If you're expecting any kind of grunt, prepare to be disappointed. The i-MIEV is designed for city driving and short trips only. The car currently holds the top spot on the Australian Green Vehicle Guide and claims a maximum range of 150km on a full battery. But we'd experience range anxiety at about 90km.
It takes about seven hours to get the i-MiEV's electric battery to full charge, and Mitsubishi recommends a 15 Amp connection for recharging. That's the same kind of plug you'll find powering your stove, and one you'll need to spend extra money on to get an electrician to install in your garage.
Charging requirements rule out street parking, and given many inner-city dwellers don't have access to a garage or carport, we look forward to charging stations springing up in convenient locations in the future.
The i-MiEV goes from 0km/h to 100km/h in a snail-paced 14.3 seconds, but once it's doing 30km/h it responds well. It decelerates quickly at low speeds, the brakes feel powerful enough to stop the car safely and while steering is light, it's fairly direct. The ride is bouncy as it's a short wheel-based car with the batteries mounted below the rear seat.
With the motor just in front of the rear axle there's a lot of weight sitting in the back of the car. When driving behind a large truck the car tends to move from side to side due to the turbulence the truck creates – that's also a result of the light front end.
The driver's seat is firm and unsupportive, but that's no big problem as the car can't be used over long distances anyway. The air-conditioning makes travelling on a hot summer day comfortable and Mitsubishi claims it turns off when the battery range shortens.
No fuel means no engine noise, but there's a fair bit of tyre noise entering the car at higher speeds. The interior plastics are hard and basic. For taller drivers, it's a reasonable fit in the high cabin.
Savings and running costs
For a car with big eco claims, the fuel savings are disappointing. We found that although the car is much cheaper to run, it would take as long as 43 years for the savings to make up for the higher purchase price compared to a similar-sized petrol vehicle (based on using electricity or petrol at 2012 prices).
The cost breakdowns
For a full battery charge of seven hours: 2.4kW = 16.8kWh, *$0.22/kWh = $3.70 for a range of 150km (best case scenario), or about $2.50/100km.
A comparable small petrol car uses around 7L/100km in city driving, *$1.35/L = about $9.50/100km.
Using these figures the MiEV saves a best case $7/100km, or $700 over a yearly 10,000km.
Compared with a similar $18,000 small car, the MiEV is $30k more expensive. $30k price/$700 savings per year = 43 years to make up the difference in price (not counting finance, opportunity costs, etc).
*2012 data - electricity and petrol prices have regular fluctuations
The i-MIEV meets its claims, but given its current pricing, lack of savings and issues with charging, it's difficult for us to recommend it.
Battery range claimed vs measured: 150km/ 150km (<90km recommended)
Acceleration to 100km/h: 14.3s
ANCAP safety rating: 4 out of 5 stars