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2012 Mitsubishi i Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2012 Mitsubishi i was new.


Performance: 4.4

The 2012 Mitsubishi i is neither fast nor powerful, and it’s only somewhat nimble, but reviewers are pleased with its quiet powertrain and daily drivability.

  • "The cute, egg-like appearance and tall roofline gave you a grin every time. And the car's nimble because the drivetrain is in the back just ahead of the rear wheels, so handling balance is better than the more common front-drive layout." -- USA Today
  • "They're just normal brakes, and as such, they operate and feel better than brakes on most hybrid cars. But they actually rob you of efficiency by turning your inertia into heat in the brake pads rather than electricity in the generator. The best-case scenario is that you use them as little as possible, and the B setting does this best." -- Chicago Tribune 
  • "Although many will see the i as strictly a commuter or city car. Regardless our first drive found it to be responsive, with a top speed of 80, agile, and naturally, extremely quiet." -- Motor Week

Acceleration and Power

Reviewers are disappointed that the i is so slow, but its 49 kW motor and 16 kWh battery aren’t designed to impress driving enthusiasts. Together, these make 66 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque, which is very low, but the Mitsubishi i can average up to 126/99 mpg-e (miles per gallon equivalent) city/highway, according to the EPA, which is outstanding.

Not all test drivers are as critical, and one says that the i is relatively fun to drive for a small car when the settings are right. The Mitsubishi i has three driving modes: D, Eco and B. Reviewers say that D mode has the best acceleration, Eco mode is best for city driving and B mode, which maximizes the regenerative brakes, is the most efficient. Regenerative brakes use the energy produced when braking to recharge the battery.

  • "Even though first impressions are critically important, spending a few hours in the i strengthened my confidence in the diminutive EV as a (barely) capable road-going car." -- Motor Trend
  • "Unfortunately, the lack of excitement is palpable, with 0-60 mph clocking in at about 15 seconds. We saw 81 mph as the governed top speed." -- Popular Mechanics 
  • "Mitsubishi says that 30-35 mph is the ‘ideal speed’ for electric cars and they're perfectly suited for urban environments, but when let loose in this venue, the i offers more fun than should be expected with a small EV - as long as you have its settings just right." -- Autoblog 
  • "Three transmission modes - D, Eco, and B - are intended to optimize driving performance under specific driving situations. While Eco mode is perfectly acceptable for efficient around-town driving, we found it necessary to bump it into D when we wanted more power for spirited acceleration or when navigating the hilly cityscape around our Portland-based evaluation route. Best efficiency is realized in B mode, which maximizes regenerative braking to the point that the vehicle can actually stop itself without the driver applying the brakes." -- TrueCar

Alternative Fuels/Charging

There are three ways to charge the Mitsubishi i’s 16 kWh lithium-ion battery. The first is with a standard 120-volt outlet that you’ll find in your house. Because this outlet has the lowest voltage, it will take the longest to charge the i, about 22.5 hours. For a seven-hour charge, you can use a 240-volt outlet, but you will have to buy a home charging station. The government is offering tax credits for these stations. The fastest way to charge is by using a public quick-charge port, which takes about 30 minutes to charge the i’s battery to 80 percent. It may be hard to find these stations because the United States doesn’t have a good infrastructure set up for electric cars yet.  

Handling and Braking

Reviewers don’t rave about the i’s handling or braking abilities. In fact, a few reviewers were really disappointed that the i had a lot of understeer, felt tippy and had unstable brakes. They expect more from an electric car because its heavy battery should weigh it down. Other reviewers aren’t so harsh, and say that the i’s handling makes it fun enough for an electric car.

  • "Still, handling is where the Mitsubishi received the lowest marks from staffers. Testing director Kim Reynolds called it ‘tippy,’ and also noted ‘some rear-end instability under braking.’ Regarding the i's handling ability, associate editor Scott Evans said, ‘I thought I knew understeer. Now I know understeer.’" -- Motor Trend
  • "When you're not paying attention to the powertrain, you've got to watch the road for fun curves. For this, the i's wider stance helps with handling, but it's no mountain goat. Still, when you put all of the improvements together with the i's small size, low center of gravity (the 500-pound battery is part of the 600-pound penalty that the electric i has over the gas-powered version) and rear-wheel-drive powertrain, you've got an EV that's more fun than it should be, especially given its skinny tires. We'll call it ‘suitable fun.’" -- Autoblog

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