Nuts & Bolts: 2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV

May 4, 2012

Bottom line: The 2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV makes perfect sense as a local commuter. It, at least, ought to see more service in “green” municipal fleets. That also goes for models such as the Ford Focus Electric, Nissan Leaf and Toyota Prius.

Ride, acceleration and handling: The i-MiEV gets good marks in all three. The ride can be electronically adjusted to extend driving range. Selecting “D” gives you more fun-to-drive. But it also consumes more battery power.

Head-turning quotient: The i-MiEV looks like something out of a cartoon comic book — a high-roof egg of a car evocative of giggles until you get to know it.

Body style/layout: The i-MiEV is a subcompact, rear-wheel-drive, all-electric car with four side doors and a rear hatch.

Power system: A 240-watt lithium-ion battery pack feeds an alternating-current, 49-kilowatt synchronous permanent magnetic motor to drive the rear wheels. Power is transmitted through a single-speed, fixed reduction gear. The electric motor’s maximum gasoline-power equivalent is 66 horsepower and 145 foot-pounds of torque.

Real-world driving range: I easily drove 40 to 50 miles per day, with 12 to 22 miles remaining in the battery pack, before plugging in to recharge overnight.

Capacities: Seats four people. Yes, that includes tall people. Cargo capacity is 13.2 cubic feet with 50-50 split rear seats raised. It is 50.4 cubic feet with those seats folded.

Maximum speed: A full battery charge can support speeds up to 81 mph. But the faster you go, the quicker the battery discharges.

Safety: Standard equipment includes ventilated front disc and rear drum brakes, four-wheel anti-lock brake protection, emergency braking assistance, front and rear head air bags, front side air bags, two front air bags, electronic stability and traction control, and electronic brake-force distribution.

Price: The 2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV SE i-MiEV driven for this column starts at $31,125. Dealer’s invoice price on that model is $30,456. Price as tested is $34,765, including $2,790 in options (premium sound system, onboard navigation with high-definition backup camera, hands-free link Bluetooth system with USB port, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, battery warming system, heated exterior mirrors) and an $850 destination charge. Dealer’s price as tested is $33,887. Buyers are eligible for a $7,500 federal tax rebate.

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