Drive Mitsubishi iMiEV Review

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Mitsubishi i MiEV

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QuickSpin: Mitsubishi i-MiEV

Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV is one very expensive electric city car.

PT2M51S http://news.drive.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-1tb1q 620 349 February 16, 2012

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Pros

You’ll never have to refuel it

About $3 to travel 100km

Good headroom

Respectable response

Cons

Expensive

Low-grip tyres particularly in the wet

Dislikes bumps

Sluggish on uphill takeoffs.

Being first can count for plenty when it comes to new technology. Bragging rights and the lessons learnt from being around longer can be turned into marketing gold — just ask Toyota, which is known as the leader in hybrid technology.

For Mitsubishi, the i-MiEV is its tilt at being first in the renewed electric car charge (sorry, couldn’t resist). The first mass-produced electric car to be sold in Australia, the i-MiEV is riding a wave of no-fuel newcomers that some believe will change what we drive.

Eschewing a fuel tank and engine for batteries and an electric motor, the i-MiEV isn’t about changing the world overnight or shelving traditional technology but instead proving there are alternatives.

Price and equipment

Value isn’t part of the i-MiEV sales pitch. At $48,800, it has less equipment than some $20,000 cars, with even things such as buttons on the steering wheel and cruise control conspicuously missing.


There is, however, a satnav system as well as Bluetooth connectivity and alloy wheels.

There’s also a warranty no doubt designed to give some peace of mind; the electric motor is covered by a 10-year warranty, while the batteries and rest of the car get five-year coverage.

Mitsubishi’s fixed-price servicing also gives some surety, with services every 15,000 kilometres alternating between $260 and $460.

Plus there’s the considerable bonus that you will never have to spend a cent on fuel.

Mitsubishi i MiEV

Under the bonnet

This is where the i-MiEV is very different and it all happens anywhere but under the bonnet. A bank of lithium-ion batteries sits under the seats, while there’s an electric motor between the rear wheels. Like many performance cars, it powers the rear wheels, although it’s for convenience, not dynamic ability.

Power output is a modest 49kW, which is about 20kW down on similarly sized city cars. Torque is meatier, though, and with the full 180Nm available from a standstill it zips along smartly.

While it’s perky enough when you’re on the move, the i-MiEV can feel sluggish on uphill takeoffs.

But you never forget that the i-MiEV has a limit to how far it will travel before it needs recharging. A trip computer housed next to the digital speedo estimates how far you’ll get and it’s a display you spend plenty of time looking at. Thankfully, it’s fairly accurate and if you find yourself running low you can add about 10 kilometres to the estimate by turning off the airconditioning.

When you get home (or to work or the shops) it’s a case of flipping the fuel door and plugging the chunky cable into a 15-amp plug. The battery holds 16 kilowatt hours of electricity, which means a full charge will cost about $2.50 or $3, depending on your plan.

How it drives

It may be advanced in the drivetrain stakes but the i-MiEV is at the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to its driving nous. Small, skinny tyres offer marginal grip in the dry that turns to poor in the wet.

It’s not helped by the tall, skinny body that leans in bends, albeit not as much as expected because all the heavy bits (batteries and motors) are right down low.

Bumps are also a bit of a problem for the i-MiEV. Suspension travel is minimal, so the descent from a large speed bump can reach its limits.

Comfort and practicality

Taller than the average city hatchback, the i-MiEV is narrow and smaller than popular small cars such as the Toyota Corolla and Mazda3.

Up front that lack of width is particularly noticeable, with occupants likely to be rubbing shoulders. In the rear there are only two seats and even then it’s close quarters.

Mitsubishi i MiEV

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