The 2012 Mitsubishi i will be offered in two different models: the base ES and a premium SE model. Mechanically, the two trims are the same; the i packs a 49-kW (68-horsepower) AC synchronous electric motor and single-speed reduction-gear transmission near the back of this rear-wheel-drive minicar.
The system is powered by a 16-kWh, 300-volt lithium-ion battery pack and can give the i a driving range of up to about 100 miles--although it's rated by the EPA at 62 miles. Recharging takes about 22 hours on a 110-volt household socket, or in about seven hours with a 240-volt Level 2 charger. Level 3 quick charging (if the vehicle is so optioned) can get the MiEV's battery from zero up to 80 percent charge in less than 30 minutes.
The batteries are housed in a waterproof stainless-steel safety cell below the passenger-compartment floor, and if they become too warm, cooled air from the ventilation system is circulated to the pack. During normal driving, regenerative braking helps recover some energy during coasting or braking. The Mitsubishi i comes with an Eco mode that helps save energy and increase range, while a 'B' shifter position helps maximize the regenerative braking.
While the Mitsubishi i is designed to be an urban vehicle, it's not completely out of place on the highway, and is capable of more than 80 mph The Mitsubishi i gets what are pretty typical small-car components for steering and suspension--a front strut setup and de Dion 3-link rear. Staggered tires--wider in back than in front--help keep this rear-wheel-drive vehicle stable and secure.
The Mitsubishi i is just 145 inches long; yet it can accommodate four adults if needed, thanks to the relatively high roofline and short overhangs that help maximize passenger space within the small overall footprint. And thanks to a wheelbase of 100.4 inches--relatively long for such a short vehicle--the Mitsubishi i rides smoothly, without bobbing fore and aft as some minicars tend to do. Also, the interior is surprisingly quiet most of the time, with the near-silent electric powertrain never obtrusive.
Standard features on the base model include heated driver's seat, air conditioning, and a 4-speaker, 100-watt sound system. LED taillamps also help save energy. SE models add alloy wheels, upgraded upholstery, fog lamps, and a 2-tone interior treatment with silver accents. On the SE, a Cold Zone package adds heated mirrors and a battery warming system, while a Premium Package adds to the SE equipment a hard-drive-based navigation system, the Chademo-connector DC quick-charging port, Mitsubishi's FUSE hands-free link for Bluetooth connectivity, a USB port and steering-wheel audio controls.
On the safety front, the i includes front seat-mounted side airbags and roof-mounted side-curtain bags. Anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control are also included.