I have owned many cars in the past, each with their own quirks and idiosyncrasies, but none of them have been such a mix of high-end features and low-end cost cutting as the i-MiEV.
To be fair, Mitsubishi started off with their Japanese kei car — a very low-cost, small-engined car designed to stay under specific parameters to get cheap insurance rates. Kei cars must have 660cc (0.6 liters!) or smaller gasoline engines, for example. While these tiny, relatively underpowered vehicles seem odd to North Americans, they are incredibly popular in Japan. Since the cities are densely packed, you don’t need to go far or fast in Japan.
The Mitsubishi i was then converted to the electric i-MiEV in Japan in 2009. (The gas-powered model is still sold.) Since much of the rest of the world wanted an electric vehicle, Mitsubishi started selling the i-MiEV in other countries. To sell the car legally in the US, Mitsubishi had to make some significant modifications, including increasing the width, length, and height of the car. The major benefit was being able to sell the vehicle in California, allowing Mitsubishi to collect emissions credits and sell their other vehicles in that state.
When I received my i-MiEV, I was surprised with it, especially since I got the cheapest model there is. The sheer lack of noise while driving makes the car seem like a higher-class vehicle. In truth, only the Smart ForTwo is smaller. The car was painted in a beautiful, pearlescent white that, on other cars is an extra-cost option. It features a heated driver’s seat, power windows, power locks with remote, motorized side mirrors, and a specialized remote control that allows you to pre-heat or pre-cool your car. It even has automatic climate control. Fancy!
On the other hand, the rear-view mirror doesn’t have a dimming function. The passenger’s side sun visor has no mirror, though the driver’s does. There are front speakers with separate tweeters in the dash, but no rear speakers. The wires are there and functional, but no speakers.
Although the i-MiEV started off life as a gas-powered vehicle, it doesn’t have the problems many conversions have. The Ford Focus EV loses about 2/3rds of its cargo space for the battery. The Honda Fit EV loses its “magic seats”. The i-Miev has none of those problems. Cargo space is unaffected, which is impressive given that its motor and reduction gear are under the rear cargo area. The seats fold completely flat, leaving a very large, flat load floor. Impressive, Mitsubishi!