Perhaps it's telling that Mitsubishi's all-electric acronym, the city car known as the i-MiEV (Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle), was trucked to us from Miami. The bulbous little car has a range of 62 miles when fully charged. So, how is it in the city? We had it for only a couple of days, but we got the general idea.
Appearance: Pick your description: a bug, an eggplant or a jelly bean. Lyra thought it looked like an anime character with its long, upswept headlights and parking- and fog-light dimples. Contributing to the cuteness factor: small, 15-inch alloy wheels. Despite its diminutive size, the i-MiEV is a four-door hatchback.
Performance: The rear-wheel-drive i-MiEV has a single fixed-gear transmission and is powered by a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery mounted to the chassis floor, which helps keep the center of gravity low and takes up less passenger space. The i-MiEV has instant torque and decent acceleration from a standstill. So what's it like on the interstate? The speed is adequate — topping out at about 80 mph — but because of the car's size and light weight, you'll feel every gust, whether from wind or large trucks. Lyra found some merging frightening; Peter did not. Overall, the ride is a bit rough. What about "range anxiety"? Lyra, who has a 32-mile commute each way, had one-third of a charge left. She kept one eye on the gauge the entire drive ("kind of stressful"), hoping she didn't get stuck in Howard Frankland traffic. But if your daily drive is short, then the i-MiEV is made for you.
Charging: You can plug the i-MiEV into a regular 120-volt outlet, with it taking up to 22.5 hours for a full charge. The charging box on the standard-issue cable is heavy, so you shouldn't let it dangle from a wall outlet. (And, as Peter learned, you can't use extension cords with the i-MiEV's cable.) There's also an available (and recommended) 240-volt, wall-mounted garage dock that reduces charging time to seven hours. But a home inspection and installation are required. Commercial quick-charge stations are popping up in the bay area. You can get an 80 percent capacity charge in 30 minutes. Mitsubishi has an app to look for nearby charging stations, but Lyra preferred the Recargo app ( recargo.com).
Interior: The i-MiEV seats four, with surprisingly adequate headroom and legroom, even in the back seats. Score one for the car's odd shape. The seats, however, are narrow. The rest of the cabin is minimalist and plastic-y, a result of the car's low-for-an-EV price. The instrument-panel gauges are simple, with a digital speedometer in the center and a too-small power-charge indicator off to the side. Otherwise, our tester was loaded: Bluetooth, rearview camera and a 40GB hard drive for navigation and music server with real-time traffic capability. We wish the screen had more intuitive controls. The cargo area is decent, enough for a small grocery trip.
Our 3 favorites
Size: It's just right for city driving and has a tight turning radius.
Plug: The handle-shaped plug-in charger is easy to connect.
Affordable for an EV? The base price is $21,625 plus delivery after the $7,500 federal tax credit. Lyra Solochek
Less maintenance: Fewer wear-and-tear parts compared with regular cars.
Color: Raspberry Metallic says "look at me" without the blinding hues.
Green: Zero emissions.
The bottom line: The quirky-looking i-MiEV is fine for its intended "urban environment," but you'll really have to consider your driving needs before springing for this green machine.