Road Test: 2013 Mitsubishi i

The 2012 Mitsubishi i was named a 10 The 2012 Mitsubishi i was named a 10 Best green car by Kelley Blue Book. Photo Credit: Scripps Howard News Service/Mitsubishi

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Let's start with this car's name. It's the Mitsubishi i, the company's first mass-produced electric automobile. In the rest of the world, it's known as the i-MiEV, which stands for Mitsubishi Innovative Electric Car. Neither name is memorable, but at least the second one makes sense in an unpoetic, corporate-speak way.

By contrast, the car's egg-like shape is wonderfully odd. What a shame that such memorable styling was saddled with an unimaginative name. But its ovoid shape merely reinforces its most distinctive trait: It's an all-electric car, one of a handful on the market.

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    This four-door, four-passenger subcompact is tiny -- just more than 12 feet long. Its short but tall body feels roomier than it really is, thanks to its large windows and tall roof. Legroom is acceptable for taller drivers, but still somewhat cramped.

    The cabin is functional in its design and ambience. It has a Spartan quality, as if designers had to watch every yen spent. Electric battery technology is expensive, not to mention fussy.

    The one thing you learn is that batteries are like people; they don't like it too hot or too cold. According to Mitsubishi, below 32 degrees, the i's battery pack recharges more slowly than it normally does, necessitating an optional $150 Cold Zone Package. By contrast, after five years in warmer climes, the batteries will retain only 80 percent of their original capacity. That falls to 70 percent after 10 years.

    Maybe this explains why the test vehicle never recharged to more than a 70-mile range. This sounds sufficient until you start the car and turn on the air-conditioning. This is enough to easily drop your range by eight miles, or about 10 percent.

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    Most of the time, I used the normal drive gear to extract the most from the 49Kw electric motor, which develops 66 hp. and 145 pound-feet of torque. When streets were empty and I was in no danger of enraging fellow motorists with an excessively slow pace, I used the Eco mode.

    The car's electric battery pack is placed ahead of the rear axle, which Mitsubishi claims protects it in the event of an accident. Given there's no room to place them after the rear axle, it seems as if engineers had little choice.

    Still, this is a car that has a lot of space for its overall size, but a fairly limited range.

    Even though it's less expensive than every other electric car, the Mitsubishi i is a pricey commuter car for those who want to shrink their carbon footprint.

     

     

    2012 MITSUBISHI i

     

    Motor: AC electric

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    Wheelbase: 100.4 inches

    Length: 144.8 inches

    Weight: 2,595 pounds

    Cargo space: 13.2-50.4 cubic feet

    EPA fuel economy rating: 126 city/99 highway MPGe

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    Base price: $29,125

    Price as tested: $35,065

    Bottom line: Futuristic but pricey, with limited range.

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