple – which I found to be a little odd – and it was an egg-shaped, slightly awkward-looking compact car. It sort of resembled my idea of a future car when I used to doodle them on my notebooks back in school. Its wheels were tiny, almost golf-cart sized, and it looked easy to park and fun to drive. After getting instructions on how to charge it and operate the buttons inside, I was left to my own devices with the kind of car I had never driven before: a battery-powered one with no gas tank.


Upon climbing inside the MiEV, I was amazed at just how spacious the interior was. Wow. With tons of headroom and plenty of room to stretch, the interior is way bigger than it looks like it could be from the outside. Up front there is plenty of room for two adults and the back seat was comfortable enough for either a few kids or some adults going on a shorter trip. The visibility out the front window was great. Being over 6 feet tall, I did wish the front driver’s seat went back another inch or so, but it was decently comfortable. The steering wheel, however, didn’t tilt nor telescope, which I did not appreciate as it is at a strange angle. I found myself continually searching for adjustment levers which did not exist.

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  1. There are a few adaptations I made as an i-MiEV owner which improves the experience significantly:
    1. upgrade the charging adapter which comes with the car so it can run at either 120V or 240V and draw 12 amps instead of only 8.

    2. install an app like PlugShare or Recargo on a smartphone with a cellular data plan to make up for the poor NAV system. (I opted to get the ordinary stereo instead: a few thousand dollars saved, there.

    3. I deliberately ran down to turtle mode once so that I understood how the vehicle behaves when the battery is nearly exhausted. This also calibrates the battery and makes the range estimate more accurate.

    I’d also mention that my i-MiEV reliably quick charges to 80 percent in 20 minutes. The LEAF is closer to 30 but it has a larger battery which holds more energy. Having quick chargers available really takes the edge off of “range anxiety”.

    Feel free to ask me anything. Cheers!

    1. Thanks for the info, Lee. It’s always helpful to hear from real-world owners of EVs, since eventually we are all going to be driving them! I did like the car, though, it was fun 🙂

  2. I’d also point out that if you can do a level 2 charge at work then a 40 mile commute in either direction is quite possible. Most people in the US don’t drive more than 40 miles on the average day.

    You might also mention in the PRO category that you can use the HOV lane with this EV as a single occupant. I’m sure that’s worth something to many people in your fair state.

  3. The “B” option on the shifter is actually maximum regenerative braking mode. This is meant for travelling down steep grades where you want to control speed without riding the brake pedal (even though the mechanical brakes don’t engage until you’re nearly stopped). The acceleration curve under “B” is the same as “D”, only in Eco mode does it dampen down the pickup unless the pedal is all the way on the floor. I’ve timed my acceleration while stomping on the pedal from a standing start: it’s identical for all three modes.

  4. Not to complain overmuch (this really is a very thoughtful and helpful review), but this does leave wrong impressions on a few points. For those interested, clarifications follow.

    All those nice features “found on pricier cars”? Pricier than what – THIS car? The top-line SE Premium, which is what was loaned to this reviewer, weighs in at nearly $35k, NOT the $29,975 listed under PROS. Bluetooth integration, nav, and steering wheel controls are offered on vehicles costing quite a bit less than that. So basically, it’s that low, low price OR the “full range of tech hookups” – not both.

    On the other hand, all the non-toy gear, like the heated driver’s seat (the other seats are NOT heated on ANY version), pwr windows/locks/mirrs, airbags, ABS, traction control, A/C, are NOT limited to “this model.” ALL i-MiEVs sold in the U.S. include that equipment, including the base “ES” trim line (that is the one with the $29,975 price listed under PROS).

    There are 3 cupholders in the i-MiEV, though I notice many reviewers (like this one) don’t see them and Mitsubishi seems to do a poor job of orientation/prep when delivering the car to those reviewers. The one in the center of the passenger compartment (betweeen and behind the front seats, so I guess those in the back seat can tussle over it) is obvious enough. But the front passengers each get their own, which flips down from the dash, right under the side vents – someone would have to show you, because they just look like part of the dashboard.

    Potential buyers should be aware that the 8-year-100k-mi “warranty” on the battery is only against defects in material or construction. It specifically does NOT cover “normal” degradation of capacity over time, as similarly “protected” LEAF owners have been learning to their grief in Arizona this past summer. If you don’t regularly: slam the accelerator or the brakes, deeply discharge it or let it sit fully charged, operate it at very high temperatures with the A/C off (which cools the battery pack as well as you), or Level 3 QuickCharge it, there’s a good chance you’ll have something like 80% capacity left after 5 years, maybe 70% after 10. But abuse those batteries and they can lose capacity faster than that. And don’t forget that’s off the EPA’s original estimated 62 mile range, so the car might not meet your needs after several years if you need to go more than 40-50 mi. between charges.

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