By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 10/14/2011
The recipe for the 2012 Mitsubishi i goes something like this: Take one award-winning small car sold in Europe and Asia, and add an electric powertrain to the mix. Sell 10,000 units. Take everything you've learned from the experience, make a few modifications to meet U.S. safety requirements, and then bring your zero-emissions electric vehicle (EV) to American shores. Sound appetizing so far? We think so. With a compelling rear-wheel 5-door hatch-bubble that seats four, emits zero emissions, is rated at 126 highway/99 city mpg equivalent (MPGe) and costs less than any other EV on the market, Mitsubishi could have something very sweet on their hands.
Interested in owning an electric vehicle, but find them to be a bit out of your price range? The 2012 Mitsubishi i is the most affordable EV on the market, starting for nearly $8,000 less than the Nissan Leaf.
Is your commute unpredictable? Want to be a 1-vehicle household? If you answered yes to either of these questions, the 2012 Mitsubishi i hatchback's approximately 62-mile range might not work from you. Options like the Toyota Prius, the Chevy Volt or a gasoline-powered high-mileage car such as the Mini Cooper or the Hyundai Elantra might be a better fit for your lifestyle.
On sale in select states in 2012 and nationwide in 2013, the 2012 Mitsubishi i is the most fuel-efficient mass-production vehicle money can buy for under $30k. Make that closer to $21,500 if you qualify for a $7,500 federal tax credit.
With light steering and compact dimensions, the 2012 Mitsubishi i is easy to maneuver in and out of congested city traffic. And with smooth and immediate power delivery - thanks to the vehicle's single-speed fixed reduction gear transmission and electric motor delivering 145 lb-ft of torque between 0-300 rpm - it's actually fun to drive. We just wouldn't recommend too many freeway trips if saving battery power is a concern, since frequent mashing of the throttle seriously diminishes the car's 62-mile range. To help curb a lead foot and put some regenerative energy back into the car's battery, the transmission can be put into "Eco" and "B" modes, respectively. We found the "B" mode to be especially helpful when descending hills, where the extra energy we generated with the brakes gave us a little extra juice around town.
We're still a long way from seeing electric cars from manufacturers that everyone can afford. Until that happens, it's nice to see an EV that fits into Average Joe's budget and not just the guy who buys one as a weekend novelty driver.
Sure, this little-bitty Mitsubishi hatchback slightly smaller than a Mini Cooper. But with a taller profile and a plenty of windows to let light in, the i feels more spacious inside.