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When it comes to electric cars, Ford shows Mitsubishi how it’s done

Reviews of the Ford Focus Electric and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV

Consumer Reports magazine: March 2013

 

They’re easy to maintain, environmentally friendly, and inexpensive to operate. Still, plug-in electric cars haven’t yet clicked with mainstream drivers, largely because of their limited range, long charging time, and relatively high sticker prices. Alas, as the song goes, “it’s not easy being green.”

So should drivers who travel only short distances each day even consider an electric car as a way to save fuel and money? The answer might depend as much on the car as it does on driving habits.

We tested the Ford Focus Electric and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, which join the previously tested Nissan Leaf as the first widely available all-electric vehicles. The Focus is the nicest of the three. It builds on the great handling and refinement of the conventional Focus and adds instant, silent power and the second best fuel efficiency we’ve recorded, the equivalent of 107 mpg (or 3.18 miles per kilowatt-hour).

The smaller i-MiEV squeezes out the equivalent of 111 mpg overall, or 3.28 miles per kWh, making it the most energy-­efficient car we’ve tested. But in almost every other way, the i-MiEV is everything we feared an electric car might be. It’s slow, chintzy, cramped, and so far off the mark that we often felt it was closer to being a glorified golf cart than an actual car.

Yes, the Focus Electric costs about $41,000, compared with $33,630 for the i-MiEV. But if you’re sold on going gas free, the Focus is clearly the better choice. Both cars qualify buyers for a $7,500 federal income tax credit, which offsets a good chunk of the cost. We also suggest that electric-car owners buy a dedicated 240-volt Level 2 charger, which should cost $750 to $1,600 and can provide a full charge in just a few hours.

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