Driving the i-Miev around San Francisco, I came to the conclusion that I could simulate the Eco mode merely by using a lighter foot on the accelerator and applying the brake pedal when coasting. It seemed like the friction brakes on the car got very little use during my time with the car.
B mode does not affect the acceleration, but applies the heaviest level of brake regeneration when coasting. Using it while going down a San Francisco hill, I found it began to slow the car too much, so that I actually had to give it a little acceleration to keep up with traffic.
The EPA rates the i-Miev at 112 MPG equivalent, using its formula for comparing electric to gas usage. The Leaf is only rated 99 MPGe, although it gets substantially more range.
As a test of the i-Miev's range gauge, I took a trip through San Francisco, from the Marina to CNET HQ. I zeroed the trip meter and noted the range showing 20 miles left. This trip involved two major hill climbs, which were somewhat mitigated by the resulting downhill braking regeneration. There was also downtown traffic, with stoplights every block or so.
This journey covered 4.7 miles, according to the trip meter, but used up 6 miles of range. Given the hills, I was impressed that the difference was so slight. On flat ground, the i-Miev should easily measure up to its EPA range.
With the Premium package in CNET's car, a big navigation head unit dominated the center of the dashboard. But Mitsubishi does not take good advantage of all that prime LCD real estate for the electric i-Miev. There are no screens relating to the electric power train at all, and I was amused to see that one of the main points-of-interest categories was gas stations. Well, those tiny tires will occasionally need air.
Despite the lack of useful power-train information on this head unit, the navigation system offers a useful array of features. It shows maps in 2D only, but they are stored on the hard drive, making the response times quick. The system also integrates traffic data, showing it on the map and using it to route around bad traffic jams.
The route guidance from the system is not flashy, but it does show useful information such as the appropriate lanes to be in at freeway junctions. The touch-screen keyboard works well for manually entering addresses, but I found the POI interface baffling. Choosing a category, for example, merely led me back to the search screen when I tried to select a location entry.
The CD slot is hidden behind the LCD, which flips down at the touch of a button. This arrangement is ultimately clunky, but there is very little reason to use the CD player when the car also offers a USB port for iPod or USB drive, Bluetooth audio streaming, and space for music on the navigation system's hard drive.
Unexpectedly for an electric car, the audio system uses a robust, 360-watt amp, powering eight speakers. I liked the placement of the tweeters, which were very far forward on the dashboard, at the base of the windshield, and pointing back into the cabin. This placement resulted in crisp and well-separated sound with good staging. The low end was a bit lacking, though, as the system would benefit from a subwoofer.
The 2012 Mitsubishi i-Miev's electric drive system means home charging at rates likely to be much lower than the cost per mile of gasoline. The i-Miev's MPG equivalent rating is also a testament to the efficiency of its power train. But limited range and the car's poor freeway performance restrict its usefulness to a few very specific situations.
The available cabin tech is decent, but shows no integration with the electric nature of the car. And when optioned up, as CNET's car was, the price becomes equivalent to that of the Nissan Leaf, which has greater general capabilities, including better range and stabler driving at speed.
The easily accessible cabin, front and rear, is testament to some thoughtful engineering, considering the short overall length. And its size makes it very good in the city, nicely maneuverable in heavy traffic and on narrow streets. Not everyone will like its looks, but it is an unmistakable design, easily separated from the many homogenous sedans on the road.
|Model||2012 Mitsubishi i-Miev|
|Power train||49-kilowatt electric motor, 16 kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery pack|
|EPA fuel economy||112 MPGe|
|Observed fuel economy||Not tested|
|Navigation||Optional hard-drive-based with traffic data|
|Bluetooth phone support||Optional|
|Disc player||MP3-compatible single-CD|
|MP3 player support||iPod integration|
|Other digital audio||Onboard hard drive, Bluetooth streaming, USB drive, satellite radio|
|Audio system||360-watt 8-speaker system|
|Driver aids||Rearview camera|
|Price as tested||$35,065|