Tested: Mitsubishi’s iMiEV & XR Electric Vehicles (EVs)

Mitsubishi’s iMiEV & XR Electric Vehicles (EVs) - the good, the bad and the ugly. But can it compete in the luxury EV market?


LOS ANGELES, February 20, 2015 — What is so wrong with Mitsubishi’s 2014 iMiEV and what’s so right with its stunning zero-emissions XR PHEV, which was launched to much design acclaim last fall at the L.A. Auto Show?


Sure, Mitsubishi’s iMiEV looks fun and funky. It has that cute-as-a-bug exterior design for those who are ready to go sustainable electric, not only to go green and get noticed but also to zip around in traffic without hitting a gas station ever again.

Although the iMiEV may just be a “compliance” vehicle, Mitsubishi may turn its EV game around with the fashion-forward XR. Could Mitsu have an answer with its futuristic sedan and an electric motor with technology in its trophy-winning MiEV Evolution III racing car? Could Mitsu’s XR compete with other luxury EVs such as Tesla or Cadillac ELR?

Where’s Your Electric Avenue?

This automotive journalist and EV expert was invited to test Mitsubishi’s first generation iMiEV on an exciting trip down Portland’s self-described “Electric Avenue” several years back. Cruising in LA’s Hollywood Hills, this new weeklong test of a 2014 iMiEV was, unfortunately, not as memorable.

Mitsubishi clams it has “sold more than 30,000 iMiEV (and iMiEV-based) production vehicles in the United States, Europe and Asia.”


Unfortunately, Mitsu’s first generation iMiEV met the disdain of many an auto reviewer and failed to sell well. This is perhaps why Mitsubishi has lowered the price of its 2014 iMiEV to just $22,995. Mitsu says this represents a $6,130 price reduction “after factoring in the federal tax credit of $7,500” bringing down the “net MSRP…to only $15,495.”

In California, there’s an additional “state EV financial incentive of up to $2,500, which could bring the total price to as low as $12,995,” so says Mitsubishi. Will this “net” reduction sell more iMiEVs around the globe and most especially here in Southern California?

Still, for a potential $12,995 (in California) or $15,495 (in other states), what comes standard on this vehicle? How does it drive and what about charging issues? For 2014, Mitsubishi has thankfully added a DC quick charge port, a battery warming system and heated side view mirrors to its 2014 iMiEV. Here’s a list of other standard features:

–Driver and passenger heated seats
–CHAdeMO DC quick charge port
–Battery warming system
–Heated side view mirrors
–Rear speakers
–8A/12A switchable Level 1 charging cable
–Charge port lamp
–Leather-covered steering wheel and shift knob
–Passenger-side vanity mirror with lid
–Decorative color and interior trim upgrade
–Aluminum wheels
–Front fog lights
–Daytime running lights
–Black-out door sash trim
–Six-speaker, 100-watt AM/FM/CD audio system with MP3/WMA
–Remote system (pre-activated air conditioning, heater and timer battery charging)
–Approaching Vehicle Audio System (AVAS) for alerting pedestrians
-Electric compressor cabin heating
–Electric manual air conditioning with micron filter
–High voltage cut-off system
–Remote keyless entry as well as engine “immobilizer” anti-theft system
–50/50 split and reclining rear seats

Options on the 2014 Mitsubishi iMiEV include LED interior illumination, rear park assist sensor and cargo (net and mat) packages. The new iMiEV can also be equipped extra with a USB adaptor for Apple products, body side moldings, side wind deflectors and wheel locks.


As for charging, the 2014 Mitsubishi iMiEV has the ability to be charged with the conventional (or “trickle”) method with a 120-volt outlet and the car’s own 8A/12A portable charging cable. Mitsubishi claims its 2014 iMiEV can be readied “from near empty to fully charged” in about 22 hours. Using a 240-volt (or level 2) outlet, that time can be shorted to only seven hours. The 2014 iMiEV also has the capability of “direct current” fast charging (or level 3 “DC quick charging”), which only takes an estimated 30 minutes to go from near empty to a full charge (or 80 percent full in about a half hour).

