By Keith Buglewicz
KBB Expert Rating: 4.9
The 2017 Mitsubishi i-MiEV is a great example of the difference between price and value. With a base price of less than $24,000, the i-MiEV is the least expensive electric car available in the U.S. Its tiny dimensions means it is easy for it to slip into narrow parking spots, and of course you get priority parking at recharging stations. However, none of that makes it a good value. The cabin feels crude, the ride is jittery at best, and its 62-mile projected range isn't just small to start with, in our experience it's also wildly optimistic. The Nissan Leaf is far more comfortable and offers better range, and the Chevrolet Spark EV offers a considerably nicer interior and better range, for only about $1,000 more.
The i-MiEV's shortcomings start with its 60-mile range, which could be beaten by a carefully driven Chevy Volt, a car that isn't even a pure EV. It seats only four, its interior is sparse and offers few amenities, it's uncomfortable, odd-looking, and takes 20 hours to charge.
KBB Expert Ratings
The 2017 i-MiEV rolls into the new year unchanged from 2016.
Mitsubishi’s 2017 i-MiEV is the kind of electric vehicle that gives EVs a bad name. Pros are decent acceleration from a dead stop, plus quick steering and a tiny footprint...
... that makes it maneuverable in parking lots. But that's about it. It takes forever to get to a 60-mph freeway speed, and once there the ride is jittery and uncomfortable. That's fine if you never go over about 40 mph and stay close to home, or at least close to a good charging network, as we found the i-MiEV's purported 62-mile range to be wildly optimistic. Not only will you need to go extremely light on the throttle, you'll have to forgo any climate controls as well...have fun on a hot or cold day. To help, the transmission offers Eco and B-modes, with the "B" especially helpful at slowing the car using regenerative braking when descending hills.
The low price is far and away the best thing about the Mitsubishi i-MiEV. It undercuts the Nissan Leaf by about $6,000, and the Chevy Spark by $1,000. Deduct federal tax credits and state incentives -- $7,500 and $2,500 in California, for example -- it comes out to less than $14,000.
While we're not wowed by the looks, we have to admit there's a lot of space in this tiny car. The tall profile, big windows and hatchback design maximize space, as do the compact electric motor and battery pack placed underneath the rear seat.
Proponents of the i-MiEV would call its interior "purposeful," but we just call it cheap. The dash is drab and feels cheap, and the entire interior is awash in hard lowball-feeling plastics. The 7-inch navigation system dresses it up a little, but it's small comfort. Most EVs have a fancy instrument cluster that shows your driving habits to help you save on electrons, but the i-MiEV sticks to the basics. There's room for four, and it's surprisingly roomy-feeling thanks to the ample headroom. Just pack light, as the cargo space behind the rear seats is pretty small.
"Bubble car" is what comes to mind when looking at the Mitsubishi i-MiEV. Whether that's a good or bad thing is up to you, but it's unique either way. Some might think the elongated headlights, sharply cut rear end, and balloonish shape make it "cute." More cynical types see a golf cart with delusions of grandeur. Its four doors do open wide, and the high roof makes it easy to get in and out. The hatchback makes loading cargo a snap, and the 144.7-inch length means it's shorter than even a Mini Cooper Hardtop, and a breeze to park.
The 2017 Mitsubishi i-MiEV comes in only one model -- ES -- and amenities are few. There are heated front seats, which use less energy than the heater in the heater setting on the climate control. There's also a 6-speaker/100-watt AM/FM/CD audio system, keyless entry, folding rear seats and a 6-way manual-adjust driver's seat. Also standard is a Level 3 DC quick-charge port that can get the battery up to 80 percent in about 30 minutes.
There's only one really notable option for the 2017 Mitsubishi i-MiEV, and that's the Navigation Package. It adds a 7-inch touch-screen display to the cockpit that gives you 3D mapping, real-time traffic and points of interest. It also offers voice command, Bluetooth wireless connectivity, a USB port, and steering-wheel controls for audio, Bluetooth functions, and a rearview camera, making it worth the $2,000. Other add-ons are limited to accessories like a map light, rear parking sensors and a USB kit for iPods.
The i-MiEV's short hood hides nothing, really, since the powerplant itself is actually behind the rear seat. Comprising an electric motor, a fixed-reduction-gear transmission and a 16 kWh lithium-ion battery (with an 8-year/100,000-mile limited warranty), it delivers 66 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque to this little hatchback's rear wheels. Top speed is 80 mph, so short freeway trips are possible when there's enough charge. On a regular 120-volt home outlet, a full charge for the i-MiEV takes nearly a day -- 22 hours. On a 240-volt outlet, that time is cut to six hours. A public "Level 3" quick-charging station can charge the battery to 80 percent in about 30 minutes.
AC synchronous permanent magnetic motor
16 kWh lithium-ion battery pack
66 horsepower @ 3,000-6,000 rpm
145 lb-ft of torque @ 0-300 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy equivalent: 126/99 mpge
EPA-estimated range per full charge: 62 miles
A 2017 Mitsubishi i-MiEV has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) just under $24,000 when you include the $850 destination charge. The Navigation Package -- which we strongly recommend -- adds another $2,000. The $7,500 federal tax credit takes off a big chunk, of course, and state credits reduce prices further for those who qualify. It's the least expensive EV you can buy, some $6,000 less than the Nissan Leaf or Ford Focus EV. However, the Chevy Spark EV is nicer to drive and only about $1,000 more. Plus there are a ton of gasoline-powered alternatives for less than $20,000, such as the Honda Fit or Kia Soul. But if you're set on an i-MiEV, check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area paid, and don't expect your i-MiEV to hold its value, as it's near the bottom of an already weak class of cars.