By Cars.com EditorsMay 15, 2012
About the video
The new four-door all-electric Mitsubishi i-MiEV (also known as the Mitsubishi i) is the most affordable EV available in the U.S., with a price that undercuts the Nissan Leaf by more than $6,000.
(upbeat music) <v Instructor>Cars.com auto reviews. Hi, I'm Joe Wiesenfelder with cars.com and I just put a few 100 miles on a new 2012 Mitsubishi I electric car. It used to be called the i-MiEV, now they're just going with I.
It is the most affordable electric car in the country now just over $29,000, that saves more than $6,000 versus the nissan leaf, which is the most established battery electric. In addition to being more affordable, it's actually more efficient too. So, it should be less money to operate. Unfortunately, you give up some things, actually a lot of things. For one thing, the EPA rated range is 62 miles versus the leaf's 73. Then there's the driving. This is not as quick, even though it's more powerful than the version sold in Japan. It's not as quick as the leaf, especially off the line, the handling isn't quite as good. The electrics tend to feel grounded with all that way to the battery and this one's a little bit more top-heavy, it wanders quite a bit on the highway, even when there's no wind and the handling just not great in terms of grip. These front tires are 145 spec that is 5.7 inches wide. I have not seen a tire this narrow in a long time. The I does have some decent standard features that it has your power windows, side mirrors, door locks, remote keyless entry, all good stuff. We have complained about our leaf, not having a telescoping steering wheel and only tilts. Here in the mitsubishi, neither one, it's terrible. Fortunately for adjustability, the driver seat does have a seat height adjustment, which is extremely important even with it all the way up. I got lots of headroom, so it's a small car and I'm a little bit snug. My legs are not out as far as I want them to be with the seat all the way back, but for a car of its size, it's probably a little bit more room inside than you would expect. The interior quality of electric cars isn't exactly great to begin with. The leaf has nothing to get too excited about. The mitsubishi I, I might say it's maybe a step below and bear in mind that this is not the base. Yes, this is the SE which costs $2,000 more. That gives you stuff like the leather wrapped steering wheel, leather wrap shift knob, silver accents on the dashboard. It's actually a two-tone dashboard. Upgraded upholstery, yes this is upgraded upholstery. This car also has the optional premium package for an extra $2,790, in addition to the quick charge port on the outside that adds a steering wheel stereo controls and the navigation system with a backup camera included. So, you see what's happened here. We have added almost $5,000 to that entry price, and there are still some things we don't have. You can't get cruise control and the ventilation system is manual. You can't get the automatic climate control that's on the leaf. Also, one of the things that does come with the car, even the base one is this remote control. It has a little antenna on it. What it lets you do, is send a signal to the car and it tells you what your battery level is, but it only has three little segments, lets you turn the heat and the air conditioning on too. It's kinda neat, when you think about it, the other vehicles in this class, the chevy volt, the nissan leaf and the upcoming Ford focus electric, all have more ambitious iphone and other smartphone apps that let you see much more detail as well. The backseat of the I is actually roomier again than you might expect. It's not terrific for long runs, but the range isn't that long anyway, my knees are raised a bit. It is a two position back seat, but thankfully there's no center console like there is in the chevy volt. So, it should be easier to install child safety seats. You've got reclining backrests, et cetera. All of this roominess, as it were, takes its toll in the cargo area. The hatchback body style makes the best of the available room. It's not terrible, but it's also not super roomy. Thankfully, as usual the seats fold flat, I have to say the way they package this car. So, you have the backseat room when you need it and you can fold down and get more cargo space. When you need that overall for the size of the car. When you view it from the outside, it's pretty well put together on the inside. You can get details on the charging times and other things in my full review at cars.com. In brief, the 2012 mitsubishi I may be cheaper than the nissan leaf, but I have to say people who are buying electric cars these days aren't necessarily doing it to save money in the long run. They just want to drive electric. And if you wanna drive electric, I have to think even for $6,000 more, the leaf is a better car than this one. (upbeat music) <v Instructor>For more car related news, go to cars.com or our blog kickingtires.net.