Mitsubishi i-MiEV: first report

What’s it like to live with an electric car? We’re about to find out, with the latest addition to our fleet...

  • The narrow body and tall stance may look ungainly, but in the i-MiEV you can see over other cars and fit through small gaps. There’s one slip road on my route home which is always jammed, and I’ve found I can filter up the side in the slim i-MiEV. That’s probably not making me very popular with other motorists though! Add the instant power delivery and there’s nothing else on four wheels that’s as good for scything through traffic.
  • The cream leather dash was a mistake. It reflects so badly in the windscreen that, in bright sunlight, the only way you can see out is to cover it with something dark – such as the car’s floor mats. Why did I have it fitted? And why did Mitsubishi not stop me? Also, the finish of the dash trim feels a bit ‘aftermarket’, and the Kenwood stereo is a little fiddly to use compared to some manufacturer-fitted items on other vehicles.

Is an electric motor really a viable alternative to the good old internal-combustion engine? To find out, I’ve grabbed the keys to the latest addition to the Auto Express long-term fleet – a Mitsubishi i-MiEV. Over the next three months I’ll be running the battery-powered machine as my only car to see what living with an electric vehicle is really like.

And when I say ‘only’ car, I mean exactly that. Obviously, working at Auto Express I’d normally have a lot of different vehicles at my disposal. But in the name of science, I’m going to be banned from driving any of them for 12 whole weeks. Any trip I undertake that isn’t for a specific review, I will use the i-MiEV.

If for some reason it’s not up to a particular task, whether due to the limited range, small size or because I forgot to charge it, my only alternative will be public transport or a vehicle rental.

I’ll be keeping a log of any such costs to calculate whether electric cars really do save you money in the long term. Thankfully, things have got off to a fine start. The i-MiEV’s eco-friendly credentials mean it’s exempt from central London’s Congestion Charge – although I did have to pay £10 to register it. However, I haven’t spent a single penny on fuel yet, as my local underground car park has free-to-use charge points. There’s even a discount on the parking itself, as an annual season ticket for an electric car costs £1,600 instead of £3,500.

In terms of the drive, the i-MiEV is proving to be the perfect town car. The instant response from the motor allows you to zip ahead of traffic, while the narrow body means you can squeeze through gaps which are normally reserved for motorbikes.

The Mitsubishi has also been getting a lot of attention, but that is mainly due to the matt black wrap I’ve had applied to the body. I thought the menacing finish would be a nice juxtaposition to the car’s goody-two-shoes image.

It’s part of a personalisation package offered on the i-MiEV, although I admit I got carried away when ticking the box for the £3,200 cream leather interior. While it looks good on the seats, and certainly brightens up the i-MiEV’s otherwise drab cabin, the light-coloured dash has already proven a massive mistake. It reflects so badly in the windscreen that when I collected the car from Mitsubishi Putney I had to cover the dash with the dark floor mats in order to see where I was going.

Over the next 12 weeks I will let you know how I deal with this, and what it’s like living with an electric car.

Mitsubishi i-MiEV

“This isn’t a car for shy and retiring types. During a drive around London, the matt black machine attracted more attention than a supercar. However, the smooth and silent power delivery make it the perfect urban companion, while the tall cabin is surprisingly spacious. I’m not sure about the cream leather trim, though....”

Owen Mildenhall, senior road tester

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