So, how many miles can you drive in the iMiEV? Mitsu says its zero emissions bug gets 112 combined MPGe or about 98 miles to a charge for urban driving here in L.A., although the real world EPA ratings are about 62 miles. That’s quite the generous driving range for today’s production EVs and is only bested by the 2015 Kia Soul EV at more than 100 miles. After a weeklong test, this excellent driving range proved a welcome relief (both on time and monetary resources) when having to charge daily at public stations.

iMiEV Performance & Design

It wasn’t the 2014 iMiEVs rapid acceleration that was the problem, but shifting. In reality, shifting an EV is not the same as it is in conventional autos. These vehicles don’t have any transmission and, therefore, have no gears to shift. Fiat even has push buttons in its 500e rather than a traditional shift knob. However, Mitsubishi’s EV engineers chose the classic shift knob with a treacherous shift track.

Each reverse, drive and park seemed like a puzzle piece that could not be fixed just right. Good thing the 49 kW electric motor accelerates instantly and gives the driver shiftless rush of power up hills and down fast-moving boulevards and highways (at a top speed of 80 mph).


Another good thing is that this clumsy shifter also lets the driver maximize range to “increase energy recycling from the vehicle’s regenerative braking system” in three positions: D (maximizes performance), Eco (maximizes battery consumption and “fuel” economy), B (increases regenerative braking).

Mitsubishi’s EV engineers have obviously come a long way with their Pikes Peak win in an Evolution-inspired electric race car. Hopefully, the good things about iMiEV performance along with Mitsu’s lightweight electric motor and advanced lithium ion battery pack will make its upcoming XR EV into a winner too.

The bulbous, insect-like design outside this car may be cute and funky, but it does give the cabin loads of head room. Also, some build quality was unimpressive especially the hollow, thin doors. However, in purist Mitsubishi style, the driver’s cockpit, gauges, dash and central console of the 2014 iMiEV are pleasingly minimal. Clutching the now leather-covered steering wheel, the iMiEV feels roomy and comfortable. Even the second row seating is long enough for average-sized adults.

iMiEV’s second row of seats easily and quickly folds in a 50/50 configuration. The hatchback reveals a cargo area big enough for medium-sized shopping trips and folds almost flat for ever more cargo space.

iMiEV Safety Technology

The 2014 Mitsubishi iMiEV has a “vast array of safety features and technologies,” so says Mitsubishi. This includes an advanced air bag system with dual-stage supplemental air bags including driver and front-passenger seat-mounted side-impact supplemental air bags and roof-mounted curtain side-impact air bags for front and rear seat outboard occupant protection.

And of course, as now required in all new cars, the 2014 Mitsubishi iMiEV comes equipped with an anti-lock brake system (ABS), electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD), brake assist (BA), electronic stability control (ECS) and traction control logic (TCL).

Specifically for EVs, Mitsubishi added an “acoustic vehicle alerting system” or AVAS. This “external audible alert,” says Mitsu, warns pedestrians of approaching EVs. Other EV safety systems are the “automated electrical disengagement of the electric drivetrain and main drive lithium-ion battery pack to protect the vehicle’s occupants and paramedics/rescue personnel in the event of a collision.”

There’s also a “high voltage control system,” which “instant instantaneously shuts down the main drive lithium-ion battery pack’s high-voltage circuitry if the system detects any battery pack leakage or failure.”

Nobody Drives iMiEV in L.A.?

If nobody drives electric in L.A., then why did this seasoned auto journalist spy two Mitsibishi iMiEVs the week she was testing one herself? In fact, L.A. is a hotbed of EV production vehicle buyers and drivers.

But seriously, the urban family could easily get rid of all polluting, environmentally violent petrol vehicles by investing in a zero emissions, no-conflict EV. And instead of paying those valet fees for restaurants, parties and events? Take Uber. Why have driving stress, get a possible DUI and pay all those valet fees? Plus, your car could get scuffed or damaged.

Nope. Here in Hollywood, it’s go electric. Go green. Go sustainable (or as much as possible) or stay home.

And that’s what thousands upon thousands of L.A. and other urbanites are doing these days when it comes to really going green, not only in eating, but in transportation as well.

And get this: Mitsubishi claims its new concept “XR PHEV” can power a house for several days after a natural disaster. That could be a really good post-earthquake plan for LA, right? EVs are not just made for the roads. The energy and technology of these wonder cars offers much, much more.

Maybe Mitsubishi’s iMiEV is the first generation of an XR revolution. Let’s see what you can do for the planet Mitsu.

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