The biggest improvement electric cars need is in the price. And the latest electric-car maker to make that improvement is Mitsubishi, which just slashed the price of its golf-cartlike iMiev by more than 20 percent, to $23,845. That’s a $6,130 price drop from $29,975. (Toyota recently lowered the price on the Prius Plug-In.)
In addition, Mitsubishi has added some standard features, such as front heated seats, CHAdeMO DC quick charge port, rear door speakers, leather steering wheel trim, passenger-side vanity mirror, fog lights, and aluminum wheels. While these standard features sweeten the deal, they do underscore just how barebones the car was previously.
The iMiev is still eligible for a $7,500 federal electric vehicle tax credit that brings the price down to $16,345, or less where other state and local credits are available. Even at that reduced price, it still a lot of money for a car that feels like little more than an enclosed golf cart. The appeal lies solely in providing attainable access into the world of pure-electric cars. At this price, it becomes more feasible as a second, occasional-use car. (Visit our alternative fuel hub for more on electric cars and hybrids.)
When we tested the i-Miev, we found it may fulfill its mission as a basic, efficient urban runabout, but it's not a car in which anyone will be happy spending time.
The i-MiEV feels tiny, tinny, and slow, with clumsy handling and a bumpy ride. And its short cruising range—barely 60 miles in our tests—keeps you on a tight leash. Charging times are long, spanning between 6 and 7 hours for a full charge using 240-voltage.
The Spartan interior is cramped and unappealing, with seating limited to four people. Finally, the car's small size and slow responses make you feel vulnerable sharing the road with "real" cars.
Green-conscious buyers looking for routine transport would clearly be better off laying out some extra green for a more usable and pleasant car, such as the Ford Focus Electric or Nissan Leaf. (Read: "When it comes to electric cars, Ford shows Mitsubishi how it’s done.")
And for those not ready to make the leap into pure electrics, then the semi-electric Chevrolet Volt or a high-mileage hybrid, such as the Toyota Prius, would be a better fit.